The number 64
It has been 64 years since some 2,000 years of statelessness ended for the Jewish People, since the hopeful, tearful, unceasing yearning across those same 2,000 years for return to Zion became hopeful, tearful, unlimited opportunity for the rebuilding of Zion.
In the history of nations, 64 years is a short span.
But in the history of the State of Israel, that rather modest number is a testament to the resilience, determination and overwhelming strength of its people.
Few, but the most visionary, the most single-minded, the most stubborn of resolve actually believed, 64 years ago, that the state could withstand the fury of violence, bloodshed and war launched against it by the entirety of the Arab world.
“On the feverish night when the British pulled out and we declared the State of Israel, we had no way of knowing what would happen,” Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in his memoirs. “Could our people, ill-prepared as they were, rise to the occasion? I knew they had it in them to do so. I was confident in their fortitude. But materially we were so very badly off.”
Despite the dire situation, the 600,000 people of the Yishuv – the Jewish community in newly proclaimed Medinat Yisrael, formerly British Mandatory Palestine – did indeed rise to the occasion.
With the help of Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers from around the world – many of whom had seen active service in World War II, had seen with their own eyes what the Nazis and their abettors had done, and had understood the urgency and the enormity of that particular hour of history 64 years ago – the embattled fighters of the nascent Jewish state repelled and defeated the attempt to destroy their country at its very birth.
Some 64 years ago, Israel became the 59th country to be admitted as a member-state of the United Nations, ahead of 134 other countries that have arrived since.
Sixty-four is a milestone of modern history. It is also a promise to us fulfilled, though we cannot fathom the full dimension of the ethereality of the promise or fully grasp the nature of its fulfilment, still unfolding, ever dependent upon the union of heaven and earth.
Sixty-four represents a statement of loyalty to a cause and to a people. But it is also a statement of purpose binding the people to the land for eternity.
As enshrined so elegantly in its Declaration of Independence, 64 is an aspiration for the Jewish state that “will rest upon foundations of liberty, justice and peace as envisioned by the Prophets of Israel [and will] maintain complete equality of social and political rights for all its citizens without distinction of creed, race or sex.”
Celebrate 64 with thanksgiving, gratitude, praise, hope and the words of the Shehecheyanu in our hearts and on our lips.