Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Israel's history in nine words!

You ready? Here it is:

They tried to kill us.
We won.
Let’s eat!

Chag someach, everyone -- Happy holiday!

Today is Yom Hatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, our 61st birthday. All week long both people and municipalities have been hanging banners from every available outcropping, even from little flagpoles mounted on car windows. Lots of cars sport two Israeli flags, one on each side. In Beersheba, every lamp post holds two flags – that of the State of Israel and that of the City of Beersheba. You can’t possibly miss the significance of this day.

My house in Beersheba’s Old City faces a tiled walkway – you can walk past it, but not drive. So my neighbor across the walkway hung dozens of brightly colorful banners zigzagging between his house and mine, and I’ve been enjoying them all week. He always flies a big Israeli flag, too – he’s a retired Army general – so the view from my house is magnificent. I love looking out at it all.

The ‘Let’s eat!’ part of the history isn’t missed, either. Yom Hatzmaut is our biggest barbeque day. Israelis are great outdoor-grillers anyway, and today it’s almost mandatory. The Israel Manufactures Association reports that today we will barbeque 1,400 tons of meat, worth something like 30 million shekels. Now I know why the lines in the supermarket reached epic proportions yesterday.

We don’t forget what made this day possible. Among my favorite symbolic events took place in 2003, when three Israel Air Force F-15 jets flew over Auschwitz, the most horrific of the Nazi death camps.

Flying as slow as possible, escorted by two Polish air force fighter jets – with few public objections from the Poles – the three Star of David bedecked Israeli jets followed the infamous railroad tracks leading into the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps, and then peeled away.

Broadcast on the ground was a statement read by formation leader Brig.Gen. Amir Eshel: "We pilots of the Air Force, flying in the skies above the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their silent cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its nation Israel."

On board, the aircrews carried the names of all of those recorded murdered on that very day exactly 60 years before. Compulsive German record-keeping made it possible to extract the names from all those listed in records at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum.

Surely nothing tells the story better than that. They tried to kill us – we won!

To join us in celebrating, click here http://stateofisrael.com/anthem/ to listen to the haunting melody of our national anthem – HaTikva, the hope -- which is more appropriate today than ever.

As we enter the most dangerous days that the State of Israel has ever faced, we hope our leaders will have the courage to do the needful, to stand up to our enemies wherever they are and to protect us all.

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