On May 14, 1948, 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, a hope passed from one generation to the other had finally become reality: a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem
It took centuries of exile before the establishment of the modern State of Israel, a much needed haven for Jews from all around the world. They, as history shows, have paid the price tenfold for not living in their homeland since having been cast away.
It also took incredible yearning to return, great efforts and brilliant ideas. The struggles and sacrifices of the early Zionists, who had come back to the homeland even since the 18th century, were not for the fainthearted. After all, this modern, vibrant, technologically advanced country was not offered to us on a silver platter. We had to work for it. We had to turn sand into fields, stones into skyscrapers and to revive our ancient language, Hebrew.
In fact, all these shortcomings were the catalyzer behind our success: we had no fertile land, so we desalinated the desert; we had no water, so we invented drip irrigation; we had no friendly neighbors, so we learned how to fiercely defend ourselves.
Israel’s story is a phenomenal one. A miraculous one. A story about an ancient people’s love for the land of its roots. To put it in numbers, at the moment of its rebirth, 650,000 Jews were living in Israel. Nowadays, the population counts 8,8 million Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze, Baha’i and many other origins and influences, turning it into a vibrant demographic melting pot.
The days of food rations, of instability, of not knowing what tomorrow will provide are now long gone. Against all odds, Israelis managed to build a nation that is not only strong and democratic, but also one of the most innovative in the world.
We have created and encouraged a startup culture, an innate trait among Israelis, that fuels the powerful economic engine of our country. We thrive to educate our young generations on how to be free to speak their minds and we invest both emotionally and financially in showing them that their brilliant ideas are all valid. We allow them to look towards the future with confidence, with chutzpah and with open eyes and minds.
Our 70 years of existence would have been a lot grimmer without the friendship of our allies. This year, we also celebrate seven decades of uninterrupted ties with Romania, the only country from the former communist block not to ever break its diplomatic relations with Israel.
Our two peoples share not only common values, but also centuries of joint history. It was in the second half of the 14th century that the earliest Jewish presence in Romania was recorded. Since then, with their share of good and tragic times, these nations have managed to move forward, nowadays staying connected stronger than ever, in no small part thanks to a large number of Romanian Jews living in Israel. Artists, scientists, politicians, writers, grandparents or in-laws of Romanian origin – who represent merely 3% of the population – are a vivid bridge between our two countries.
As mentioned before, Israel is a melting pot of cultures and Romanian Jews – through their strong bond with their native language and folklore – have beautifully contributed to its diverse nature. This community has brought special flavors and traditions to Israel, vibrant music, unique folklore and even our national dance – the hora.
There is a constant to and fro among people: thousands of Israelis visit Romania every year, while thousands of Romanians enjoy the Holy Land, the beaches of Eilat, the trails of the Negev or Tel Aviv’s nightlife.
Numerous bilateral treaties and agreements in domains like defense, cyber security, education, science, agriculture, health, IT, telecommunication, energy, culture connect the two states. They not only translate into strong institutional ties, but also into innovative projects, better technologies, scholarships for students or awe artistic presence from one side to the other.
We are happy to celebrate our 70 years of Independence and our seven decades of friendship in the same year with Romania’s centennial anniversary. I would like to wish both countries and both peoples prosperity, peace and harmony, as well as ever-improving, ever-developing relations in all aspects of life.
Happy anniversary, Israel! La mulți ani, România!
Photo credit: Radu Vintilescu