The 50 days from the 15th of Nisan to the sixth of Sivan are akin to a metaphysical anvil on which the interlocking hands of God and His people have joined, in order to forge Jewish faith, values and peoplehood.
Some 3,500 years ago, in mid-Nisan, a rabble of slaves was liberated from their bondage in Egypt to begin a long, arduous journey to the land of Israel. Seven weeks later, in a trembling assembly around the base of a mountain alive with fire, smoke and lightning, the rabble received its eternal mission. It was that mission that created us as a people.
Three-and-a-half-millenniums later, on the 27th of Nisan, we commemorate Yom Hashoah v’Hagvurah, our collective day of remembrance for the millions slaughtered in the Holocaust.
On the fourth of Iyar, we commemorate Yom Hazikaron, to honour the lives and the memories of the men and women who have fallen in defence of the State of Israel.
On the fifth of Iyar, we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, the establishment of the state in 1948.
And on the 28th of Iyar, we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, the day during the 1967 Six Day War in which the Israel Defence Forces reunited east and west Jerusalem; the Old City with the new city and the Western Wall with the only people to whom it has ever held special, purposeful meaning.
These dates on the calendar – and the events they mark – are timeless reference points, urgently relevant every year and generation. They are joined together all the way back to the miraculous, heart-stopping exodus from Egypt to this very day.
And, of course, they join us together too – or they should. Increasingly, some younger, misinformed Jews, having adopted a narrative of their people’s modern history that is distorted or untrue, attempt to loosen or even sever the thread binding us to the only sovereign Jewish state in the world.
This issue of The CJN appears during the week of Yom Ha’atzmaut. This year, Israel marks 69 years of renewed existence as a state.
This includes 50 years since the momentous Six Day War, when the young Jewish state had to defend itself against the combined threats of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and the destructive, inciting mischief of the former Soviet Union.
Merely 19 years after Israel was established and just 22 years after the end of Nazi rule in Europe, Arab leaders openly promised a second genocide of the Jewish people. World governments made no promises to prevent the genocide. Israel and the Jewish world were left alone to contend with the chilling Arab threats of annihilation.
Elie Wiesel recalled that period of time in the following manner:
“Anxiety-filled three weeks preceded the war – Arab threats and Israeli negotiations. Worldwide complacency was matched by Russian complicity. So deep was Jewish anguish that it transformed itself into solidarity: the Jewish People in its entirety offered its unconditional support to Israel, whose most trusted and faithful ally it had become.
A gigantic tidal wave swept through Jewish communities, including those behind the Iron Curtain. Never has the Diaspora given so much of itself. With rare exceptions, universalist intellectuals, who until then would endure their Jewishness at best as a painful contradiction, now openly spoke of it. Assimilated Jews discarded their complexes, sectarians their fanaticism. Everybody felt threatened…. A celebrated violinist cancelled his engagements and flew to Lod, declaring: ‘The enemy says he will exterminate two million Jews, let him add one more.’”
We have a compelling story of remarkable peoplehood to tell our children. And we have a great people to which to attach our children with acute pride and gratitude.
If only we would.