July 4th is, of course, a special day for Americans, and we Israelis celebrate it as well. We celebrate with you because America’s independence is essential to Israel’s independence. Your love of liberty is the same as ours and our reverence for democracy is identical. We rejoice because your Founding Fathers were inspired by our Founding Fathers.
Back in 1776, American patriots compared King George III to the ancient Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews. George Washington, in their minds, was Moses and John Adams was Joshua steadfast by his side. The Atlantic Ocean was like the Red Sea—an obstacle but also a corridor to freedom, and the thirteen colonies were the twelve tribes that united and triumphed. Ezra Stiles, the great Hebrew scholar and president of Yale University, calculated that the population of the United States at the time of its independence—three million—was precisely the number of Jews who received the Law at Mount Sinai. And Alexander Hamilton saw America’s history, like the history of the Jews, as part of a single providential plan.
Fittingly, then, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin proposed that the Great Seal of the newly-declared United States should show Moses leading the Children of Israel out of slavery. Though the proposal was ultimately not chosen, the connection between the Exodus and America’s march to freedom remained indelible.
Today, 235 years later, Israel and United States are still bound by the same values first inscribed in the Bible. We are bound by the same vision of leaders who lead according to the law and never above it; a vision of people endowed with rights that no government can deny them. Americans and Israelis alike follow the Biblical injunctions to pursue justice tirelessly and to declare “peace, peace, both far and near.” Indeed, both peoples are committed to achieving justice and peace—for ourselves as well as for all those in the Middle East who are rising up against tyranny.
As in the past, Israelis and Americans face many challenges and, once again, we will overcome them. But on the Fourth of July, we can turn our attention from our weighty tasks and enjoy the fireworks. We can lift a hotdog and raise a glass and join with our closest friends in the world and wish a happy birthday to the United States of America.