May 12 is Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day. It’s traditionally held on the fifth day of Iyar, although it can be moved forward or back a few days.
I don’t have any personal tales or words of wisdom to pass on. I’ve never celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, and I’ve never visited Israel.
Even so, I would assume some CJN readers have travelled to Israel to be a part of this important national day. If not, perhaps they’ve celebrated at home, a friend’s house, restaurant, synagogue, grand hall, and so on.
The federal Liberals, like most other governments in democratic societies, will likely mark the occasion with a press release. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his MPs may also opt to attend one of the functions held in various Canadian cities.
I can’t speak for the Liberal government, since I have nothing to do with it. But I can provide some insights into the previous Tory government’s views about the commemoration of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper, my old friend and boss, has always held Canadian Jews in the highest regard. I, and many others, have written about what this community meant (and still means) to him. His admiration has always been real, genuine, principled and deeply personal. Anyone who thinks otherwise is dead wrong.
Harper holds a similar position about Israel.
In his Jan. 20, 2014, speech to the Knesset, he said the friendship between our two nations “is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.”
Moreover, he’s always regarded Israel as a “beacon of light” in a part of the world where, I think it’s fair to say, darkness regularly needs to be combated.
In terms of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Harper recognized the importance of this national day (as he did with other days and celebrations for different countries). He knew that many Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish, wanted to take part in these celebrations, and he was pleased that our country showed solidarity with Israel.
The Tory government’s 2010 press release has always struck me as the perfect template to honour this national day. In particular, these two paragraphs truly stand out:
“The creation of the State of Israel is a testament to the triumph of faith and perseverance over tragedy and adversity. Israel is an enduring symbol for the world and a source of great inspiration. The courage, resilience and determination that built this formidable, democratic nation continue to hearten Jewish communities around the globe.
“This proud celebration affords us the opportunity to reflect on the events that forged Israel’s history, as well as the shared history and values between our two great nations. We count ourselves among Israel’s closest friends and allies. Since its founding in 1948, Canada has supported Israel and its right to live in peace and security with its neighbours. We remain strong and steadfast friends.”
If you ever wanted to understand what the Harper Tories thought about the State of Israel and Canada-Israel relations, this is the perfect summary. And if you ever wondered why I used to write that Canada was Israel’s greatest friend and ally, look no further.
I can’t write the same thing about the Trudeau Liberals, however.
While there’s no question the current prime minister supports Israel in his own way, he’s not nearly as strong a supporter as his predecessor. Early indications – from the federal government’s position of being an “honest broker” with Israel to its soft-on-terrorism approach à la U.S. President Barack Obama – also seem to indicate that things won’t change anytime soon.
For now, let’s be thankful that Israel remains the most important voice for democracy, liberty and freedom in the Middle East. And let’s hope that Trudeau’s Canada never shifts away from this philosophy.