There are two very significant days for Israel that come right after each other – a day of mourning followed by a day of rejoicing. First there is the annual Memorial Day for all those who have died in Israel’s struggle to exist, either in the armed forces or as a result of terrorism. It is a day of solemn recognition that there have been many casualties in the birth and continued existence of the State of Israel. As it often seems to be in the Jewish way of life, the bitter and the sweet are juxtaposed – almost without time to catch a breath. The following day is Israel’s Independence Day, when the nation breaks out into a huge party to celebrate its reestablishment after a 2000 year exile.
The Sound of Sirens
The Jewish day starts the evening of the day before… so Memorial Day officially begins in the evening at 20:00, with a siren that lasts for one minute, and a ceremony at the Western Wall. The next morning at 11:00, a siren will wail throughout the land for two minutes, and everybody will stop what they are doing and stand in silence. Even people driving on highways will get pull over and get out of their car in memory of all those who have perished. 24,068 have been killed in the line of duty1 leaving many thousands of families bereaved, and 4,216 civilians have died as a result of terror attacks since 1948. There are services to commemorate those who have fallen and to honour their memory. Then later that very evening, the mood shifts 180 degrees, and celebration erupts on the streets for Independence day.
The British began to remove their troops towards the end of April 1948. On May 14 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, announced the formation of the new state of Israel. He said,
“The Nazi Holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the reestablishment of the Jewish State, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations.”2
Ben Gurion saw the horrors of the Holocaust as paving the way to the birth of a Jewish State, and he was not alone in making such a suggestion. Would the miracle of the recreation of Israel ever have happened without such an atrocity on a scale that we can still barely comprehend? These questions are impossible for earth-bound humanity to answer, but again, we see the closely bound bitter and sweet, almost too close for comfort.
And what was a day of astonishing joy for the Jewish people was also a day of sorrow and anguish for the Arabs who suddenly no longer owned the land they had been living in for generations. Again, joy and pain uncomfortably closely together. While we can rejoice in God’s fulfilled promises and a new start for Israel, we also know that this day is not an easy one for all of her inhabitants. God still cares deeply for all the peoples of this area and seeks to give them their blessing, hope and salvation. Many Arab Christians will struggle with celebrating this day, but there are numbers of Arab believers who truly rejoice in God’s physical restoration of Israel, and seek her spiritual restoration promised in the scripture. This too, is a miracle, and the handiwork of an awesome God.
For God had determined that he would regather his people and plant them back in the land he had chosen for them. And he promised that it would happen in one day flat:
“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day, or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.” (Isaiah 66:8-10)
The Amplified Bible notes about this verse give this comment:
“Never in the history of the world had such a thing happened before–but God keeps His word. As definitely foretold here and in Ezekiel 37:21, 22, Israel became a recognized nation, actually “born in one day.”
After being away from their homeland for almost 2,000 years, the Jews were given a national homeland in Palestine by the Balfour Declaration in November, 1917. In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain the mandate over Palestine. On May 14, 1948, Great Britain withdrew her mandate, and immediately Israel was declared a sovereign state, and her growth and importance among nations became astonishing.”
Worth The Wait
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3
The church fathers struggled to know how to interpret the numerous references to Israel after hundreds of years had gone by, and the nation of Israel was apparently no more. After the destruction of the temple, the Jewish people were scattered far and wide, and with every passing century it seemed less and less likely that the situation would, or could, ever change. How to make sense of those promises for this nation that seemed to have disappeared for good? The solution they landed upon was to claim all the references and promises should be transferred to the church. Israel had rejected the Messiah, so God had rejected them, and now the church must surely be the true Israel.
“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!”
Paul strongly rejects this way of thinking in Romans 11, but it’s easy to see why it did look like a forlorn situation. You and I have the privilege denied to millions of believers who have lived and died before us – we know that this prophecy has indeed finally come to pass. We can know that God’s promises to Israel still stand.
God promised to regather the exiles from the four corners of the earth and he promised to reestablish Israel. It just took an awfully long time. People gave up and got confused during the wait. What a great reminder this is for us to hold on to God’s promises and not give up! Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come.
 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
 The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum