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Yom Haatzmaut: Israel Turns 65

“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”  (Jeremiah 31:13)

Today is Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day).

 Memorial Ceremony-Avivim Massacre

An Israel Defense Forces memorial ceremony for the victims of the Avivim massacre of 1970, in which terror operatives shot at a children’s bus near the Israeli town of Avivim, killing 12 civilians, nine of them children.

Today, all of Israel is mourning as it remembers the brave men and women who lost their lives since 1860 in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as those who lost their lives in the protection of Israel since it miraculously became an independent modern-day state.

The year 1860 is significant because Sir Moses Montefiore, a wealthy English financier, arrived that year in Israel and founded Mishkenot Sha’ananim (Peaceful Habitation), a named derived from Isaiah 32:18:

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”

Mishkenot Sha’ananim was the first Jewish community built just outside the safety of the walls of the extremely crowded Old City of Jerusalem.  It was, in essence, the “seed from which grew the new city of Jerusalem.”  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


Mishkenot Sha’ananim

Yom Haatzmaut: From Mourning to Joy

Yom Hazikaron also commemorates all military personnel who were killed while in active duty in Israel’s armed forces, as well as civilians whose peaceful lives were cut short by terrorists committed to crushing Israel.

At sunset tonight, however, Israel’s tears of mourning will turn to tears of joy, as Yom Hazikaron or Israel Memorial Day comes to a close and the State’s 65th birthday (Independence Day / Yom Haatzmaut) begins.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”  (Psalm 30:11)

Rally- Migron-Yom Haatzmaut

A Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) celebration at Migron, an outpost 14 kilometers north of Jerusalem that was evacuated last year after Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that it was built on Palestinian land.

The leap from extreme sadness to profound joy inspires a depth of feeling that is almost impossible to describe.

The surge of joy in national freedom following a true lamentation for the lives lost in the defense of the nation today is similar to Israel’s first moments of independence emerging from the shadow of the Holocaust.

Those moments are recorded forever in Israel’s declaration of statehood:

“From the power of our natural and historical right and on the basis of the resolution of the Assembly of the United Nations we hereby declare the establishment of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel; she is the State of Israel,” declared the new Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708), earning powerful applause at the Tel Aviv Museum on Rothschild Street.

“Out of faith in the Rock of Israel, we hereby sign by our hands our signatures as testament to this Declaration,” Ben Gurion stated before the 250 leaders and guests present.

David Ben-Gurion-Declaration-Independence

David Ben-Gurion proclaims Israeli independence on 14 May 1948.  Above him is a portrait of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), who is considered the father of modern Zionism.

Amazingly, the decision of the People’s Administration (ruling council) to declare independence came only one day before the British Mandate expired, by a one-vote majority.

The council then faced a hectic 24 hours of planning, which was meant to be a secret session but came to be highly publicized.  (Historama)

In the 1948 declaration, which drew a crowd of celebrating Israelis on Rothschild Street and more listening to radios broadcasting the historic speech, Ben Gurion recalled the November 29, 1947 resolution of the United Nations that an independent Jewish state was necessary.

“On the 29th of November 1947 the Assembly of the United Nations received a decision obligating the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel; the Assembly demanded from the inhabitants of the Land of Israel to undertake on their own all steps necessary from their own side to carry out the decision,” he read from in the Founding Charter on that historic day.

The UN’s decision came five years after Ben Gurion had appealed to the Allied powers to extend to the Jewish People the right to have an army, and even a state, to come against Adolf Hitler (according to now-public IDF archives).

Israeli flags-Yom Haatzmaut

“And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.”  (Ezekiel 43:13)

The British Suppressed Jewish Autonomy

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone.  I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.”  (Ezekiel 37:21)

Despite the promise of British leaders during the British Mandate (1922-1948) to establish the national home for the Jewish People that Ezekiel had foretold 2,500 years before, British policy tended to waiver between favoring the Jewish People one day and the Arabs another.

What’s more, the rise of Hitler in Germany, coupled with the rise of government sponsored anti-Semitism in such countries as Romania, Poland and Hungary had led to a rapid influx of immigrants in the 1930s.

This anti-Semitism led to the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jewish people were murdered.


These are the shoes of some of the victims murdered at Auschwitz’s concentration and extermination camps.

In a 1942 speech that was severely censored by the British, Ben Gurion said,

All the unnecessary victims, all the thousands, hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of victims are the product of discrimination of the Jewish nation.

These are the victims of a nation which has no country and no freedom.  We demand of you to correct this wrong:  Equal national standing, homeland and independence for the Jewish people.

We’ll do what we can to avenge you and we’ll give ourselves no quarter until we save you from the Nazis and from the atrophying Diaspora, and we’ll bring you, all of you, to us, to our salvaged land.

He did not yet know the how or how many of the Holocaust, but he did know that they were being massacred “solely for one sin, that these are Jews.  For only Jews have no protector, no warrior.”

To hold back any sentiment of Jewish autonomy, the British suppressed much of Ben Gurion’s appeal, maintaining their authority over the Holy Land another six years.  (YNet News)

Buchenwald-Concentration Camp

Senator Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky, a member of a congressional committee investigating Nazi atrocities, views the evidence at first hand at Buchenwald concentration camp, which is near Weimar in Germany.  Because of a fuel shortage near the war’s end, the Nazis could not dispose of their victims fast enough with the ovens.  Consequently, the camp liberators found piles of corpses in the camp.

Preventing a Dangerous Power Vacuum

“If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us.”  (Psalm 124:2–3)

Israel’s Declaration of Independence, when it came, prevented what would have been a dangerous power vacuum in the Holy Land.

Nevertheless, the November 1947 UN partition plan, which Jewish leaders accepted but Arab leaders rejected, had already begun a war despite the continued British presence.

To prevent the formation of a Jewish state, the Arab Liberation Army and Holy War Army came against the Jewish armed forces:  Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Lehi, and the Allied Bedouin tribes.

Then, in May 1948, the surrounding Arab sovereigns of Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria (and later Lebanon) brought their military might against the State of Israel.

Sha'ar Hagai-Armored Vehicle

The remains of armored vehicles in Sha’ar Hagai, about 20 kilometers from Jerusalem.  The vehicles were used during the War of Independence (1948) to bring supplies to Jerusalem, which was besieged by Jordan.

Many in the Jewish armed forces had been subjected to gunpoint for months and years, their bodies crushed and spirits traumatized by the barbarism of the Nazis and by the betrayal of their hometown communities in Europe.

Those who stood up to Nazi cruelty even to the death, as in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, were remembered with pride by early Israel, as the hope of Zionism equipped the young state to emerge from the ashes with a desire to fight to live.

Even still, many Holocaust survivors and refugees, who picked up weapons for the first time in defense of the State of Israel, experienced only the scent of freedom.

The Etzion bloc of Jewish villages just south of Jerusalem, whose defenders saw it as a the first line of defense for the Holy City, fell to an onslaught of Jordanian military attacks a day before the Declaration of Independence.

Those of the Etzion bloc who had surrendered were collected for a picture and massacred.

The only survivors were the women and children who had been sent away to safety months prior.

Yom Hazikaron-Memorial Day-Western Wall

Last night’s Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day)

Brave Children

In the War of Independence, a little-commemorated group of child refugees from Poland, who escaped the Nazis to Russia in September 1939, also took up arms in defense of Israel, many of them still teenagers.

These 35 that died for Israel’s independence had been fleeing from certain death for almost ten years before they met it in the Promised Land.

After their escape to Russia, the Soviets expelled them into the grip of Siberia on a cattle-car route, where the harsh living conditions cost them the lives of their parents and thousands of peers.

Of the remaining orphans, 1,000 were shipped on the Caspian Sea to Iran, where they were held in refugee tent camps, continuing to suffer from heat, unsanitary conditions, illness, starvation and the abuse of other Poles.  (zchor)


The “Tehran children” were a convoy of Jewish orphans from Poland, who, after two years of wandering in the Russian steppes, went to Tehran (Persia), and then were brought to Israel by community institutions.

Their journey would wind them through hardships for four years before bringing those that remained into the Land of Israel on February 18, 1943, less than five years before Israel’s independence.

The “Tehran Children,” as they came to be called because they were allowed to leave the Soviet Union for Iran with General Anders’s Polish army, made it to Israel and picked up the Zionist banner.

Hadassah Lampel was one of them.

In 1947, she joined the elite fighting force for Israel’s underground army.

She was 19-years-old when she died from enemy fire, having disobeyed a direct order not to join the first armored vehicle into Latrun, Israel.  She did so just 15 days after Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence—to the anger and pride of her leading officer.

Born in a small Polish town, Hadassah (Halinka) gave insight into her own character at age nine when she recited a poem before her class that stated:  “Halinka was a brave girl.”  (zchor)

May we all be as brave as Halinka, Yoni Netanyahu and countless others, and stand against the dark forces of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that are once again arising in our time.