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Happy Independence Day, Israel!

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2007

Fifty-nine years ago, on May 14, 1948, the British lowered their flag and withdrew from Palestine, enabling the Jewish community, led by David Ben Gurion, to declare the creation of Israel. It's all reckoned by the Hebrew calendar, and this year it's offset a day to avoid starting Remembrance Day (the day before Independence Day, honoring fallen soldiers and victims of terror) during the Sabbath, so don't even try to make sense of the dates. The celebration officially began at 8 PM Monday with a torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, and continues through Tuesday.

Ron Weiser of Australian Jewish News explained why this is a "chag sameach" (happy holiday) and also offered a reminder that, contrary to Arab propaganda, the Israelis aren't occupiers or interlopers newly arrived in the region:

Israel is surely the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, speaks the same language and worships the same G-d that it did over 3000 years ago.

The people of modern-day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by Jewish heritage and religion and passed through generations, starting with the founding father Abraham.

This is a time for true celebration because we are proud of Israel's democracy, her dedication to human rights, her courts and justice, her free press, her high tech, her arts, her institutes of higher learning and most of all her Jewish core.

A country with over one million non-Jewish citizens who have more rights and freedoms – as they should than their brothers and particularly their sisters in Arab countries.

Immediately upon its Declaration of Independence, Israel was attacked by all its neighbors, who also urged the Palestinian Arabs to flee "temporarily" to escape the fighting. The Palestinian Arabs were promised they could soon return and claim the property of the Jews, who would be wiped out.

Despite the odds against it, Israel prevailed. It became the first free, democratic state in the Middle East. And for over 57 years (until the Iraqis adopted a democratic constitution on Dec. 15, 2005), it was the only democratic state in the Middle East. It's still by far the freest.

The descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who remained are now Israeli citizens, make up about 20% of the population, and have more political, social, and economic freedom than Arabs in any Arab nation (not that most of them are at all appreciative). The descendants of those who left "temporarily" until the Jews could be wiped out are still living in third-world "refugee camps" run by thugs and thieves — and still struggling to wipe out the Jews.

After 59 years of unrelenting violence and terror aimed against them, Israeli leaders are still trying to persuade their enemies to embrace peace:

Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik called Thursday on Israel's enemies to abandon the path of violence and seek the well being of their own societies.

"Our advice to you is replace your Katyushas and Qassams with computers and loving education, the smile of a boy that has a future, and neighborliness," Itzik said during her speech at the annual torch-lighting ceremony that kicked off Israel's 59th Independence Day celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Itzik delivered the opening speech and lit the central torch. Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, also lit one of the 12 torches.

"We hear the sharpening of swords and voices of war from near and afar. In distant Iran, in nearby Syria, in the Palestinian Authority at out doorstep, there still reside fiery zealots of hate-ridden leaders that believe in their ability to harm the state of Israel," Itzik said in her speech, adding that "the citizens of Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority should think twice about why they are so thirsty for battles and blood.

"Isn't the blood that you have already spilled enough?" she asked.

More about Israel Independence Day:

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