When Israel celebrates 71 years of restored Jewish national independence, it bows its head to the 23,741 Israelis who have been killed in action defending the national freedom of the Jewish people. While the price is high, the price of lacking Jewish national freedom was always incomparably higher.
More than most nations, the Jewish people knows that freedom is a precious commodity that must be defended, often at a painfully high cost. Ahead of Israel’s 71st Independence Day, Gazan terrorist rockets are once again targeting Israeli civilians. However, the price of defending Jewish national freedom pales in comparison to the staggering price the Jewish people paid for 2000 years of homelessness and defenselessness prior to the reestablishment of a Jewish national homeland in Israel.
Israel’s national independence celebration is unique. Unlike America’s fully joyful fourth of July Independence Day, Israel’s celebrates its national independence by simultaneously remembering that Jewish national freedom came at a high price. Israel’s Independence Day – Yom Ha’atzmaut, is therefore always preceded by the Yom Hazikaron – the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.
When Israel celebrates 71 years of restored Jewish national independence, it bows its head to the 23,741 Israelis who have been killed in action defending the national freedom of the Jewish people. Proportionally it corresponds to approximately 840,000 Americans, double the number ofAmericans killed during World War II.
However, the price of defending Jewish national freedom pales in comparison to the price the Jewish people paid for 2000 years of homelessness and defenselessness. The staggering price of Jewish homelessness culminated during the Holocaust, which wiped out six million Jewish men, women and children. The Holocaust was not committed in a backward part of the world. The industrial mass murder of Jews was perpetrated in the heart of “enlightened” Europe, under the leadership of one of Europe’s most educated and advanced countries – Germany. Much of European Jewry, which had existed for millennia, was wiped out during merely a few years while most of the free world looked the other way.
Critics, who wrongly claim that Israel is a “Holocaust compensation”, turn reality upside down. The Holocaust and countless anti-Jewish pogroms throughout Jewish exile happened exactly because the Jewish people was homeless and defenseless. If Israel had been reestablished in 1938 instead of 1948, millions of Jewish lives could have been saved.
Jewish military power is the crucial lifeline of Jewish national freedom. Some nations like Denmark or Iceland are lucky so be surrounded by peaceful neighbors and oceans. They therefore do not need military power in order to exist. By contrast, Israel is still surrounded by enemies committed to her destruction. Israel exists and thrives only thanks to the Jewish state’s considerable military, economic and technological power.
Seven decades is a blink of an eye in the long history of the Jewish people. Yet, during this brief period, the Jewish people went through an exceptional transformation, from homelessness to rebuilding a modern state in its ancestral homeland Israel. During the same brief period, the Jewish people went from powerlessness in exile into building one of the world’s finest and most powerful defense militaries.
In many ways, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is Israel’s beating heart. Apart from defending Israel’s existence, IDF has played an instrumental role in uniting Israel’s diverse society and giving a powerful identity and purpose to young Jews defending the Jewish nation. IDF has also played a disproportionate role in developing cutting-edge technologies that transformed Israel into a leading global innovation center.
Modern Israel remains a work in progress but her achievements are nevertheless impressive. While fighting for her existence, Israel transformed from a poor and fragile country in 1948 into an advanced first world society in 2019 with a GDP per capita comparable to those of Japan and Britain. The ingathering of millions of Jews from exile to Israel is unique in human history. In 1900, merely 0,5 % of world Jewry resided in the land of Israel. In 1948, 5 % of the world’s Jews lived in Israel. In 2019, nearly 50 % of the world’s Jews live in Israel. During the Nazi and Communist eras, much of the world was closed to Jews. Today, nations worldwide are standing in line to buy Israeli technologies and increase trade with the Jewish state. However, none of these achievements would be possible without Jewish national freedom and Jewish power.
The sad state of the Kurdish people, serves as a warning example of what happens when a people lacks national freedom and capability to defend itself. The Kurds have been systematically persecuted, massacred and abandoned. The Turkish despot Erdogan is an enemy of both the Kurdish people and the Jewish nation. Due to Kurdish military weakness, the Kurds are seriously threatened by the Erdogan regime. By contrast, Israel’s considerable military power deters Erdogan and other anti-Semitic despots from doing much beyond their hostile rhetoric.
While the price of Jewish national freedom is high, the price of lacking Jewish national freedom was always incomparably higher. Within the next decade, a majority of the Jewish people is projected to live in the Jewish state for the first time in over 2000 years. While many challenges lie ahead, regained Jewish national freedom has successfully placed the Jewish people in the driver’s seat of its own destiny.
Daniel Kryger is a writer and a political analyst and a Fellow at the Haym Salomon Center.