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My Dear Friends,

Next Tuesday Israel will celebrate its 65th Independence Day. 65 glorious years of incredible building, development and progress in every single field of life.
Two thousand years in exile, Am-Israel waited patiently to hear the words.
“….THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the charter of the United Nations”.
Am-Israel paid a horrific price for its independence – persecution by the Greeks, Romans, the Inquisition, Ottomans, Turks, the Holocaust, the British Mandate, our Arab neighbours, ,.,… even while David Ben Gurion read these precious words out loud, our brave soldiers were defending our cities, villages, moshavim and kibbutzim.
Joy and sorrow are an intricate part of our Jewish being – and in order to celebrate and rejoice in our Independence, we must first pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives to guarantee our future here in Israel. Next Monday, a week after Yom HaShoah, we will hold Memorial Day to commemorate Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, known in Hebrew as Yom Hazikaron. The day opens with a one-minute siren on the preceding evening at 20:00 (April 14) as according to the Jewish calendar, the day begins at sunset. As the siren wails, the country comes to a standstill, including cars on roads and highways. Our brave IDF soldiers will be forever alert as the unrest around Israel and along its borders continues. Next Sunday evening, many of us will attend the annual gathering where the fallen are remembered, and we, the living – reminisce old stories and experiences, sing songs that bind us, and see how life has treated us during the passing year. Most of us have lost a loved one – family or friend in our daily battle to survive here in our Jewish homeland. While we have grown older they remain forever young, a painful reminder of the price we pay for our independence, our sovereignty. Many holocaust survivors are also among the fallen – they joined the fighting immediately on arriving in Eretz Israel, before they had time to learn Hebrew or start a new life,
Next Monday will begin with Yom HaZikaron and the ceremonies at the Military cemeteries and will end with the Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl. For many the transition is too short, too acute, too intense and they will again suggest , that there be a one day interval between Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. On 14 May 1948 there were 600,000 Jews in Israel and today 65 year later there are nearly 6 million Jews in Israel and a little more than that in the Diaspora. Israel has achieved so much in 65 years, well one hundred years to be accurate, as Jews started returning to Eretz Israel at the turn of the 20th century. They found a small Jewish community and little more. The first pioneers lived in tents, shacks, wooden houses and then they moved forward and never looked back. Today Israel is an ultra modern country at the forefront of applied and advanced technologies in most fields of life, communication, science, physics, medicine, etc…Israel is an “Or Le-Goim (a light for gentiles)” in many fields and contributes to universal development of the global village and planet Earth.

Israel is one of the most stable economies in the world after the economical crisis and on 30 March 2013, the flow of natural gas from Israel’s Tamar reservoir in the Mediterranean to the Ashdod reception facility was inaugurated, ushering in a new era in Israel’s energy sector. Israel will not only become independent in being able to supply its own energy needs, but it is likely to become an energy exporter as its maritime gas fields are further developed. There is still much to be done in regard to social matters such as poverty, violence and crime, but the same can be said of any country in the world. I am hopeful that once our economy begins reaping the benefits of the natural gas, more of the national budget will be directed to education, health and welfare. Israel is not perfect but it is ours. Any mistakes made are our own and that is the beauty of independence – we are responsible for our own fate – no-one else. We are those who will improve our society. We are those who extend our hand in peace to all our neighbours; always hoping that they will realize the benefits they stand to gain by doing so; wise enough to know – that some still prefer to hate and attack us – no matter what While the IDF, our Magen of David (Shield of David) defends our borders to guarantee our future here, we too must do so – it is the duty of every Jew and Zionist to make Aliya – as is written in the Hagadah – Leshana Haba’a Be-Yerushlaim. On the eve of Israel’s 65th Independence Day, I pray that my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora regard Israel as a country of opportunities and not as a last resort; that they make aliya out of choice and free will and not out of necessity. My dear WIZO friends, we are one people whose hearts beats in unity. You are full partners in all of Israel’s achievements. Your support and assistance was and continues to be essential to everything happening here. Together, we will see Medinat Israel continue to grow and flourish for the benefit of all of Am-Israel.

I wish Israel a very happy 65th Independence Day, and now for our national anthem – Hope – HaTikva – :
As long as in the heart, within
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And towards the borders of the East
An eye still watches toward Zion,
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our home land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem

Affectionately,
Tova Ben-Dov
President World WIZO

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