50 years of history, struggle, victory

Most of the time it's difficult to step back and truly recognize that one is watching history — real history — taking shape.

But that is exactly what happened 50 years ago this coming week on Iyar 5, 5708.

On that day, David Ben-Gurion stood in a small room in Tel Aviv and read Israel's Declaration of Independence.

Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel's first prime minister, knew the surrounding Arab nations would respond with an all-out attack as they had warned. He knew the chances of success were 50-50, at best.

But after 2,000 years of exile, suffering, humiliation, slaughter and finally genocide, he knew this was the one chance the Jews had to return to their homeland. And sometimes one chance is all any single person or people get.

We look back today, amazed at such chutzpah and courage.

Marking the 50th anniversary of that historic event, however, doesn't mean we have to romanticize or sentimentalize it.

Israel's founders weren't superhuman. They weren't all heroes. They weren't without fault.

But they were people with a vision. They knew something had to be done. And they knew they couldn't leave it to someone else.

So this coming week, we celebrate Israel and Israelis for what they've created.

As American Jews, we too can be proud of our contribution to that success.

Remember, we are witnessing and living history — the kind of history that will be read about and analyzed by scholars 1,000 years from now.

And when those future historians look back on Israel's founding, we want them to be studying a living, breathing, healthy country — not a remnant or footnote of history.

So take a moment and offer a "l'chaim" to one of the most remarkable moments in our people's long history — and then get back to the work that will help Israel prosper for the next 50, 100 and 1,000 years.