(JTA) — This week marks Yom Haatzmaut, our beloved Israel’s 75th birthday — the day on the Hebrew calendar when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate” by establishing a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Together with countless Jews around the world, we express our gratitude to be alive at this moment in history when the Jewish people have sovereignty and a nation to call their own.
But on this anniversary, Yom Haatzmaut’s special prayers and festive afternoon barbecues fail to capture the fraught feelings many of us are experiencing. Jews across the globe in all our different peculiarities and particularities — from all political orientations, religious and secular, progressive and conservative, for and against the judicial overhaul being proposed by the current government — are reeling.
The past few months of terrible turmoil in Israel surrounding the judicial overhaul proposal have shown us how fragile our singular and precious Jewish state is. While Israel’s history is replete with instances when external forces threatened its people, this moment is unique in revealing internal threats to its democracy and social cohesion. We have seen toxic hatred rising among Israeli Jews, with fears of a civil war at an all-time high.
How, then, are we supposed to celebrate Israel on its 75th birthday?
The answer to this question lies at the heart of Jewish history and reveals that now is the moment for a new Zionist revolution led by both Israeli and Diaspora Jews.
Zionism was never just about establishing a Jewish state. It was about defying Jewish history. In 1948, when Ben-Gurion and his fellow Zionist leaders declared Israeli independence, it was nothing less than a radical assault on diasporic Jewish history. It defied the thousands of years of Jews being a minority in other countries, subject to the whims and caprice of other rulers. It defied the image of the weak and defenseless Jew. It even defied Jewish tradition itself, which for centuries was understood by many of its adherents to demand passivity by Jews as they waited for divine deliverance.
For two millennia, Jewish existence was one of vulnerability and victimhood — most often either hiding who we are or suffering for it. The Zionism of 1948 defied diasporic Jewish history by giving Jews power, self-determination and sovereignty to respond to external threats and establish a Jewish state.
Understandably, most of the work of early Zionism was focused on mere survival — establishing a state, providing safe refuge to the millions of Jews fleeing inhospitable lands and contending with enemy countries sworn to destroy the new nation. It succeeded beyond any of the wildest imaginations of its founders. The first 75 years of Israel, in which it has become a powerful and thriving state, are a testament to the success of Zionism in defying diasporic Jewish history.
But the next 75 years of Zionism present and impose on us a different task: To be Zionists today means we must defy a different chapter of Jewish history — one that might be called sovereign Jewish history.
Historians and educators have pointed out a critically important pattern in the history of Jewish self-rule. There are two pre-modern eras in which the Jewish nation enjoyed sovereignty in the land of Israel: at the end of the 11th century BCE with the Davidic Kingdom and the first Temple in Jerusalem, and in 140 BCE when the Hasmonean dynasty reestablished Jewish independence in Judea. But as each approached their 75th year of existence, each started to disintegrate because of internal strife and infighting. The Davidic reign over a united Israel effectively ended when it was split into the two competing kingdoms of Judea and Israel. The Hasmonean kingdom began to fall apart due to infighting between the sons of Alexander and Shlomtzion, the rulers of Judea in the first century BCE.
Sovereign Jewish history tells us that at around the 75th year, experiments in Jewish self-determination faced the most dangerous threat of all: self-destruction.
On its 75th birthday, Israel and its supporters face the internal tensions of sovereignty: What does it mean for Israel to be both a Jewish and democratic state and a home to all its citizens? How can Israel be both at home in the Middle East while modeled on Western democracies? How should its leaders balance majority Jewish culture with minority rights?
The concerns of the old Zionism certainly still exist: how to pursue peace even as Jewish vulnerability and safety continue to be threatened. But they take on a new character in this day and age, forcing us to ask how we can manage and embrace conflicting visions of Jewishness and Israeliness while nurturing social solidarity and cooperation across deep and painful divides.
This Yom Haatzmaut comes at a moment of rupture. But the current crisis in Israel represents an opportunity – a moment for our generation to ensure this rupture defies the pattern of sovereign Jewish history. The generations before us proved that we can rewrite diasporic history, turning a tale of vulnerability and weakness into one of strength and power. Our generation and those that follow must likewise defy sovereign Jewish history and prove that we can protect our Jewish state from the internal threats it faces. Our generation’s task is to overcome our divisions and not let fraternal hatred destroy our shared home.
On this 75th birthday, then, let us learn from our past and look forward toward a new future. Let us continue to celebrate the incredible success by writing a new chapter in the magnificent story of Israel and Zionism.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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