We have been celebrating Israel’s Independence Day for 68 years. With our bare hands we have built a strong army, solid economy, advanced technology, and modern medicine. And yet, despite impressive achievements, it seems as though we have not truly become independent. Where has our vision of independence gone?
One Thursday evening in 1974 was one I will never forget. We were having dinner at a guesthouse in Vilna when the phone rang. I answered it and heard the news I had been dreaming of for years. The terse voice on the other end of the line said, “Mr. Laitman, you are permitted to immigrate to Israel.” My heart started pounding and my eyes began to tear with emotion. After years of longing, the last four of which as a refusenik (a person denied permission to emigrate from the former Soviet Union), the news had arrived and I was permitted to makealiyah (immigration of Jews to Israel).
I had dreamed of making aliyah for years, so once I got the “go ahead, ” I did not waste a moment. For most people, getting all the papers signed and making all the necessary arrangements for departure takes about two months. Not in my case. Two days after that phone call I was on a train to Vienna, where I boarded a direct flight to Ben Gurion airport.
Hundreds of Jews were on that train, all leaving the USSR in search of a better life. Of those hundreds, only mine and one more family chose Israel as their destination. As far as I was concerned, there were no other options. Deep within, I felt that the home of the Jews is the state of Israel.
The Shattering of a Dream
Israel of the 1970s still had a trace of the vision of the pioneers. Yet instead of strengthening our unity, each faction stuck to its own characteristics and each group of olim (new immigrants) kept to itself. In consequence, instead of becoming a strong and united nation, we “shipped” our exile with us into Israel. The joint struggle for an independent country had gradually become a struggle with each other, causing division and segmentation.
It has been 68 years since the establishment of Israel, but instead of celebrating our independence, we celebrate the country’s birthday. We count the years of living in the state of Israel as a “free” nation, but has our social situation gotten any better? Have the strong army, robust economy, and advanced technology and medicine made us any happier on our land? It seems that we are dependent on the world for everything! On such a day, we should stop and ask ourselves: “What kind of independence does Israel really need?”
A Nation in the Making
There are no independent nations in the globalized world we live in, in the mutual dependence among the countries. If, previously, countries were independent because they were strong from within and surrounded by a wall, today’s independence is measured only by the quality of a country’s international relations, the countries that support it, and the volume of its commerce and economy. Regrettably, the state of Israel hardly has any supporters left; we are isolated in the world and are often boycotted.
To be independent, we must “conquer” the world with a friendly attitude, and win the favor of nations that until not long ago were our trusted allies, and the favor of all the nations in the world. In today’s humanity, wickedness and hatred are intensifying at an alarming rate. It is a ruthless, egoistic force that separates us and threatens to destroy everything. Worldwide terrorism, wars, financial and ecologic crises, waves of refugees and countless other horrifying events are happening between people, nations, and countries. Today, the thing the world needs most is a method of connection above all the conflicts and disputes.
A Power Source
The world does not sit idly by as it suffers blows. Subconsciously, people feel that their situation is the Jews’ fault, or more precisely, Israel’s fault. Why is this so? It is because we have the method of connection. 3, 500 years ago we received it from our forefather, Abraham. At that time, a “plague” of separation had spread among the residents of Abraham’s homeland and induced a similar crisis to the one we are experiencing today. The father of our nation taught people how to unite and made them the foundation of the people of Israel. Since then, the key to a good life for ourselves and for humanity has been entrusted with us.
Our role is to be “a light unto nations, ” to set an example of unity and solidarity that will inspire the nations and enable them to foster connections that will ultimately lead them to independence. In such a case, instead of blaming us for their woes, the nations will appreciate us and even wish to learn the method of connection we inherited from our sages.