Independence: From mourning to hope

This year, as Israel marks 76 years of independence, what would normally be a festive occasion every other year is a sombre occasion, clouded by great pain. 


This year, alongside a great appreciation of our renewed independence in our homeland, we contemplate the profound devastation we experienced as a nation and mourn the loss of over 1,200 new victims of terror that were added overnight on October 7.

How can we celebrate our nation’s freedom when 132 of our brothers and sisters are still held in captivity? How do we rejoice in our independence when friends and family have yet to return from the battlefield?

The proximity of Memorial Day and Independence Day, two significant days in the Israeli calendar intentionally placed back-to-back, has always sparked debate -‒ how can we transition so quickly from such sadness to celebration?

These two days, with their vastly differing characters, are fused together by the blood of our soldiers and of the terror victims who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.

Unfortunately, this year, as the country-wide commemoration siren brings the entire state to a standstill in silent homage, we will focus on the ongoing events. 

The attacks from Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis united our nation once again, one people bound by our resilience in the face of a horrific terror attack. This year, our reverence for Memorial Day is cloaked in fresh sorrow and our appreciation of our freedom in our own country is deeper than ever.

But amidst the pain, we have a lot to be proud of. As a nation, we have displayed great solidarity, courage and comradery, spanning all of Israel's citizens regardless of religion, political opinion or social differences.

As the horrific Hamas attack was unfolding in southern Israel, simultaneously accompanied by hundreds of rocket barrages launched indiscriminately at targets throughout the country, civilians unflinchingly drove into the flames, not away from them, to save as many lives as possible. Many of these heroes lost their lives in their attempt to save others.

In the early hours of October 7, when it became clear that this was not just another attack, young Israelis abroad lined up at airports to return to Israel to participate in the defense of their country.  

For 2,000 years, Jews commemorated Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in all their prayers, at times of celebration and mourning alike ‒ until we were able to re-establish a Jewish state in our homeland.

Currently, as the ugly head of antisemitism is raised to all-time highs globally, we experience an increasingly intense sensation of unity as a people and shared destiny in the sole Jewish State.

Our young country has had a full and colourful history. In mere decades since its establishment, we have provided a safe haven for the Jewish people in their ancestral land, have created a dynamic and diverse society of citizens of multiple faiths and backgrounds, have turned an ancient land into a land of innovation and creativity, have turned neighbours from enemies into allies, and have proved that we are here to stay.

There have been challenges and conflicts, alongside much success. Through it all, we have persevered and maintained our faith both in our nation and our people, secure in the knowledge that our future lies in our own hands, and we are building it together.

This year, as Memorial Day transforms into Independence Day, our brothers and sisters are still languishing in captivity. Although this year our celebrations are far from joyous, and our hearts are not yet whole, we look at strong Israelis like Rachel Goldberg-Polin of Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world, mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who is still held captive in Gaza, who continues to spread her mantra that “hope is mandatory" around the world.

This great country was built on many values and principles, but the single value that shines through no matter the hardship is our collective hope as a nation that one day we will be able to live in peace with our neighbours.

Until then, and especially now, "hope is mandatory", and we will never relinquish it.  

The writer is Israeli Ambassador to Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone

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