By Shmuel Sackett
When we hit 65, most of us tend to start slowing down and thinking about retirement. Fortunately, the state of Israel does not think like that! We are coming to the close of the modern state’s 65th year, and we will be celebrating birthday number 66 just after Pesach. The last thing on Israel’s mind is to slow down or “retire.”
Baruch Hashem, this year has seen tremendous growth. A population explosion is under way in the Jewish state, with a Jewish baby born every four minutes! New houses are being built across the country and old communities are coming to life. Places like Afula, Nahariya, Akko, Lod, and Ashkelon (to name just a few) are getting “face-lifts,” and hundreds of young families are moving to the new buildings popping up in these cities. As a matter of fact, a new trend called “gar’in Torani” (literally, the seeds of Torah) is becoming very popular, where young religious families move to cities in order to strengthen Torah observance, learning, and chesed in these places. This is all done with love and compassion and has become a wonderful addition across Israel.
My married daughter recently joined the gar’in Torani in Migdal HaEmek and moved there with her husband and baby. They are constantly hosting meals, running programs, and connecting with the secular Yidden who live in the area. In addition to these remarkable developments, Israel is growing economically as well, with more startups hitting the market and the high-tech and medical industries booming.
Of course, things are not perfect–but name one thing that is! We need to focus on the positive and on the good that Hashem has provided us. Never before, in all of Jewish history, has there been more Torah learning in Israel. Never before, in all of Jewish history, have there been more ba’alei teshuvah, with 250,000 living in Israel today. This is more than incredible: it is a miracle as great as everything we will mention on Pesach. It is the splitting of the sea and the freeing of the slaves wrapped in one.
I am not kidding. Think about this for a second: With all the garbage in the world today, all the pornography and “shmutz” on the Internet, all the time wasted on Facebook and Twitter, all the movies downloaded–with all of that, there’s still more Torah and more ba’alei teshuvah in Israel today than ever before in Jewish history. That, my friends, is today’s miracle of Pesach.
So how do we say “Thank you, Hashem”? How do we thank our Father, our King, for opening the doors of our land and bringing the Jews back? It is clear to everyone that without Israel as an independent state, the phenomena listed above would never be happening. I am sure that if, Gâ€‘d forbid, a Jordanian flag were flying above the Kotel, there would still be a few Jews and probably even some yeshivot there, but nothing even close to what we have now. It is thanks to Hashem and to His brave and heroic soldiers who defend His land that we can settle, grow, prosper, and develop into the nation that we are destined to be.
So, I ask again, how do we say “Thank you, Hashem”? Well, after all these years, we finally figured it out! Just two weeks after Pesach is the wonderful holiday of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. As you know, this day is celebrated by Jews across Israel to thank Hashem for the magnificent gift He has given us. A special Maariv is said at night, with extra tefillot praising Hashem. In the morning, Hallel is said (some say with a berachah, others without–but it is said), and the entire day is filled with families enjoying the land promised to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.
I must state that–to this very day–the Israeli flag is flown on the roof of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak on Yom HaAtzmaut. The founder of that yeshiva, the great Rav Kahaneman, insisted that this be done and made it official policy of the yeshiva. He felt the need to be makir tov, to acknowledge the good, and this is how he showed it.
Well, now even the Jews in the Five Towns, Queens, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and many more communities can say “Thank you, Hashem,” as an extravaganza like none before is planned for the night of Yom HaAtzmaut, right in your backyard! Yom HaAtzmaut is celebrated this year on the 6th of Iyar, which starts Monday night, May 5. That night, at 8:00 p.m. sharp, my organization, Manhigut Yehudit, is planning a gala Yom HaAtzmaut celebration in Terrace on the Park (in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens). The evening is being called “A Night to Celebrate with Israel,” and it will be incredible! The chief rabbis in Israel have stated that on this night, even though it is in the middle of Sefirah, one may listen to live music in order to praise and thank Hashem–at celebrations anywhere in the world.
I will be hosting the event, which will begin with a Maariv just like they do in Israel, led by the wonderfully talented Ira Heller. After that, we will hear a presentation by the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, and also hear stories of real in-air “dogfights” by former IAF fighter pilot Dr. Shlomo Kalish. This is not Tom Cruise from Top Gun; this guy is the real deal! Then, we will hear a concert from the energetic Yehuda Green–bring your dancing shoes–and we will also see a video made specifically for this event, featuring MK Tzipi Hotovely, Rabbi Nachman Kahana, Shlomo Katz, Nadia Matar, Rabbi Hanoch Teller, Lenny Solomon (of Shlock Rock), David Wilder (of Hebron), and more.
And, to top it all off, since we want to make lots of berachot to thank Hashem, we will partake in an incredible Viennese table by Main Event Caterers and Terrace on the Park. The last item on the agenda will be a raffle, just for those who attend, for two round-trip tickets to Israel. No raffle tickets will be sold in advance, so everyone has a great chance of winning. Now that’s the way to spend Yom HaAtzmaut–even while you are still 6,000 miles away from Israel.
For more information, please visit www.CelebrateWithIsrael.com or call 718-717-2080. You can also see the ad about this event on page 51.
I realize that we are all busy cleaning, shopping, cooking, and preparing our divrei Torah for Pesach, so who has time to think about an event after Pesach? On the one hand, that is a valid point; but on the other hand, because of the tight security at this event, no tickets will be sold at the door, and every ticket must be purchased in advance via the website. Therefore, please take two minutes and reserve your tickets now, since space is limited. The event is in Terrace on the Park, not Citi Field (maybe next year!). Simply go to www.CelebrateWithIsrael.com and make your reservations, and your tickets will be printed for you on the spot. Then, enjoy the Seder! See you on May 5. v
Shmuel Sackett is founder
and international director of