Independence Day Really Is a Cause for Celebration

It’s easy for cynics to sneer about Israel’s independence, but it becomes easier to appreciate when you consider the bigger historical picture.

Prof. Aryeh Eldad should use his scientific training to make sure that his political commentary be informed by the absolute minimum of intellectual integrity.
Aryeh Eldad
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Israeli flags are seen during Independence Day in Tel Aviv, Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Israeli flags are seen during Independence Day in Tel Aviv, Tuesday, April 16, 2013.Credit: AP
Prof. Aryeh Eldad should use his scientific training to make sure that his political commentary be informed by the absolute minimum of intellectual integrity.
Aryeh Eldad

As we celebrate 66 years since the State of Israel came into being, most of us take this independence for granted. Few of us actually fought in the War of Independence or remember life under the British Mandate.

Many more of us (myself included) are quick to be critical of the state, to look at the way our leaders surrender to outside dictates and wonder aloud, “This is what you call independence?”

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders the postponement of construction in the West Bank, or a construction freeze in East Jerusalem, a person is entitled to wonder if a state that’s incapable of acting as sovereign in its own capital is truly independent.

When one looks at the abandonment of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, one is entitled to ask whether the ceding of sovereignty at the holiest site to the Jewish people isn’t a sign of less-than-complete independence, not to use the harsher term – “a vassal state.”

Even when we take pride in Israeli economic achievements and our “energy independence,” we cannot fail to see that as a country whose economy relies heavily on exports, we’re dependent upon those who will purchase from us if they so desire rather than from other markets.

And all those who take pride in our military prowess must acknowledge that much of our weaponry, or the materials to manufacture it, comes from overseas and is vulnerable to the danger of an embargo.

All of this might dilute the joy of the holiday and depress the feeling of independence, if we didn’t bear in mind that even the world’s great superpowers are not completely independent.

The U.S. government debt to China is astronomical, and China could theoretically bring the American economy to its knees. Many of England’s seaports are under Arab ownership, and even Vladimir Putin’s Russia flies other flags over its tanks and armored vehicles in Ukraine and hides behind “pro-Russian militias” in its operations there.

But beyond the fact that independence is always relative and not absolute, our criticism of the independence we earned with much blood and incredible effort is also marred by a lack of historical perspective.

My late father, Dr. Israel Eldad, taught me the difference between “foolish and unwise” people (Deuteronomy 32:6) and “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel” (Numbers 24:5).

Moses, the leader of the Jewish people then, described the Israelites as “a foolish and unwise people,” while the “evil” Balaam described them with the words, “He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?” (Numbers 24:9).

How did this seeming mix-up occur? The difference lies in the perspective. Moses the leader sees the people from up close, including the scheming and sinning and corruption that occurs within the tents, as well as the defeatism and leftist-style exclamation “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). He sees the worship of the Golden Calf, the materialism.

Balaam – the cosmopolitan wizard hired to come from afar to curse the Israelites – views them from a distance. He sees the macro, not the micro.

He sees the tremendous historic process of a nation of slaves that emerges into freedom, that receives the Torah at Mount Sinai and is on its way to conquer the Promised Land, the land of its birth. He knows that nothing can stand in its way. He has a perspective that Moses lacks.

And this is also what we should keep reminding ourselves of: where we came from. From that terrible historical abyss that we commemorated just last week. From thousands of years of poverty and exile and persecution and annihilation – and what we have achieved so far. And then we’ll know that we are justified in celebrating our independence.

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