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Yom Ha'atzma'ut - Israel's Independence Day

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Yom Ha'atzma'ut -

Israel's Independence Day...

After the Jewish people had suffered for nearly 2,000 years of exile as clearly foretold by Moses (Lev. 26:38, 44; Deut. 28:64-64) and the Hebrew prophets (Isa. 43:5-6; Jer. 30:11; Joel 3:2; Ezek. 36:8-10; Hos. 9:1-10, etc.), Israel was miraculously reborn as a nation in their ancient homeland on May 14, 1948 (Iyyar 5, 5708). Today Jews across the world celebrate Iyyar 5 as Israeli Independence Day.

On this historic day, David ben Gurion (1886-1973) formally announced Yom Ha'atzma'ut - Independence Day - and publicly read the "Proclamation of the Establishment of the State of Israel" over the radio. Among other things, he said:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here the spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.... Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of the dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and restoration of their national freedom.

David ben Gurion (1886-1973)

Accordingly we, the members of the National Council met together in solemn assembly today and by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and with the support of the resolution of the General of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine to be called Israel.... We offer peace and amity to all neighboring states and their peoples and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all... With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hands to this declaration at this session of the Provisional State Council in the city of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, 5th Iyyar 5708, 14th day of May 1948." (Jewish Virtual Library)

Less than 24 hours after this announcement, however, seven neighboring Arab countries declared war on Israel. Outnumbered 100 to 1, it was a critical moment, and every one at the time thought it would be another holocaust. However, the Jewish state survived, but the bloody battle cost many soldiers in the fledgling army their lives (for this reason Yom Ha'atzmaut is immediately preceded by Yom Hazikaron - the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers - since without the sacrifice of the soldiers who gave their lives, there would be no Israeli state to celebrate).

Yom Ha'atzmaut Customs

Today Jews across the world celebrate Iyyar 5 as Israel Independence Day (if Iyyar 5 falls on a Friday or Shabbat, it is celebrated on the preceding Thursday). For Jews living outside of Israel, celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut is a way to express solidarity with the restored state. In Israel, it is a national holiday, so almost everyone has the day off. National celebrations occur and additional prayers are offered for the nation. There are parades, fireworks, and of course the heartfelt singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli National Anthem.

Yom Ha'atzma'ut is significant to religious Jews since they see the establishment of the State of Israel as another step in their ultimate redemption, that is, the coming of Mashiach (some Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject the holiday since they believe only the Messiah is authorized to set up the Jewish state).

The Prophetic Significance of Modern Israel

The return of Israel to her ancient homeland is filled with significance for those who believe the Scriptures. The Torah clearly predicted both the exile of the Jewish people from the land (Deut 28:64-66) and their eventual regathering (Deut 30:4-5). When the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the Jews were scattered across the earth, wandering throughout the nations and subject to horrific persecutions, culminating in the Shoah of the European Holocaust. Despite repeated attempts to eradicate them, however, the Jews survived, and recent history has witnessed the fulfillment of prophecy and the miracle of the regathering: 

Olive Tree

    But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home. For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt. And I will multiply on you man and beast, and they shall multiply and be fruitful. And I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. I will let people walk on you, even my people Israel. And they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance, and you shall no longer bereave them of children (Ezek. 36:8-12).

    For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the nations will take them and bring them to their place (Isa. 14:1-2)

    Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. (Jer. 16:14-15)

    Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return.  I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them (Zech. 10:9-10).

    I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards ... and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them," says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:14-15)


The Tragic Error of Replacement Theology

Certain theologians in the Christian church have claimed that Israel (the Jewish people and the land) has been replaced by the Christian Church in the purposes of God, or that the Church is the historic continuation of Israel to the exclusion of the former. In this view, the Jewish people are no longer the "chosen people" of God, and all the promises and covenants ascribed to Israel now belong to the Church. This faulty teaching is known as "Replacement Theology" (sometimes called "supercessionism," the view that Israel has been "superseded" in God's eyes by the Church).

As believers in the Mashiach Yeshua, we must remember that we are graciously grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and made partakers of the covenants given to Israel. God's purposes and plans for national Israel will never be thwarted! In fact, the only reference to the New Testament (brit chadashah) in the entire Tanakh is found in Jeremiah 31:31-37 where it is explicitly stated that the Jewish people will continue to exist as a nation as long as there is a sun and moon seen in the sky! This is further confirmed by Paul's teaching about national Israel found in Romans 9-11.

Replacement theology is a dangerous doctrine that can result in anti-Semitism and false eschatological views. Just as we believe that God will keep His promises to the Church, so we believe He will keep His promises to national Israel - including the future restoration of Israel as the "head of the nations" during the kingdom of God on earth.

When the LORD Jesus comes back to earth, He is heading straight to national Israel, and to Jerusalem in particular. There He will be finally received as Israel's King and Savior and will rule during the millennial kingdom. The Fourth Temple (Ezekiel 40-48) will be built and the nations will come to Jerusalem to pay homage to the LORD God of Israel.  All the nations will celebrate the feast of Sukkot, and those that refuse will be plagued with drought (Isaiah 4:2-6; Zechariah 14:17-18).

The Church is the "mystery of God," a called-out group of both Jews and Gentiles that are made part of the overarching plan of God to redeem the world. The Church does not exist outside of Israel (separation theology); nor does it exist instead of Israel (replacement theology); nor does the Church succeed Israel (supercessionism). Instead, the Church is made part of the remnant of Israel ("in-placement" theology).

Hebrew Prayer for the State of Israel

Since the Church of God is a partaker of Israel and her destiny, the following prayer  recited for the State of Israel during Yom Ha'atzma'ut is quite appropriate:

Prayer for Israel

Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel; Bless the State of Israel with the beginning of the blossoming our redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen.


Prayer for Israel
Prayer for Israel

Avinu shebashamyaim, tzur yisrael vego'alo
barekh et medinat yisrael reishit tzemichat geulateinu.
Hagein aleyha be'evrat chasdekha ufros aleyha sukkat shelomekha
 ushelach orekha va'amitekha lerasheha, sareha, veyo'atzeha vetakneim
be'atzah tovah milfanekha. Chazeik et yedei meginei eretz kodsheinu
vehanchileim eloheinu yeshuah va'ateret nitzahon te'atreim,
venatata shalom ba'aretz vesimchat olam leyoshveha.
Vinomar, amen.

Can these Bones Live?

Note that the word Atzma'i (עַצְמָאִי) means "independent" in Hebrew. The word atzmaut (עַצְמָאוּת) means the state of indepedence, which comes from atzmi - "my bones" (עֶצֶם). Hence the "Day of Independence" is called Yom Ha'atzmaut in Hebrew. The name reminds us of God's promise to revive the "dry bones" (עֲצָמוֹת) of Israel by bringing the Jewish people back from their long exile:

הִנָּבֵא עַל־הָעֲצָמוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם
 הָעֲצָמוֹת הַיְבֵשׁוֹת שִׁמְעוּ דְּבַר־יְהוָה
 כּה אָמַר אֲדנָי יהוה לָעֲצָמוֹת הָאֵלֶּה
 הִנֵּה אֲנִי מֵבִיא בָכֶם רוּחַ וִחְיִיתֶם

hin·na·vei · al · ha·a·tza·mot · ha·el·leh · ve·a·mar·ta · a·ley·hem:
ha·a·tza·mot · ha·ye·ve·shot · shim·u · de·var · Adonai;
ko · a·mar · Adonai · E·lo·him · la·a·tza·mot · ha·el·leh
hin·neh · a·ni · me·vi · va·khem · ru·ach · vich·yi·tem

"Prophesy over these bones, and say to them,
 O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
 Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live"
(Ezek. 37:4-5)


"So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel (כָּל־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל). Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel (אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל). And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live (וְנָתַתִּי רוּחִי בָכֶם וִחְיִיתֶם), and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD" (Ezek. 37:10-17).

עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל חַי / am Yisrael chai: "The people of Israel live!" The nation of Israel is God's "super sign" that He is faithful to His covenant promises (Jer. 31:35-37). Celebrating Israel's independence acknowledges God's loyal love for us all...


The Date for Yom Ha'atzmaut

It should be noted that the date for Yom Ha'atzmaut can vary from year to year. For instance, it may be moved earlier or postponed if it conflicts with a Sabbath, or if Yom HaZikaron - which always preceeds it - occurs on a Sunday. As always, if in doubt, check a reputable Jewish calendar...

Israeli Flag

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