Yom ha-Atzma’ut

“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD” (Gen. 13:14-18).

On May 14, 1948, the Jewish nation’s almost two-thousand-year dream for a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel) became a reality when David Ben-Gurion, the fledgling state’s first prime minister, announced that Israel would take its place among the free and sovereign nations of the world. Overwhelmed by the close vote in the United Nations that gave rise to this historic announcement, new Israelis danced in the streets. Though God had thrust out the Jewish people from the land several times throughout history, His ancient, unconditional promise to Abraham burned within Jewish hearts. Thus, with great pride and overwhelming joy did the Jews declare the holiday of Yom ha-Atzma’ut in 1949 as Israeli Independence Day.

Yom ha-Atzma’ut comes on the heels of the solemn Yom ha-Zikkaron (Day of Remembrance) for all Israeli soldiers who perished defending their nation. When the sun sets on Yom ha-Zikkaron, mourning turns to joyful celebration as the nation celebrates Yom ha-Atzma’ut. People crowd the streets to sing, dance, and rejoice about the miracle of national independence. On Mount Herzl, where Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, was laid to rest, the celebration includes a gun salute marking every year of independence since 1948 as well as the lighting of twelve torches representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Like July Fourth in America, fireworks play a large role in the celebration.

Since Yom ha-Atzma’ut is not a biblical holiday but one of recent man-made origin, it does not represent a direct fulfillment of prophecy. However, we cannot completely ignore the repeated promises God made to Israel of a restoration to the land. Ezekiel 37 describes a prophecy of national restoration in two phases. First, the prophet is told to prophesy to the dry bones, causing them to come together and take on sinew and flesh. Only afterward is Ezekiel told to prophesy to the wind, which blows upon these restored-yet-dead bones to make them live. Today, national Israel dwells in her land in unbelief just like the dry bones before they come to life. The Jewish people live in the land, but they are spiritually dead. We know a day is coming when Messiah Jesus will return to restore Israel to her place of belief, thus infusing life into her restored-yet-dead bones. While we cannot dogmatically claim that the present formation of the state of Israel is a specific fulfillment of Ezekiel 37 (though it could be), it is nonetheless exciting to see that God can bring His people back to the land though in unbelief; and we look forward to the day when He will breathe life into them.

God’s work, as it relates to Israel, should be a source of both excitement and blessing to today’s believers. His Word is true, His work is perfect, and His promise to Israel of national salvation—and thus independence from sin and death—is sure!