by Rebbetzen Eva Chapper

The below article was first published in Daf Hashavua – Kedoshim, 11 May 2024

Twenty-three years ago, when our eldest son was born, I did not know at what point he would become independent. Would it be finishing school, getting a job or leaving home? However, nineteen years later, he joined the Machal Voluntary IDF programme, and it definitely felt that this was the start of the process of his independence. (He was followed shortly after, in July 2021, by his brother choosing a mechina – pre-army programme- which also naturally led to him joining the IDF).

He made Aliyah, finished his army service, found a flat, a job and I guess, that was it, the moment had arrived, and he was independent! Then, on 7th October 2023, both he and his brother were called on to fight for our State, Israel, thousands of years old, 76 years young.

Since that dark day, many have strengthened their connection to Israel, whether through making donations, solidarity and volunteering trips, opening their homes to displaced families, prayer, vigils and in many other ways. For many, the initial reaction to the news was to want to jump on a plane. Some wanted to fight, others to volunteer, or to bear witness, but whatever the reason, as Diaspora Jews, we were reminded that we are inseparable from our homeland. I felt privileged to be part of a solidarity trip to Israel in November 2023, just five weeks after the horrifying terrorist attacks on the southern towns, kibbutzim and the Nova Festival.

Every year when we celebrate the birth of the State of Israel, the Declaration of Independence, it is preceded by Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. This is a moment when we recall the heavy cost of independence for the Jewish people, to remember and honour the brave and heroic soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the establishment and ongoing security of the State, as well as those who were killed in acts of terrorism. This year, as we mark Yom Hazikaron and celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, that feeling of pain and loss will be sharper than ever. None of us are the same since 7th October, too many lives have tragically been lost since then. Nevertheless, we must celebrate because the need for a Jewish state is even clearer now than before.

To mark Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008, Rabbi Sacks z”l released Israel: Home of Hope, using the power of words and music to tell the extraordinary and inspiring story of the modern State of Israel. In coining the phrase, he explained that “Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It’s taken an ancient language, the Hebrew of the Bible, and made it speak again. It’s taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. It’s taken a tattered, shattered nation and made it live again. Israel is the country whose national anthem, Hatikva, means ‘hope’. Israel is the home of hope.”

The motto from those who survived the Nova festival is “We will dance again”, and this resonates so powerfully for Yom Ha’atzmaut. We must all take Israeli flags, go to our local celebrations, be among our people and celebrate, because joy, even after terribly sad times, shows that terrorism will not win, and that we love life, unity and our State of Israel.

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