This article is written by a friend of mine, Yehuda Poch, who lives in Israel.
Israel is a land of stark contrasts. On most street corners in Jerusalem you can find black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews standing next to T-shirt-clad secular Jews, waiting for the light to change. It is a country with precious few natural resources and a relatively small population, yet it has one of the strongest economies in the world, driven by a high-tech industry that is the envy of everyone. It is an island of democracy and stability in a sea of despotism and strife. Its people are brusque and audacious, yet sweet and welcoming at the same time. The headlines often contain issues of world drama, yet it’s the small and mundane that makes the news.
Yet nowhere are the contrasts of Israeli society more pronounced than in the mid-Spring when twice, one week apart, we bring our entire national ethos into sharp contrast.
A loud and mournful cry goes up from every corner of the land. The entire country collectively cries out in pain and anguish, and stands in silence - remembering.
Our cry echoes that of our nation 70 years ago, as six million of us were murdered in cold inhumanity. We remember the victims of the Holocaust, the ultimate denouement of our long and bitter exile from our national homeland. And then, a week later, our cry is our own, in memory, respect, and longing as we remember those who gave their lives so that six million might return and live in that homeland as free people.
The Jewish nation never loses sight of its past. For it is that past that forms the foundation for our present strength, and that is the source of hope and inspiration for our future.
The State of Israel – the rebirth of the Jewish nation. Born out of the ashes of the greatest destruction known to mankind, and strengthened through the fire of war and struggle, the State of Israel grows and our nation stands.
It is exceedingly difficult to turn, literally in one minute, from deep mourning, contemplation and memory to intense celebration with a passion that is unmatched in any other culture. Yet it is precisely that most stark of all contrasts that enables us to celebrate our Independence Day with far greater meaning, and with far greater appreciation for the miracle that is Israel.