Shabbat Message: Why I am Proud to Be a Zionist

Posted on April 16, 2021 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

On Israel’s 73rd Birthday:

Yesterday, Israel turned 73 years young. I say “young” because in the grand scheme of history, especially Jewish history, 73 years is a relatively short span. I also say “young” because I see in Israel a youthful spirit and dynamism that is vital and exciting. And I say “young” because Israel has so much growth ahead of it; so many challenges yet to overcome, so much potential to fulfill the dreams of the Jewish people over the ages.

At 73, Israel is still young and youthful, yet it has also accomplished so much – so much to be proud of. As we celebrate Israel at 73, I want to share a few of the many reasons I am proud to be a Zionist, and why I believe Israel should be a source of pride for us all.

1) Restoring Jewish Self-Determination
After 2,000 years, Israel gave the Jewish people the gift of national sovereignty and the ability to determine our own destiny. No longer must Jews be dependent upon the good will of other peoples for our safety, security, and wellbeing. Israel has a strong and capable defense force that protects our people in Israel and even abroad. And it does this with a sworn commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards.

2) A Nation Among Nations That Aspires to Be a Light Among Nations
Zionism set out to enable the Jewish people to return to history as a nation like other nations – to be normal. At the same time, it embraced the vision of the Prophets, who called us to be a light among nations, a society grounded in the pursuit of justice and peace for all. This lofty aspiration guides, inspires, and challenges Israel and its people every day, inviting both internal scrutiny and the judgment of others.

3) Democracy and Diversity
Israel is a vibrant democracy that guarantees by law the rights of all its citizens. It may be volatile and contentious, and it is certainly imperfect, but it is nonetheless a government of its people in all their diversity. Israel has a highly respected and independent judiciary, and its Supreme Court, which every citizen may petition, has upheld some of the most progressive social policies in the world.

4) A Center of Jewish Cultural Expression
From renewing the ancient Hebrew tongue as a living language to a vast array of artistic, musical, literary, scholarly, culinary, theatrical, and many other forms of creativity, Israel has fostered a flowering of Jewish culture unparalleled in our history.

5) Renewed the Relationship Between Our People and Our Land
Zionism not only returned our people to our ancestral homeland, it renewed our historical love affair with the Land of Israel. Israelis and Jews from all over the world delight in the beauty and bounty of nature, from Dan in the north to Eilat in the south, and everywhere in-between. The fruits of the soil are abundant and a delight to the eye and the palate, and it is not an exaggeration to claim that Israel has made the desert bloom.

6) Humanitarian Aid to the World
Israel is among the most frequent and effective providers of humanitarian aid throughout the world. From Haiti to Turkey, and Banda Achi to Africa, Israel’s government and many NGOs are among the first to arrive in times of need and among the most reliable in charting a path to recovery and sustainability by offering creative long-term solutions to some of the greatest challenges to health and wellbeing.

7) Research, Technology, and Higher Education
Israel has earned the nickname “Start-up Nation” for its extraordinary successes in research and technology, especially in biotech, agronomy, hydrology, including breakthroughs in desalinization and recycling, and cyber-security. Its universities in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beer Sheva, and its research institutes, the Technion in Haifa and the Weitzman Institute in Rehovot, are world-class institutions of higher learning and research that are producing life-changing scientific breakthroughs at a breathtaking pace.

8) Israelis Are Among the Happiest of People
Many people mistakenly think of Israel as a beleaguered nation, constantly at war with its neighbors. In fact, Israelis tend to be among the most upbeat and optimistic of peoples. Yih’yeh tov, “all will be well,” is not a platitude, and HaTikvah, “The Hope,” is more than the national anthem – it is an ethos that fosters an attitude that is positive and forward looking. Of the 156 countries surveyed in Gallup’s 2020 World Happiness Report, Israel was ranked 14th among the happiest nations. (The United States was ranked 18th.)

Israelis are not shy about complaining, and worrying is a Jewish genetic disposition, but the truth is that Israel is a strong and healthy nation at age 73, with so much to be proud of. How fortunate we are to live in this time and be able to share in the miraculous reality that is the State of Israel.

Shabbat shalom and chag atzma’ut sameach!

Rabbi Arnie Gluck