Today is Yom Ha’Atzmaut, which is Israel Independence Day. Whether this is cause for celebration or suffering is a matter of perception—whose side are you on? It’s complicated. The Palestinians call the day, “The Naqba” (The Catastrophe).
For Jews and especially Israelis, since 1948 Israel Independence Day is a hard-earned, happy day. Jews throughout the centuries prayed facing Israel and specifically Jerusalem. Jews longed to go back home, having been forced out repeatedly, living in the diaspora and wanting to live in their homeland. Now, gratefully, this has been their reality for decades.
The establishment of the country was messy and after 72 years, Israel’s right to exist is still denied by Palestinian leaders; Hamas (terrorist organization that rules Gaza) and the Palestinian Authority (led by Fatah, the majority political establishment in the West Bank). Although these two factions usually disagree, the shared preference that Israel not exist would not be debated.
As history progressed, two World Wars (with the murdering of six million Jews during the Holocaust) and several agreements later, Britain and the United Nations continued to promise both a Jewish and Palestinian state. The Jews agreed, the Arabs didn’t, and the killing began.
With all the negotiations and agreements throughout the years, it’s the same bottom line today as it was then. The Palestinians refuse to accept Israel being a Jewish state and want all the land as they chant, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”
We can only wish that the Palestinian leaders and their people would accept that Israel isn’t going anywhere. Peace could start today, if they would acknowledge this as reality and the violence stopped.
Instead, they continue to use their people as human shields and promote bloodshed, while calling their protests non-violent. Palestinians launching thousands of missiles, terrorist bombings, stabbings, sailing incendiary kites through the air with the intention of landing and setting fires, flying drones and car rammings are part of everyday possibilities in Israel. The Palestinians and many others expect Israel to take it without responding—predictably, that doesn’t last long.
In fact, as I was writing this article, a 62-year old woman waiting at a bus stop in Kfar Saba was stabbed several times by a nineteen year old Palestinian. When she tried to run away after the stabbing, the assailant ran after her. A passerby in a car saw what was happening, stopped and shot the perpetrator twice.1 Originally thought to have died at the scene, he was found alive, medically treated and is now in a detention center. This older woman was attacked and a young man is now jailed, why?2 It sounds like a cheesy movie, but it’s not. It’s deadly real. Could you live like that? I know I couldn’t. But in Israel, what choice do they have?
None of this is to say that everything Israel does today or did in the past is right. Mistakes and killings have been committed by both sides. When is enough, enough? Not every Palestinian hates Israel or vice versa.
Their Arab brethren have moved on. Both Egypt and Jordan have had Peace agreements with Israel for decades.
And the way other Arab countries like Lebanon and Syria still treat the Palestinian refugees in their country is shameful and worse. Why is it that Israel is always blamed for how they treat the Palestinians, yet the atrocities that are perpetrated by other Arab countries are rarely mentioned, and the positives Israel provides to Palestinians and Arab Israelis are ignored?
In 2017, an Associated Press report described the condition for the Palestinians in Lebanon as: “… Palestinians in Lebanon suffer discrimination in nearly every aspect of daily life.”3
“Many live in settlements officially recognized as refugee camps, but better described as concrete ghettos ringed by checkpoints and, in some cases, blast walls and barbed wire…4
“Palestinians are prohibited from working in most professions, from medicine to transportation. Because of restrictions on ownership, what little property they have is bought under Lebanese names, leaving them vulnerable to embezzlement and expropriation.”5
Palestinians in Syria face death and fall victim to various repressive measures, including displacement, torture, and extra-judicial killings.6
Reading articles about their treatment made me empathize with them and recognize how closely at times our history matched. As human beings, can’t we do better?
On a lighter note, Israel Independence Day is a day when Israelis and Jews celebrate with family and friend gatherings, picnics and fireworks displays like our own Fourth of July in the United States. There is a religious component to the holiday—thank God we were finally able to come home (Israel). There also is a more serious, sad side to the holiday and a couple of holidays observed closely beforehand.
Two holidays are commemorated just before Israel Independence Day. A few days before is Yom HaShoah, honoring the victims of the Holocaust. The day before Israel’s Independence Day is Yom HaZikaron, which is Israel’s National Remembrance Day. It honors all Israeli military personnel who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel, and for those who have been killed afterward while on active duty in Israel’s armed forces. Also, civilian victims of terrorist attacks are honored. A total of 23,816 soldiers have died defending Israel, while 3,153 civilians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks throughout the country’s history.7 It made me wonder if the woman stabbed today would be added to the statistics.
This year COVID-19 has put a hitch in their giddyup for these holidays—social distancing and washing your hands ad infinitum is being followed there, too. We in America wonder if we will still be entrapped by this viral beast come July, and time for our country’s celebration.
But there is more than just bad news between Israelis and Palestinians. As many throughout the world are seeing, the COVID-19 virus is stretching everyone to use our imagination to do things differently. The virus is teaching a valuable lesson—it doesn’t discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians, so why should they?
Every day, 145,000 Palestinians from the West Bank work in Israel because the wages are higher. Their families depend on them. Obviously, these workers and employers understand that they are dependent on one another.8
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel provided the Palestinian workers with proper sanitary supplies and an option for 45,000 workers to work and sleep in Israel for one to two months to minimize the transmission of the virus.9
Additionally, Israeli doctors have trained Palestinian medical providers in Israeli hospitals and joint workshops, and Israeli labs have analyzed Palestinian COVID-19 tests. Thousands of test kits were given by Israel to the Palestinian Health Ministry and protective gear was given to Palestinian healthcare workers and security personnel. In an extraordinary loosening of restrictions, the Palestinian Authority was allowed to send critical supplies and equipment into Gaza.10 If there is anything positive that comes out of this horrific pandemic, I’m all for it—especially actions that help to move kindness and understanding forward.
One way I like to celebrate Israel every year is to look at their inventions. Intelligence and creativity blended together excites me. You too? Well, I suppose I’m confessing that I’m a geek : ) Year—after—year, one fact that always blows my mind is the number of inventions Israelis create that improve our lives. In 2019, nine out of the one hundred Best Inventions as ranked by TIME magazine were invented by Israelis.11 Not bad for this tiny country the size and population of New Jersey.12
The inventions mentioned included a variety of purpose-driven functionality from medical artificial intelligence, environmental improvements to social robot buddies for seniors.13
I’ll feature just a few. The medical inventions always intrigue me, and this year was no exception. OrCam’s MyEye2 attached to glasses helped blind people identify what they were seeing whether it was their Aunt Martha, money being exchanged or a pamphlet to be read aloud.14
Nerivio is a device developed by Theranica Bioelectronics that helps with migraines.15
TytoHome invented by Tyto Care, is a hand-held device made for remote on-demand medical exams that can take body temperature and examine heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and your abdomen. You then send the results to a Tyto Care health provider.16 Reading this felt like the company had a crystal ball, predicting what would be needed during the pandemic. After what we’ve been going through these past few weeks, this invention seems immediately helpful, especially with the COVID-19 stay-at-home guidelines.
Another invention addressed social isolation, which was one of the inventions that received an honorable mention invented by Intuition Robotics, called ElliQ. It was created to help the loneliness and isolation of seniors.17 If it had been evaluated a few weeks later, it might have gotten more attention and an expanded audience, given the impact of COVID-19.
As you can read, there are lots of reasons to celebrate Israel. Let’s hope the emphasis on cooperation and collaboration can lead to improved relations between these biblical relatives.
May the World be blessed with Peace, שלום, سلام
As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…
1 By David Israel, “Israel Woman, 62, Stabbed by Terrorist in Kfar Saba on Memorial Day, Suspect Neutralized,” The Jewish Press.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.jewishpress.com/news/terrorism-news/woman-62-stabbed-by-terrorist-in-kfar-saba-on-memorial-day-suspect-neutralized/2020/04/28/
2 By Algemeiner Staff, “Israeli Woman Woman Wounded in Kfar Saba Attack Recalls Terrorist Had ‘Murder in His Eyes,'” May 1, 2020, http://www.algemeiner.com/2020/05/01/israeli-woman-wounded-in-kfar-saba-recalls-terrorist-had-murder-in-his-eyes/
3 By Philip Issaf “For Palestinians in Lebanon, 69 years of despair,” The Times of Israel, May 14, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-palestinians-in-lebanon-69-years-of-despair/
4 By Philip Issaf “For Palestinians in Lebanon, 69 years of despair,” The Times of Israel, May 14, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-palestinians-in-lebanon-69-years-of-despair/
5 By Philip Issaf “For Palestinians in Lebanon, 69 years of despair,” The Times of Israel, May 14, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-palestinians-in-lebanon-69-years-of-despair/
6 By Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians in Syria: Another Year of Death and Misery,” The Gatestone Institute, January 6, 2020, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15379/palestinians-syria-death-misery
7 By Algemeiner Staff, “Israel Comes to a Halt in Memory of Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism,” Algemeiner, April 27, 2020, https://www.algemeiner.com/2020/04/27/israel-comes-to-a-halt-in-memory-of-fallen-soldiers-and-victims-of-terrorism/?
8 By Jason Greenblatt, Bishara A. Bahbah,“Israelis and Palestinians work together against coronavirus,” Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israelis-and-palestinians-work-together-against-coronavirus-625728
9 By Jason Greenblatt, Bishara A. Bahbah,“Israelis and Palestinians work together against coronavirus,” Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israelis-and-palestinians-work-together-against-coronavirus-625728
10 By Jason Greenblatt, Bishara A. Bahbah,“Israelis and Palestinians work together against coronavirus,” Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israelis-and-palestinians-work-together-against-coronavirus-625728
11 By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
12 “Israel is around the same size as New Jersey,” My Life Elsewhere, https://www.mylifeelsewhere.com/country-size-comparison/israel/new-jersey-usa
13 By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
14 By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
15By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
16 By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
17 By Shoshana Solomon,“9 Israeli inventions find place in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions for 2019,” The Times of Israel, November 24, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/9-israeli-inventions-find-place-in-time-magazines-100-best-inventions-for-2019/
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