On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy movement are proud and excited to celebrate Israel’s milestone 75th anniversary.
Today, we mark an astonishing 75 years since Israel’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed the founding of a Jewish homeland “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel,” with a commitment to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
Over the past three-quarters of a century, so many have given so much to help build and defend this incredible state and to strive to live up to its core commitment to liberal democracy. This anniversary is a welcome opportunity to honor all that the Israeli people have done to create such a vibrant, diverse and successful nation.
It’s also a time to reflect on the many intense challenges and threats that Israel faces, and on the work that can and must be done to overcome them.
The 75th anniversary comes at a time of great concern and debate about Israel’s direction, the highly divisive and dangerous policies of its current government, and its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. As former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told J Street in an interview earlier this year, “I was never as worried as I am now for the future of the State of Israel.”
So many of us share in this fear and concern for Israel’s democracy, for its security, and for the rights, safety and aspirations of the Palestinian people as well. We see that the fundamentally un-democratic occupation of the Palestinian territory beyond the Green Line continues to trample on human rights, and to severely imperil the survival of democratic principles and institutions inside the State of Israel itself. We see how destructive demagogues seek to build a future for Israel rooted not in vibrant pluralism and freedom, but in authoritarianism, ethno-nationalism, and discrimination – and in permanent repression of the Palestinians.
Alongside these fears, we are also filled with pride, hope and resolve.
Pride in the brave and determined Israelis who have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands to defend their democratic future, and in the many Israeli and Palestinians who continue to reject the politics of fear and hate in favor of solidarity, co-existence and the struggle for peace.
Hope that, with the support of the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy movement here in the US and around the world, they may yet succeed in fulfilling the vision of freedom, justice and equality set out in the 1948 Declaration of Independence.
Resolve to keep doing all that we can to support our Israeli partners, and to ensure that our own US government does all it can to help to pursue peace, defend democracy and secure Israel’s future as a democracy and a Jewish homeland.
To help reflect on the 75th anniversary, we’ve conducted interviews with three inspirational Israelis and asked them to share some of their own thoughts on the 75th anniversary — what it means to them, and what they think the future may hold.
Fania Oz-Salzberger: Historian, Author and “Civil Ambassador for Israel as a Liberal Democracy”
Gal Lusky: Founder of Israel Flying Aid, Bringing Humanitarian Aid to Conflict Zones Around the World
Shuli Dichter: Educator and Advocate for Jewish-Arab Shared Society and Partnership
We’re also pleased to share reflections on Israel’s 75th anniversary from four current and past chairs of J Street’s Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet: Cantor Evan Kent, Rabbi Andrea London, Rabbi John L. Rosove, and Rabbi David Teutsch.