Sunday October 4, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Prof. Aviad Hacohen

The 'Zionist Days of Repentance'

The intense rat race, the passing and existential dangers, the crime, corruption, the economic and social distress, all make it hard to see the great miracle.

Psalm 126, "When God brings about the return to Zion, we were like dreamers," was taking shape. For 2,000 years, the Jewish people wandered in exile, persecuted and tortured, dreaming of the day when they could return to their land (or, in the words of Chaim Weizmann with his sharp wit: "For two thousand years, the Jews dreamed of the establishment of a state, and it had to happen to me ...").

The 10 "Zionist Days of Repentance" between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day provide a good opportunity to pause for a moment and really look at what happened here in the last 66 years. A nation that survived the sword, scarred and damaged from the horrors of the Holocaust, arrived in Israel and overcame the surrounding enemies.

Over several decades, Israel found its way to the forefront in the fields of agriculture, science and technology, producing Nobel laureates, scientists and intellectuals, artists and musicians, far out of proportion to its tiny size. Our country is a magnet and a source of hope and confidence for the Jewish people.

I experienced a real life example of this last week during the three-day Limmud Jewish learning conference in Moscow, which was attended by some 1,200 people, most of them younger than 40. Yosef Mendelevitch, who sat in a Soviet prison for 11 years, described to the generation that "did not know Joseph," the devotion of the Prisoners of Zion. Judaism cut off from its heritage for 70 years was revived, due in no small part to the Jewish state.

During that same conference, hundreds of young people met the haredi musician Yonatan Rezael for the first time. He too is a "representative" of the great miracle -- the grandson of a Jewish man who, at the last minute, narrowly escaped death, jumping from a train and managing to rebuild his family in Jerusalem.

As he sang his wonderful song, which is based on the verse that his grandfather recited when he was saved from the valley of death, "For with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies" (Genesis 32:10), many eyes in the audience sparkled. Many of the audience members may not have understood the words, but that same "Jewish soul that yearns" spoke even without words.

When they asked Dr. Zerah Wahrhaftig, who signed the Declaration of Independence, what he thought of the State of Israel more than 50 years later, he replied: "Much more than we expected, but less than we had hoped for."

To ensure that "the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption," does not, God forbid, fall out of place, we have much more to do. We still have a long way to go to accomplish the goal, to build an exemplary society that implements and realizes -- through actions and not only in words -- "the vision of the prophets of Israel."

This does not diminish the great miracle.

"The one to whom the miracle is happening, does not recognize the miracle," our sages said. Looking at Israel's history and that of the Jewish people over the last few generations should cause us to swell with pride and lead us to give thanks, to praise the great miracles that happened to our nation, at all times and in every hour.

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