This past week marked two distinct celebrations of the State of Israel’s 70th birthday. One was the official opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The other was an acknowledgement in Washington, D.C., by Israel of 70 Americans who contributed to its success since Israel’s modern-day birth as a nation.
I am singling out two recipients of that special honor. Hank Greenspun and Al Schwimmer represent hundreds of Americans who volunteered in 1948 to help give birth to the Jewish State.
Of course, I am biased. I grew up in Hank Greenspun’s home, and I knew Al Schwimmer most of my life. They have been called heroes both by those charged with prosecuting them for violating the Neutrality laws of the United States and the presidents of the United States who ultimately granted them pardons for their selfless and heroic acts.
While accepting the honor bestowed upon my father this past week, I thought about the man who inspired Al, Hank and the others to act as they did at the beginning—Israel’s founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
It was Ben-Gurion’s vision and determination that willed Israel into existence and helped it survive the impossible odds of a war for survival against millions of its Arab neighbors whose single motivation was to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea.
And after the 1967 Six-Day War, Ben-Gurion looked over the newly acquired Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip and proclaimed that given a choice between all that territory and peace, he would prefer peace.
So why hasn’t it happened? Why, so many decades later, is Israel still fighting its way from one war to another? Will we be asking these or similar questions 70 years from now at Israel’s 140th birthday?
I hope not. Those who volunteered 70 years ago showed leadership and the moral courage to pursue what was right and just.
Today we need the kind of leadership over there and here at home that will give value to Ben-Gurion’s preference, which, with the exception of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, was to give it all back for peace.
That is the way for Israel to be a shining light unto the nations.