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Happy 60th, Israel!

Posted by Richard on May 8, 2008

In the Hebrew calendar, May 8 is 3 Iyar, 5768, and Yom HaAtzma'ut — Israel Independence Day. Sixty years ago (it was May 14, 1948, in the Western calendar), the British lowered their flag and withdrew from Palestine, and the Jewish community, led by David Ben Gurion, declared the independence of the state of Israel:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to hope and pray for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Accordingly, we, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine to be called Israel.

For 57 years (until the Iraqis adopted a democratic constitution on Dec. 15, 2005), Israel was the only democratic state in the Middle East. It's far from perfect, and far too socialist from my perspective. But its 60-year history is a remarkable and uplifting story. The Israelis have indeed made the desert bloom, and they've created a modern society full of world-class science, technology, business, and industry out of nothing. They achieved this despite their lack of natural resources, socialist tendencies, and a crushing defense burden because — unlike their neighbors — they embrace Reason and the Enlightenment.

The population of Israel is about 7.3 million, and almost 1.5 million of them are Arabs. Those Arab citizens of Israel have more freedom, opportunity, and human rights than the citizens of any of its Arab neighbors.

Happy birthday, Israel! Please join me in signing the world's largest virtual birthday card to honor this occasion. 

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