Sixty-six years ago, on May 14 at 3:30 p.m., to be precise – Prime Minister Ben Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel.
Within 11 minutes of his declaration, the newly born state of Israel received simultaneously two opposing messages:
o One in the form of an air raid on Tel Aviv that carried the message: we reject your existence.
o The other, a telegram from the U.S. President Harry Truman, recognizing the State of Israel and, thus, carrying the message: you are not alone.
When Prime Minister Ben Gurion decided to declare the independence of Israel, it was also against the counsel of his expert advisers.
“We are too few,” his advisers said.
“We are too poor,” they protested.
“We have too many enemies that will reject us”.
Indeed, all these facts were true.
However, Ben Gurion knew something that one cannot quantify in numbers. He knew the spirit of the Jewish people, and he understood the strength of their yearning reflected in the prayer that has been recited for 2,000 years: לשנה הבאה בירושלים ("next year in Jerusalem").
Being a pragmatist, Ben Gurion also understood that this was an opportunity that may never present itself again. So, he adopted the Roman slogan “Carpe diem” (“Seize the Day”) and seized that historic moment against all odds and made the rebirth of Israel a reality.
The re-establishment of the State of Israel is the boldest social project of the 20th century and a success story.
o From a small country of 650,000, we have become one of the most densely populated countries with a population of eight million.
o From an army comprised of a mixture of immigrants, who were led from the ship to the battlefield, we have grown into the most powerful army in the Middle East.
o From a country of immigrants, who mostly came from European and Arab countries run by communist regimes or dictators, we have created our most important achievement – a vibrant democracy.
o From a time of austere economic policy, when we experienced a shortage of food, we have become a net exporter of agricultural products.
o From a country that was based on agriculture, we have grown into a country based on technology.
o From an economy with virtually no natural resources, we have become an economy based on our most important and limitless natural resources: innovation, creativity, and CHUTZPA, all of which we have in abundance.
However, all this did not come without a price.
Tonight, we are gathered to remember this price – more than 20,000 men and women who gave their lives to defend the state of Israel. Of course, their sacrifice impacted not only their lives but also those of their families and of the entire nation.
Therefore, we must not let this memorial ceremony be just another ritual, as often happens in the life of a nation. We the people and the leaders must take extra care to keep in mind these sacrifices when making decisions about our nation – because the price tag is high…almost too high.