Commemorations and fear

We have entered a week of mixed emotions.

Yesterday we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we lost 6 million of our brothers and sisters.

Next Wednesday is Yom HaZikaron, when we remember the thousands of Israelis who died defending the Jewish homeland.

And next Thursday is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, when Jews worldwide celebrate the birth of the state of Israel.

Yom HaAtzmaut is supposed to be a happy occasion, yet it's not coincidental that it follows two days of tearful memories. Israel was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and the country's continued existence is due to the devotion of those who died so Israel could live.

Fifty-three years later, Israel is a strong nation, technologically advanced, educationally superior, and the only democracy in the entire Middle East.

Yet, there is little to celebrate on this year's Independence Day.

Israel is at war.

Terrorists are sniping at Jews not only in Gaza but on Israeli highways, in the outskirts of Jerusalem and on the Lebanon border.

This week Israel fired back first by attacking Lebanon on Monday and sending a clear warning to Syria, and then by launching a mortar attack on Gaza and punishing Yasser Arafat for his support of terrorism.

A cycle of violence has begun. In the Middle East, that means an eye for an eye enacted on a daily basis.

Instead of celebrating Israel's existence, we are once again worried about Israel's future. The Jewish state is surrounded by unfriendly neighbors as well as regimes in Iran and Iraq that are looking for an excuse to enter a fray.

Things looked so much brighter only a year ago. There was hope for peace before Arafat rebuked every effort made by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Clinton.

Our job this Independence Day is to support our friends and family in Israel. They need to know that American Jews stand behind them, especially during these threatening times.