May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Dear Israel: With Love, New Jersey

Editor’s note: The following is the text of the video shown at Teaneck’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration this past Tuesday.

“How do you live with the constant threat of violence and war? That takes faith. Israel is the people that has always been sustained by faith, faith in God, in the future, in life itself. And though Israel is a secular state, its very existence is testimony to faith: the faith of a hundred generations that Jews would return; the faith that led the pioneers to rebuild a land against seemingly impossible odds; the faith that after the Holocaust the Jewish people could live again; the faith that, in the face of death, continues to say: choose life.” — Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

“… I’m happy that you brought me up this way, that you showed me a path through life where the question is not ‘what do I have coming to me,’ but how at every moment I can give more for the people and for the country. — Sgt. Major (res.) Yossi Hershkowitz, z”l in his last letter to his family

Dear Israel,

We — supporters of Israel from around the world — come together on this day to celebrate Israel’s freedom and independence. We write this letter to you from across oceans and continents. We share a message — We still have faith. We have faith in you. We have faith with you.

These past seven months have been most cruel. We cannot know all that you have endured, but we can be with you — today, tomorrow and always. “You are not alone.” We are with you — as you are with us. We share moments of tragedy and courage — faith and hope, lo avda tikvateinu. We stand together with you— not just against a common hatred — but also toward a common goal. We share not only a common fate but also a common destiny.

What is that common destiny? Israel’s declaration of independence states that the Jewish people “never stopped to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.” It is this right that Hamas and its enablers challenge. It is this right for which we together fight. B’Yacahad Ninatzeach.

Israel, you are on our minds and in our hearts. We are inspired by the sacrifices that you have made and continue to make for all our people’s survival and for the benefit of all humankind. A nation must defend its citizens from wanton slaughter. We offer our support, material and moral. Students of history understand, “What starts with the Jews does not end with the Jews. What starts with Israel will not end with Israel.”

Yet, there is more to our destiny than dignity and freedom. Our people has long sought to create a society based upon a specific vision of human potential created in God’s image — namely tzedek and mishpat, righteousness and justice. We seek a world made better by different peoples working together for a common good. As you did in 1948, Israel’s people continue to “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.” We have been encouraged by the Abraham Accords and other recent efforts to make these hopes a new reality.

And yet in recent months, we witness Israel unjustly condemned.

When the world charges you — we champion you. Your fight to destroy Hamas is just. Your struggle to free the hostages is honorable. Fighting this necessary war is extremely complicated for the IDF and, unfortunately, there are innocent victims in war. While Hamas bears ultimate responsibility for their situation, we join you in mourning those deaths. Together, we pray that all peoples will live in peace and safety.

In nobly fighting a terror that demeans all that is decent in humanity, you are a beacon of light for all nations. If the world permits Hamas to cross a border, murder 1,200 people and then hide its army beneath a civilian population, others will do the same. While the misguided, malevolent and malicious may deny these truths, your cause in conducting this difficult battle is the cause of ultimate justice and is a defense of all humanity.

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik wrote in his 1956 essay “Kol Dodi Dofek” words that ring true today:

“We are all eyewitnesses to the rising star of the iniquitous and to the corruption of international law by the Western nations out of indifference to the principles of justice and fairness. All try to curry favor with our enemies and bow and scrape before them with false humility and shameful hypocrisy. All are concerned with the welfare of our enemies, and remain indifferent to the suffering Jewish State.”

Israel, we are with you and you are with us. We speak to you from a New Jersey town, which has become a focal point for attacks upon Jews and their support for Israel. We stand defiant before a resurgent antisemitism that threatens Jews throughout the world. We appreciate that anti-Zionism denies the Jewish people the right enjoyed by every other nation. We know that attacks upon the legitimacy of the Jewish state are ultimately attacks upon Judaism itself. We will continue to proudly support Israel. We will not be made to fear.

Bechol dor vador omdim aleinu l’chaloteinu v’hakadosh baruch hu matzileinu miyadam. Israel is not like other nations. Israel exists as a Jewish state because the Jewish people have refused to disappear. We lived in Israel for thousands of years. The land is permeated with the remains of the kingdoms and temples that we built. The Holocaust is but one manifestation of the persecutions our people have endured through history. The modern state of Israel exists to forestall the type of violence that groups using names like Hamas have committed against us.

Israel: Seventy-six years ago, you renewed our nation upon its ancient soil. You reclaimed our sovereignty after a nearly 2,000-year absence. You created a safe and secure place for our people — a state where we can live without being victims. That state would be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.

We — as Americans — have been a critical part of your success. Israel, America was there for you from the time of your founding. America has not just been the critical ally in your defense, America has been a beacon of democratic values that has inspired your democracy.

We, as American Jews, have been an important part of your success. During Israel’s early years, our financial contributions through Israel Bonds and the UJA were critical in establishing Israel’s developing economy. The political support that American Jewry has given and continues to give helps you in what has often been terribly unfriendly diplomatic environments.

The events of this past year only reconfirm our achdut — we need one another. The horrors of Oct. 7 still dwell within our hearts, as we watch a cruel enemy imprison and torture so many. We, supporters of Israel, cannot and do not go about normal life.

We have taken action. In the months after the attack, we gathered needed supplies and sent them to you. We traveled from all over the U.S. to march for you in Washington 300,000 strong. We organized missions to visit you in your time of need. We traveled to Israel to volunteer on farms and in soup kitchens. We helped evacuees from the north and south. We wrote letters and made phone calls to Congress and the White House. We daven for you every day. AND we, in the U.S., know that we could do even more as we continue to learn from you in Israel.

The experience of these tragic months deepens our commitment to do our part for our people. Israel is not just a place for our hearts. It is a place for our bodies. We will continue to invest days, months and years of our lives for Israel. Some of us may one day live in Israel. We will support Israel financially. Our sons and daughters will volunteer for Israel. We will engage with Israel’s vibrant culture. Learning about the modern state of Israel through its film, literature, music and Torah. We will do so by learning and speaking Hebrew and teaching it to our children. We will advocate for Israel in the halls of government and in the streets of towns like this one — all around this country. In the face of those who oppose it, we will proudly support Israel.

We dedicate this day as a time to recommit ourselves to Israel’s ideals: a Jewish state for all its people which can proudly stand at the center of history as an equal among the peoples of this world with a unique mission, message and light to share with all.

Israel matters. Zionism matters. It changes the world. It creates pushback and sometimes even hatred. We are unafraid. We stand in the public square. We stand at the center of history. We thank God for the state of Israel. Our faith and hope are unbroken. Israel, we are with you.

With love,

New Jersey

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