I write this message to you from the heart of Tel Aviv. I have been here as part of the World Mizrachi Yom Ha’atzmaut 70 mission. I have to say it has probably been some of the most inspiring days of my entire life. It has been an honour and privilege to be part of this mission.
To be here on Yom Hazikaron, to be in the heart of Gush Etzion to stand with 5,000 people remembering their fallen soldiers, their families, their friends and realising how personal, how powerful Yom Hazikaron is in this country. To share in the pain and the grief yet the pride and the honour is something that makes you see how remarkable this country is.
From there to then go and celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut 70 by dancing and singing in Hevron in Maarat Ha Machpelah, the cave of Machpelah where Avraham is buried. He was the one who began our connection to Israel over 4000 years ago. To be there and to sing Hallel, and to say ‘zeh ha yom assah hashem nagilah v nismacha va’ ‘This is the day that Hashem has given us, let us rejoice and celebrate’, to sing that in Maarat Ha Machpela on Yom Ha’Atzamaut 70 will be something I will treasure forever.
Then on Yom Ha’Atzmaut day itself, we went out see Israel celebrating. We had our barbeque, as did most of the country. This is where I believe the message and the vision of Mizrachi comes to its fore. Which communities celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut in this way? The secular Israelis and the dati – leumi – the national religious, the religious Zionists. They are also the two communities that the vast majority serve in the army.
People say to me, how can we, the religious Jews celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut? The state is secular, these people who are having their barbeques, they did not say Hallel, they do not see this day as a religious day, why are you also having barbeques? It is a secular custom, it is not a religious thing.
The answer I heard is beautiful, and it draws on the ideas of Rav Kook, who saw all Jews as part of the redemption of the Jewish people, not just the religious ones. The idea is as follows. In temple times when something wonderful happened to you, you brought a Korban Toda –a thanksgiving offering to Hashem. Someone said to me, ‘look around you, these people are all bringing a Korban Toda with their barbeques. They are saying thank you for the State of Israel!
We have to see ourselves as part of the nation of Israel, to see the positives in our secular brothers not just the things that they do not do. From the conversations I have had, I can see the respect and admiration that the secular Israeli public have for the religious Zionist community. The fact that they feel that connection, is a huge Kiddush Hashem on the part of the dati – leumi community.
Over these last few days I have seen the power, the beauty, the tears, the joy, the holiness, the love, the history and the inspiration of our nation and next weekend we are bringing all of that to you. Eighteen of the top Rabbis and Rabbaniot are coming to the UK for our Weekend of Inspiration. They will be in over 40 communities over Shabbat up and down the country. Then they are all coming together on Sunday at Kinloss for the Day of Inspiration to teach and inspire us, bringing this incredible world to you.
The full programme is out, I urge all of you to join us and to sign up (Click on poster below or go to: www.mizrachi.org.uk/events/doi18)! Mizrachi UK are taking the inspiration of the last few days and bringing it to the UK in a real and tangible form. It will be a day not to be missed!
We are a remarkable nation that in 70 years old but in reality, we are thousands of years old but the mission, the values the ideals are still the same.
See you next Sunday,
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Atzmaut Sameach
Rabbi Andrew Shaw