I don't blame many Israelis for being pessimistic these days. Since the Oslo Discords were signed in 1993, Israel's fate has taken mostly negative turns. Today it is run by the most incompetent, self-serving government in the country's history. The army has been almost irreversibly politicized. The level of interaction between the religious, ultra-religious and non-religious parts of the country are at their most fractious ever. On the northern border, the UN acts to protect a terrorist army building its arsenal for an eventual attack. In the southwest, entire cities have had their security effectively ceded to another terrorist group. Yes, the economy is humming along but the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.
So what exactly is the country preparing to celebrate come Iyyar 5?
Some people have pointed this out and wonder if there's a point to the celebration. The Arabs won't be celebrating. The Chareidim won't be celebrating. And if things are as bad as implied by the opening paragraph of this post, what's the point of the non-religious population celebrating?
So here's the point of celebrating:
Sixty years ago the world made a mistake. They allowed the temporary guilt they felt for having allowed the Holocaust to happen to overcome their good sense and they voted for the partition of Israel into two states, one Jewish, one Arab. To be be, this guilt didn't last. Not long after the vote there were open expressions of regret from around the world. The American State Department, it should be recalled, rescinded its support for partition and suggested that if it was going to happen that the Arabs should be given the Negev in addition to the territories they had already been alloted.
In the lead up to Iyyar 5, 5708, everything was done to ensure that the partition would be a failure. The British, may their empire rot forever, did all they could to ensure that the Arabs would be in the dominant military position when the war started. About all they didn't do was promise to bombard Tel Aviv and Haifa once hostilities officially began. The Americans declared an arms embargo, ignoring the fact that the Arabs were supplied not directly but from other Arab countries who weren't subject to embargo.
And within the Yishuv, things weren't doing so well either. Remember that the Labour Zionists were, at times, more interested in dismantling their non-socialist opponents than fighting the common enemy (all together now: Altalena!). The community was ill-prepared, underarmed and undecided on what kind of state it wanted in the first place.
And despite all this, despite all the factors stacked against them, our fathers won. They defeated the armies of six Arab states, confounded world opinion which was quite prepared to happily line up and feel guilty about another Holocaust, suprised even themselves and established a functioning, viable state in the process. Despite having no real friends in the international community, no economic base worth speaking of and huge military expenditures from day one, Israel survived, grew and thrived. And the more our enemies pressed it, the more powerful it became.
But that's not the reason to celebrate.
The reason to celebrate is because long ago, through the mouths of His prophets from Moshe Rabeinu on down, we were promised that at the end of days we would return to our Land. We were told that there would be three oaths and these have all been fulfilled. We were told it would happen slowly at first and then with great miracles and that is exactly how it happened. We were told there would be triumphs and setbacks for the final redemption is in the hands of God, not Man. And the pessimism of the opening paragraph shows that despite all the efforts of Man, God must still step in to effect the completion of our redemption.
We say that the State of Israel is the first flowering of the Redemption. Not the complete redemption, not the hope of our people for the last 1800 years but the first step. And this first step has and continues to be taken. And it is for this reason we celebrate. God has not forgotten us. He will yet reveal Himself (may it be speedily in our days) to complete the process He has given us the strength to start. For that opportunity, for the unfolding of His prophecies, for the chance He has given us to be part of His final plans, for all that we should celebrate.