Happy 64th Birthday, Israel
Today, the modern State of Israel celebrates her 64th birthday. A nation rich in history beyond its young age – the birthplace of the three modern monotheistic religions and the center of the Jewish people – the small country is a prime example of what can be accomplished with through will.
When the first Zionist Conference took place in 1897, Israel was a marshland. Land could not be sowed and malaria was rampant.
Today, Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation” with R&D facilities of many of the world’s largest technology companies. Scientists in Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, has been awarded with 10 Nobel Prizes in less than 64 years.
Throughout times of conflict, Israel has stayed strong and firm. The Tel Aviv Stock Market stayed strong and stable during the Second Lebanon War. It is because Israelis have confidence in itself. This confidence comes from always looking forward to the future but always remembering its past.
As the State of Israel marks its 64th birthday, it remembers the 6 million lives lost during the Holocaust. The day before fireworks fill the sky of Israel in celebration of its birth, the entire nation of Israel stands in silence in remembrance of the 20,703 men and women that fell in the line of duty, protecting the State of Israel.
Every Israeli wonders what might have been should Israel had been established 70 years ago, rather than only 64. How many lives would have been saved? How would the lives of Israelis be different today.
The modern state of Israel was a land established by a small group of "Sabras" (people born in Israel), Jews who came to the area before WWII, and Holocaust survivors.
The first test of this small, newly established country: a carefully planned attack from all its borders. Israel rose to the challenge and survived. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only challenge the nation faced.
As the people of Israel were building a nation – from causing the dessert to bloom to establishing skyscrapers and businesses – it was also absorbing Jews that came to its border seeking refuge and safety from 70 different countries, speaking 50 different languages. While initially difficult in absorbing such a diverse group of people in such a short period of time, it was this diversity and compassion and our strategic relationship with the United States -- a relationship that has given, and continues to give, Israel political, security, and economic back winds -- that has built Israel to the country that it is today.
For many years I served as an Israeli spokesperson. I stood beside Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. I stood up for the people of Israel and its army as a Brigadier General serving as the Spokesperson for the IDF.
As both a citizen of the State of Israel and a spokesperson devoting my days defending the country, I can say without hesitation: I am proud to call myself Israeli.
I am proud that Israel brought irrigation systems to remote villages in Africa and introduced tomatoes of all colors to the world.
I am proud that Israel helped pull men, women, and children from the rubble following the earthquakes that hit Haiti and Turkey.
I am proud that Israel has created devices that help the world; whether it is the medical tools that make surgery and procedures less invasive to technology that keeps countries safe from incoming attacks.
And I am proud that I live a country that both protects its citizens with all means possible while, at the same time, its citizens (as well as other members of the government) question the action of the government for this is the exact definition of a democracy.
As the young age of 64, I am proud to say that Israel is on the forefront of knowledge, security, science, communication and technology. All these accomplishments were fulfilled while having to deal with wars, immigrant absorptions and thousands of terror attacks.
Strangers who don't really know Israel are astounded and wonder – how could it be? Where does this country get its emotional strength from?
They are right in the sense that life in Israel is not simple. Israel does not yet have fully defined borders. Most of the countries around us have not yet accepted our existence. In this sense Israel's independence war has not yet ended, but I am sure we will soon reach peace.
When I look at my son Ori, who is an officer in the Israeli Navy, and I look at a boy same his age in Cairo's Tahrir square -- I know there is still hope.
They both wear the same jeans, the same T-shirt with a silly logo. They both hold the same can of Coca-Cola and listen to the same music using the same headset.
Remember what I write here on this Independence Day: The promises the leaders of the world were unable to fulfill will be accomplished by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites.
In the coming years, the Nobel Price for Peace will be given to the efforts and cooperation that will take hold due to these sites. There is just not other way.
Israel, for that I'm sure, will keep pursuing peace. Peace is a clear destination for the people of Israel. I have no doubt that one day soon the road to peace will be filled with the steps of the next generation, both sides running freely and without worry.
The Middle East as a whole needs time to rearrange, rebalance and stabilize itself. It must be given the time to do this. And once stabilized, I am confident that a new dawn will arise.
As Israel is celebrates 64 years of independence, it looks back with tears for what has been lost, with pride for what has been accomplished, and with hope for what is yet to come.
Will you join us for a toast of independence, of hatikvah (the hope), and of the unknown? A toast for Israel. May you continue to prosper and be a light unto the nations as we continue on the road for peace.
Avi Bnayahu was the Spokesperson for the IDF and the Communications Advisor to Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin.