I think that it is more than symbolic that Israel’s Independence Day comes just a week after the Holocaust Memorial Day. To me, it is clear that were it not for the Holocaust, the state of Israel would not have been established in the time and manner that it has. However, 67 years after its establishment, Israel’s existence is still being challenged because its independence and security are not determined by the same factors that determine the fate of all other countries.
The land of Israel was given to the Hebrews only once they had united “as one man with one heart” at the foot of Mount Sinai. We were sovereigns there only as long as we maintained our unity. When we lost it, we were exiled. As unfounded hatred planted itself in our hearts, we lost our sovereignty over Israel and did not regain it until 1948.
However, the sovereignty we have resumed in 1948 was given to us after the ordeal of the Holocaust, not due to our rejuvenated unity. But since we first became Israel’s sovereigns only after we united, our independence depends on the level to which we foster unity among us rather than separation.
It is said that Israelis (and Jews all over) unite only when a common danger threatens them. Indeed, until some peril comes along we clash with one another like a pile of nuts confined together in a sack. But at the first sign of danger, we unify our ranks and face the challenge as one. This is how it’s been for decades, but this is not how it will always stay.
Times are changing. As the world becomes increasingly hostile toward Israel, we need to take some time to reflect on the meaning of our being in this land. Today, much of the world regards the state of Israel as the world’s most fearsome villain. We may not understand it, but as one anti-Semite wrote on Twitter just the other day, “What you [Jews] call ‘anti-Semitism,’ the rest of the world calls ‘common sense.’” They have no idea why we are here, and think that our only purpose is to rob the Palestinians of their land and exploit them.
Instead, we need to show that we are here for a completely different purpose—to restore the unity we once achieved, and share it with the world. Soon after we united “as one man with one heart,” we were given the task to be “a light for the nations.” That is, we were given the task to bring our special unity to the rest of the world.
We have never done that. While we were in Israel, we were secluded and largely kept our method of unity to ourselves. When we finally dispersed, it was precisely because we’d lost our unity and therefore had none of it to share with the world.
Now that we have returned to the land of Israel, we are required to renew our unity, and share it with the world. This is the implementation of the promise that the world expects of us to keep: to be a light for the nations. This will also be the only justification for our being here that the world will accept and support. In short, when we unite and share our unity with the world, it will be the end of anti-Semitism.
Therefore, to preserve our independence and solidify it, we need to work on our interdependence, our mutual responsibility, the motto of our people. When we establish solidarity and strive to follow the tenet, “love your neighbor as yourself,” we will merit being in the land of Israel.
When it comes to the merit of unity, even The Book of Zohar, probably the most misconstrued piece of text ever written, writes very clearly (Aharei Mot), “You, the friends who are here, as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will not part from one another… And by your merit there will be peace in the world.”
So if we want true independence, we must cultivate our solidarity and unity. Ironically, the future of the most persecuted nation in the history of mankind does not rely on arms, but on cultivating mutual responsibility, striving to achieve a national state of “love your neighbor as yourself,” and sharing that state with the entire world—all nations, races, and religions.