Thursday is Yom Ha'atzmaut – Israel Independence Day. On this day 70 years ago, as authorized by the United Nations, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel and became the nation’s first prime minister.
Independence Day – which began at sundown Wednesday in accordance with the Jewish calendar – is an occasion for celebration in Israel. Fireworks, concerts and parties began Wednesday night across the nation.
Israel received congratulations from the nation’s friends around the world – including President Trump, who tweeted: “Best wishes to Prime Minister @Netanyahu and all of the people of Israel on the 70th Anniversary of your Great Independence. We have no better friends anywhere. Looking forward to moving our Embassy to Jerusalem next month!”
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted in response: “Thank you, President Trump! We have no better friend than America. We are greatly looking forward to your moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.”
The anniversary of Israel’s independence from Britain is also a day of denunciation from many countries opposed to Israel’s existence, since this day is known to Arabs as al-Nakba, or “the catastrophe” – and is the day the Arab nations surrounding Israel declared war against the newborn state in 1948, determined to wipe it off the map.
Israel’s existence inspires visceral responses from people, both positive and negative. People either see it as a bastion of stability and democracy, or a cause of instability and radicalization.
But whether they are for Israel or against it, everyone thinks they know it. That’s why I believe this 70th anniversary offers a perfect chance to meet the Israel you don’t know.
Over the past three years, film crews from CBN Documentaries have traveled to five remote locations around the globe to follow Israeli volunteers dedicating their time, talents and resources to international relief efforts and humanitarian aid.
Our documentary on their work is titled “To Life: How Israeli Volunteers are Changing the World” and is airing now on CBN and YouTube.
These Israelis are saving and changing lives wherever they go. Let me introduce you to just a few of the nonprofit organizations they work with:
Innovation: Africa is an Israeli organization on a mission to bring Israeli solar and water technology to remote African villages. So far, the organizations has helped improve the lives of nearly 1 million people across the continent. Because of Israeli innovation, crops now grow where people were once starving. Boys and girls study in classrooms with electric lights for the first time in their lives. Clean water brings life where contaminated water once brought disease and death.
Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project that provides lifesaving heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries. The group gives these children free medical care regardless of their nationality, religion, color, gender or financial status.
Springs of Hope Foundation, another Israeli organization, provides food, supplies, medical care and comfort to the Yazidi refugees in Kurdistan. ISIS terrorists attacked the Yazidi people in Iraq in 2014, enslaving or killing thousands and creating a half-million refugees.
IsraAid is an Israeli group that provides lifesaving disaster relief wherever people are in crisis. Its professional medics, search-and-rescue squads and post-trauma experts have been on the frontlines of every major humanitarian crisis, from rescuing Syrian refugees in Greece to helping Texans in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
This is not the Israel you read about in the headlines.
But I’ve saved the most surprising organization helping people around the world for last.
The Israel Defense Forces provide humanitarian aid worldwide. IDF doctors and nurses have established field hospitals at major disaster sites around the world, including Turkey, Nepal, Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines and even the United States.
I know that many other countries and organizations do amazing things to help those in crisis or in need. But very few nations do it while facing a steady drumbeat of criticism and U.N. condemnation.
After 70 years, I think it’s time we see the whole picture of the modern state of Israel. Perhaps it is time to see Israel as a light to the nations, and an example for us all.
So happy anniversary to Israel and l’chaim as you celebrate life.