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Birth of a Nation… Rebirth of a Homeland
Dear Pastor and Friend of The Fellowship,
On May 14, 1948, the fifth day of the month of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, Jewish leaders gathered in Tel Aviv to sign the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel—Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
This extraordinary document states, “By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, [we] hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
With this bold declaration, the modern State of Israel was born. And so it is that every year at this time Israel Independence Day is observed. Yom HaAtzmaut, as it is known in Hebrew, is a day of jubilation—a day for Jews to mark the re-establishment of their sovereign nation after generations of exile, and to celebrate the history and accomplishments of the modern State of Israel.
From the very beginning, Israel extended a hand of friendship to neighboring states, encouraging them, as Israel’s Declaration of Independence puts it, to “establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people.”
Despite this, most of Israel’s neighbors still do not recognize the Jewish state. Some, in fact, are preparing themselves for the day that they can, in the words of the Iranian president, “wipe Israel off the map.”
Even in the West, with its values of democracy and personal liberty—values fully embraced by Israel—her legitimacy is routinely questioned in academic circles, on newspaper op-ed pages, and even in some churches. Sixty-plus years after its birth, it seems Israel is still the only nation on earth that is continually called on to justify its existence.
For Israelis and friends of Israel—indeed, for any fair-minded person who values democracy and freedom—Israel Independence Day should be, first and foremost, a day for celebration. On this day, let’s thank God for a nation that stands as a beacon of democracy in the midst of authoritarian regimes… for a nation where every day scientific and technological advances are made that benefit the entire world… for a nation that, since its inception, has worked to fulfill the biblical promise, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3).
U.S.Israel Relationship: Ties that Bind
While Israel’s Arab neighbors reacted with hostility to the founding of the Jewish state, the U.S. became the first nation to recognize Israel. It is instructive to remember that the man primarily responsible for this was a devoted Christian—President Harry S. Truman.
In Truman’s administration, there were those who spoke forcefully against U.S. recognition of the new Jewish state. One of these, Secretary of State James Forrestal, summed up this viewpoint by saying, “There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about six hundred thousand Jews on the other. It is clear that in any contest, the Arabs are going to overwhelm the Jews. Why don’t you face up to the realities? Just look at the numbers!”
Harry Truman was not without his faults. He occasionally displayed in his private correspondence some of the anti-Semitic prejudices that were all too prevalent at that time. But, ultimately, it is to his everlasting credit that, as far as the right of Israel to exist was concerned, Truman was unimpressed by “the numbers.”
In his memoirs, Clark Clifford, who was special counsel to Truman, remembers Truman’s strong counterpoint to Forrestal’s position: “From [Truman's] youth, he had detested intolerance and discrimination. He had been deeply moved by the plight of the millions of homeless of World War II, and felt that alone among the homeless, the Jews had no homeland of their own to which they could return.”
As a Christian, Truman had other reasons to support the Jews’ return to their homeland. Clifford continues, “[Truman] was a student and believer in the Bible since his youth. From his reading of the Old Testament, he felt the Jews derived a legitimate historical right to Palestine, and he sometimes cited such biblical lines as Deuteronomy 1:8: “‘Behold, I have given up the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord hath sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’”
Truman never regretted his decision to recognize the Jewish state—a move he took just eleven minutes after Israel declared its independence. “I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now,” he said in 1952. “I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”
Call for Support
In light of the threats today against Israel and the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide, it is time for friends of Israel and the Jewish people to speak out. One of the most important battles Israel must fight is the battle for public opinion. You and your congregation can help Israel win this battle through prayer, advocacy, and by spreading the truth about Israel’s ongoing struggle for peace and security. One easy first step you can take is to visit our Stand for Israel website (StandForIsrael.org) to see how you can become involved.
With prayers for shalom, peace,