My mother’s first glimpse of Israel was on an early spring day in 1950 as the ship that took her from Italy got closer to the Promised Land. Her eyes teared as she viewed for the first time Mount Carmel and the port city of Haifa below, with an Israeli Star Of David flag wavering in the light breeze. Years later, she relived that moment as she held my father’s hand and said in Hungarian, “Diury, we are home.”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led the Western World’s fight against the Nazis, commented more than 100 years ago: “… It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national Centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?”
I am the daughter of an ancient people, who have known suffering and brutality. More than any other nation. For generations, the Jewish people’s saga looked like a never-ending trip of an old train, chugging along the ages, some of its railroad cars fancy and clean, some of them burnt and bent. Since the spring of 1948, we are not running again for our lives. The establishment of the Jewish state, Israel, in 1948, was the fulfillment of the vision of a home and a refuge haven for Jews the world over.
Jewish tradition discusses a heavenly event called “Sheat Ratzon,” a propitious time. “At the confluence of historical undercurrents, there is occasionally a propitious time, a time of heavenly mercy, when skies are pulled apart, and everything you wish for you will get” said David Ben Gurion the founder of modern Israel and its first prime minister, reminiscing of the day modern Israel was born 70 years ago. That day, he said was “Sheat Ratzon.”
My family came off the ashes of the Holocaust in 1950, crossing the border illegally from Hungary to Austria just before the iron curtain went down to build a new life in young Israel. The seedlings my father planted 67 years ago along the road to the southern city of Beer Sheva, grew up to shed a comforting shade.
Albert Einstein said at the seventh birthday of Israel: “The establishment of Israel is an event which actively engages the conscience of the world. It is, therefore, a bitter paradox, to find that a State which was destined to be a shelter for a martyred people is itself threatened by grave dangers to its own security. The universal conscience cannot be indifferent to such peril. It is anomalous that world opinion should only criticize Israel’s response to hostility and should not actively seek to bring an end to the Arab hostility which is the root cause of the tension.”
Smaller than New Jersey, with a population smaller than New York City, Israel’s high-tech industry has made our lives easier. Israeli ingenuity has helped in so many ways: one can send and receive emails, use 4th-generation communication systems, text, surf securely, use voicemail and call center technology, enjoy many features in Facebook, use VOD, have the benefit of heart stents, immunotherapy treatments, MRI technology, autonomous driving and numerous other inventions.
Our work is not yet complete. We came to the Promised Land and now we must make it a land of promise. Into an exemplary country, Israel is small in territory but can be great in justice. The history between us and the Palestinians is full of sadness. I believe that the Israel of tomorrow and the Palestine of tomorrow can offer our children a ray of hope.
Last but not least, let me mention the late President Shimon Peres who believed that one should always be dissatisfied with one’s accomplishments. “Dissatisfaction drives a commitment to progress. I look at where we started and where we are today and I think to myself: to be an optimist is so logical. It is so practical,” and then he recited the 34th Psalm:
“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do well. Seek peace and pursue it.”
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Ambassador Judith Varnai-Shorer is consul general of Israel to the Southeast.