Beautiful Words to Live By

Beautiful Words to Live By

By Rabbi Corinne Copnick

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One of the good things about growing older is that you remember many historical events because they were personally lived. In 1948, I was 12 years old. I remember as if it were yesterday the excitement of my family and neighbors as we crowded around the radio, straining to hear the words of the courageous Declaration broadcast direct from the spiritual homeland that had only been a dream sustained by the dedication of those who had believed in it through the centuries. Israel was once again a national homeland for the Jewish people.

In the aftermath of the controversial Nation State Bill so recently passed by the Israeli Knesset, we would do well to remember the inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence proclaimed by the brand new State of Israel on May 14th (the fifth day of Iyar, 5708), 1948. These very words, inscribed on a brass plate along with the courageous signatures of people now well known in Israeli history, were given to my father in thanks for his help — among many other Canadian and American ex-soldiers who had helped Holocaust survivors make the difficult journey to the Promised Land — in establishing the State of Israel. This plaque has had a favored place on the wall of every home I have ever lived in since 1948.

Despite the assertion in the 1948 Independence proclamation that, as a national homeland for the Jewish people, Israel would be a welcoming place for everyone, history has recorded that the surrounding Arab countries (with their own catastrophic narrative) sent their armies – five armies — against Israel the very day after Independence was proclaimed. The brand-new Israel was able to hold its ground because it had no other choice. Despite countless negotiations and almost continuous hostilities, a lasting peace, 70 years later, has not yet been found.

Here is the excerpt from the 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence that remains etched, not only on the brass plaque, but in my memory:

“The State of Israel, will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on 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 shrines and holy places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations…..

“In the midst of wanton aggression, we call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel, to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the state, with full and equal citizenship, and due representation in all its bodies and institutions provisional or permanent.

“We offer peace and amity to all neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and reconstitution of the Middle East. Our call goes out to the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development, and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations – the redemption of Israel.”

Would that it were so. Amen.