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On the eve of its 64 Independence Day – Israel’s achievements in the past 63 years are short of a miracle – so much has changed here. Israel 2012 has a Jewish population of 6 million; Israel is a world leader in science, physics, advanced technologies, fashion, music, medicine and communications;  it has so much more to offer to the world and humanity. Israel is always one of the first countries to offer assistance to countries hit by disaster – such is our big Jewish heart. It is a modern country that preserves the ancient. It is the only democracy in the region. The one thing that doesn’t change is that there are still those that would destroy us.

Throughout its existence Am Israel has struggled for its right to be a free People and to live in peace in its homeland. Never is this fact more poignant than in the two weeks following Pesach. A week after celebrating our Exodus from slavery to freedom, we commemorate the memory of our 6 million brethren that perished at the hands of the Nazi regime for no other reason than they were Jewish. Tomorrow evening at sundown will mark the beginning of Yom Hazikaron – Remembrance Day for the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism (& the Israeli Police, the General Security Service, and the Mossad). It will end at sundown on Wednesday, when Yom Ha’Atzmaut begins – sorrow and sadness entwined with joy and happiness.  Jewish communities around the world will also mark Yom Ha’Atzmaut uniting our people as one.

Since its establishment in 1948, the State of Israel has been forced to fight  seven recognized wars, two Palestinian Intifadas, and a series of armed conflicts in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict – : 1948 Arab–Israeli War (November 1947 – July 1949) ; Retribution operations (1950s – 1960s) ; Suez Crisis (October 1956) ; Six-Day War (June 1967) ; War of Attrition (1967–1970) ; Yom Kippur War (October 1973) ; 1978 South Lebanon conflict (March 1978) ; 1982 Lebanon War (1982) ; South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000) ; First Intifada (1987–1993) ; Second Intifada (2000–2005) ; 2006 Lebanon War (summer 2006) ; Gaza War (December 2008 – January 2009)

Too many of the families in Israel are bereaved families of the Holocaust and/or the Tkuma (the revival of Israel after

2000 years in exile).  The memorial days are the State’s national and collective way of paying honour and tribute to all those, whose sacrifice enables Israel’s existence,  so that we be able to live as a free people in our homeland.The threads of my life are intertwined with those of Medinat Israel.

I feel blessed to have been one of the 600,000 Jews that were the total population of Palestine Eretz Israel that became Medinat Israel in 1948.   As a child, I watched the men at my father’s factory preparing the first Israeli cannon – the Davidka and the armoured cars (their charred remains can be seen on the way to Jerusalem). I watched my cousins and neighbours going to fight for our Independence;

I remember holding my breath when David Ben Gurion declared  : “…WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations,… HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.

I joined the roar of joy that rose from every house. I went down to be amongst those gathered in the streets, singing and dancing. I also remember seeing men departing to go back to the fighting that was all around us. Some of them never returned.

I served in the military – first as a teacher-soldier teaching new olim and then as the Office Manager of the Chief Education Officer. Now I am the mother and grandmother of soldiers; I spent time abroad accompanying my husband – a Jewish Agency shaliach – sent to encourage aliya.

Most of my life I have given to the State through my work as a teacher and through Zionist and voluntary activities in the framework of WIZO, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency – this is the legacy bestowed upon me by my parents and one I gladly bestow upon my children and grandchildren.

Wizo has walked hand in hand with the State of Israel for over 90 years. WIZO played a major role in helping the State on the way and the young Israel create its social infrastructure. We have witnessed, experienced and been party to everything that has happened in days of peace and days of crisis. You, our Federations are full partners in everything we have done for the State and People of Israel.

Many challenges face Medinat Israel but with a united Am Israel – we will prevail. Our brave girls and boys in uniform are forever diligent in their duty to protect and its borders – they continue the work of our fallen soldiers – May God look over them and protect them, Amen.

I wish you all a happy Independence Day and hope that our prayers for peace and a better future be answered

Affectionately,

Tova Ben Dov

President

World WIZO

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