Seeking freedom and safety for all this Yom Ha’atzmaut

Today Jewish communities in Israel and throughout the Diaspora celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which corresponds to May 15th, marked by Palestinians as al-Nakba, the catastrophe. Like all dates on the Jewish calendar, today has multiple meanings, and to truly understand ourselves and our places in the world, we have to grapple with these multiple realities.

Today and every day, we join with Jews around the world who yearn to live safely in the world. We know that Jewish safety is inseparable from the safety of all people, and are honored to work toward the day when that is realized.

But today specifically marks the founding of a new state and government. One that, like the United States, was achieved through mass dispossession and violence against indigenous people. This violence is ongoing, and it diminishes Jewish wellbeing in every sense.

Today we strive to hold these truths completely.

What we need today is a new vision of freedom, safety, and wellbeing for Jews together with all people.

One where the safety of Jews is equal to, not privileged above, the safety of all.

One where we can admit that like all peoples, we have made mistakes, and are strong enough to face and even remediate them.

One where leadership in Jewish communities is shared by Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, and Sephardi Jews so that our distinct yet interconnected histories can create a truly vibrant future.

Today we dare to dream about a future for Israelis and Palestinians that transcends borders and governments. We dare to remember our ancestors who shared meals and holidays with their Muslim and Christian neighbors, refused to pick up a gun, and acted from hope rather than fear.

May we use today as an occasion to call that vision into being.

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For those looking for a ritual to ease the difficulty of this day, we invite you to reimagine havdalah, a ritual of separation used to end Jewish holidays and shabbat.

This Yom Ha’atzmaut use the candle, wine, spices, and special blessing below to separate kodesh – the sacred, from chol – the ordinary.

With the cup of wine we sanctify our yearning for safety and wholeness. The spices enliven us with possibility of new senses and possibilities, and through the reflection of the candle flame on our bodies we see our ability and responsibility to create a just future for ourselves and all people.

Bruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam ha’mavdil bein kodesh l’chol, bein bdidut v’achdut, bein pachad v’ cheirut. Baruch atah adonai, shomeyah tefillah.

Blessed are you Source of Life which separates the sacred from the ordinary, aloneness from togetherness, fear from freedom. Blessed is the source of all that hears our prayers.

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