Israel in our hearts

Having just finished retelling the story of our deliverance from slavery in Egypt and our wandering in the wilderness, we end our seder with the saying “Next Year in Jerusalem.” We say this just before we prepare for the next holiday “season,” a period of time beginning with Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) followed by Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, was established by the State of Israel to honor the victims and survivors of the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people. The annual commemoration honoring Jews who perished, those who actively resisted and those who survived this devastation is marked by a siren sounded throughout the country, when all activity, traffic, broadcasts and social activities come to a stop for two minutes.

Around the world, Jewish communities, schools and congregations gather for meaningful programs and ceremonies and utilize this time as an opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of remembering the pain and the tragedy, the lessons and the legacy of memory that we inherit.

On Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, the State of Israel stops to remember, to mourn and to honor their legacy. The contrast of Yom Hazikaron directly followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, conveys a powerful message: Israelis owe their independence and the very existence of the Jewish state to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it. For American Jews, marking Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut strengthens our connection to Israel.

Our Jewish communities view Israel as a core element of Jewish life, and so we share a continuum of enriching opportunities and experiences that engage with, educate about and celebrate Israel.

The day after the Declaration of Independence, Israel was at war with enemies who wished to eliminate her entirely. In the following seven decades, Israel has been forced to defend herself in numerous wars and military operations. It is important to take the time to remember and honor those who lost their lives defending Israel. 

This is about people. This is about family.

Despite our collective sorrow, Israel is a land of hope and joy. On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion read aloud the Declaration of Independence, officially announcing to the world that the Jewish people had returned to our ancestral homeland for the third time.

The children of Israel returned from slavery in ancient Egypt.

The people of Israel returned from exile in Babylon.

The Jewish people returned from the diaspora, to become, once again, free in the land of our ancestors – an ingathering of exiles. Those who wanted to come home now had a home to come to and a global family strong enough to help them make the dream a reality. As we are reminded in the words of “Hatikvah,” “the hope of 2,000 years, to be a free people in our land:  the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

You helped to build Israel. Today, you help to keep it strong. Through your support of Jewish Federation, we are able to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable, and we advocate for those in distress. When Israel is threatened, we mobilize to come to her aid. Our global connection is also fostered by experiences for young Jews and programming that brings Israel to life in our community. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of young Jews create personal connections to Israel through programs like Birthright Israel, MASA and Shlichut, while building strong relationships between communities through Partnership2Gether. 

We have seen the immigration of over one million Jews from over 100 countries to the State of Israel. Jewish Federations have helped millions of immigrants move to Israel and start new lives – 255,000 in the past decade alone. And, we take great pride in Israel’s achievements in technology, health and medicine, the environment, social action and culture, helping to make the world a better place.

We hold Israel in our hearts.