Israel at 63: The Best is Yet to Come

by Russell F. Robinson

I was at Shabbat dinner last week, with friends and family sitting around my table, eating, drinking, and talking but my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking about what I wanted to write about Israel’s 63rd anniversary.

The conversation at the table veered to my upcoming trip to Israel. Someone asked: “Are you taking Continental, U.S. Air, or Delta, or El Al?” Someone else said, “You know El Al is now partnering with American Airlines.” It was enough for me to tune in but then I tuned out again.

Dinner proceeded and we passed around some wonderful Israeli wines. So many different wines produced in Israel are now available in the United States. Really award-winning wines, some of the best in the world today. We sipped, we talked, the white wine is better, the red is better … one type of wine is better than the other.

I drank and nodded along but my mind drifted to the many discussions I have had over the years about Israel and the thoughts that I have for its future. And then my ear picked up the thread of a new conversation. One woman was talking about her son who was a student at Tel Aviv University. Another said that her nephew was going to Ben Gurion University. And of course, someone else had a child at Hebrew University. Then I was asked for help. “Did I know anybody at Hebrew University because their nephew is trying to get in and admission is not as easy as it used to be?”

Someone else piped in about the great technological advances being made at Technion University. I chimed in and talked about technology projects that relate to water, and of course about some of the projects that Jewish National Fund is doing, like the largest wetland in the world at Ramon Air Force Base that is going to recycle hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of water without using any energy.

We talked about Israel-oriented Facebook accounts, some that have 10,000 friends, another with 25,000, and this one with 100,000, and how the internet is so full of people talking about such wonderful things that are happening in Israel. That led to a discussion about a TV show called Glee which had a scene about an invention that was made in Israel developed at Technion University.

A great discussion but nothing that was really helping me with what I was going to write about Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

I cleaned the table, went to bed, wanted to sleep, but couldn’t, thinking about what I wanted to put on paper. Not being able to sleep, I took a sleeping pill. A sleeping pill with the small word TEVA written on it. Yes, Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the largest, generic pharmaceutical companies in the world, is an Israeli company. So I took a pill, had a good night’s sleep and woke up the next day, still at a loss for this column.

Then I realized that everything I had heard in the last 24 hours was really what I want to express to everybody about the last 63 years.

Here then are the words that were given to me over the last 24 hours. They are the words of achievement, of advancement, of our creative survival, about Israelis making differences in the world; making differences for each and every one of us as we strive to be better, stronger, and more vibrant.

During Yom Hazikaron in Israel the sirens will sound. People will stop their cars, they will come out of their shops, they will turn off their TVs, their radios, and they will stand up at home, at work, on the street corners. They will stand in silence for the one minute the sirens blast. They will give respect to those who gave their lives in defense of the nation of Israel.

Take a minute, pay your respects to these heroes without whom we wouldn’t be able to celebrate our achievements. And then, like all Israelis will do, join in the celebration. Rejoice in this miracle called Israel. Celebrate her people who are the innovators, the creators, often the first to help in times of global crisis. Stand up and be proud. Sixty three years later, and we have come far but I believe the best is yet to come.

Russell F. Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of Jewish National Fund.