Independence Day: For Such A Time As This

No, I am not confused, I know that Purim time for this year is over, yet I would still like to use this amazing line from the book of Esther for the title of today’s post. Today we are celebrating our Independence Day, and the history of the State of Israel is as full of miracles and stories “for such a time as this” as the history of the people of Israel is. In a few moments, I will share with you one of these stories, but first – it is my great joy and privilege to congratulate you on Israel’s 73th birthday! Most of my readers, for years or even decades, have been faithfully interceding for the Land and the people – have been standing together with Israel and the God of Israel. Therefore, it is also your joy and your celebration!

The Visible and the Invisible

You probably know that our Independence Day starts immediately after our Memorial Day. Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, is a national day of mourning, and considering the disproportionately high number of orphaned families, a tally almost impossible to fathom for a country as tiny  as ours, one can only imagine how heart-wrenching this day is. And one of the most special and unique experiences one can have in Israel is this incredibly jarring transition from the most difficult, tragic day of the year, to the most joyful and festive day of the year! From the graves of our loved ones to the fireworks of the national celebration! It is jarring that these two days follow one another, but if I remind you that in Israel the day starts at sunset, this transition becomes almost surreal. “And there was evening, and there was morning” – Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, the most difficult day in Israel’s year: memories, ceremonies, sirens, tears—and then, once again: And there was evening, and there was morning, and with tears still lingering in the eyes, our country is plunged into the proud festivities of Independence Day.

Do you recall where in the Scripture we have a very similar transition: From the utmost pain, sorrow, and grief, to the utmost joy and happiness? Do you remember the story where Jesus wept just moments before His own miraculous intervention and the amazing, incredible ‘happy ending’ of this story?  In John’s Gospel, standing at the grave of Lazarus, Jesus weeps over the suffering and death of a person who, in just a very short time, He would raise from the dead. Why did Jesus weep? Didn’t He know that very soon He would raise Lazarus from the dead, and he would come forth alive from the tomb? Of course, He knew. Why then did He weep?

To make this parallel even more valid, I would ask you: how many times does Jesus weep in the gospels? In the entire New Testament, Jesus weeps just twice: once over Jerusalem, and once over Lazarus. Just like in a children’s magazine where two pictures are placed side by side and one must find the differences, these two scenes of His tears—tears over Jerusalem and tears over Lazarus—can be placed before us. What can we learn from these scenes?

Although Jesus knows that in a few moments Lazarus will be resurrected, He weeps at the tomb over the pain His beloved friend had to go through on the path to his resurrection. And He weeps over this seemingly insurmountable contradiction of the two realities: the inner and outer, the invisible and visible, God’s and man’s. In God’s invisible, spiritual reality, Lazarus is chosen and beloved, but here in the visible, physical, human reality he seemed abandoned and rejected by the Lord, and now, he is dead. When Jesus weeps over Lazarus, these two realities—the inner and outer—collide and clash with each other. The extraordinarily substantial, extremely valid, the immoveable, irrefutable, stony-faced (both literally and figuratively) outer reality tempts us to see the inner reality of His love for Lazarus and His sorrow over him as inconsequential and impotent compared to the visible facts: the tomb… was a cave, and a stone lay against it.[1] But then, together with Jesus, we enter the most exciting part of this story, where the invisible begins to shine through visible; where God’s reality becomes fully visible or conversely, where the physical, visible reality is transformed at His touch and for the first time begins to coincide with God’s reality: Lazarus comes out of the tomb!

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem with the same tears of love and compassion that He wept over Lazarus. He mourns the boundless suffering His beloved people must endure; He cries for the suffering of His people, for the torment of waiting for the Lord and His silence during the pogroms and the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the Intifada. He weeps over the same contradiction of the two realities: in God’s invisible, spiritual reality Israel remains chosen and beloved, but in the visible, physical, human reality she would often seem abandoned and rejected. He weeps with us every Memorial Day. Our grief is His grief; our tears, His tears. But then, Independence Day comes – and the invisible begins to shine through visible…

For Such a Time as This

You know of course, that 1948 is the year of the birth of the state of Israel. On May 14, 1948 David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence —and just a few minutes later, United States President Harry S. Truman recognized the new State of Israel. Most people do not know, however, the amazing story behind this: “for such a time as this” miracle that made this possible.

I doubt many of you have heard of Eddie Jacobson, a Jewish guy from New York.  When Eddie was a child, his parents moved to Kansas City and there he met a boy who became his close friend. Their friendship grew when they were both in the Army during the First World War, and they started a business together after the war was over. When the recession hit, they had to close the business, and the partnership ended. Eddie Jacobson became a traveling salesman and eventually opened his own clothing store, while his friend, Harry Truman, went into politics and eventually became president of the United States. Throughout all this, the two remained friends.

At the beginning of 1948, when the Jews of the world desperately sought the support of America, the State Department advised the president not to support the establishment of the State of Israel. Truman was under tremendous pressure from all sides. At some point he even said, “I don’t want to hear about Palestine anymore.” He refused to meet with Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Organization. It was then that the Jewish organizations reached out to the childhood friend of the President – Eddie Jacobson.

On March 13, 1948 (around Purim time, by the way – the month of Adar had just begun), Jacobson went unannounced (just like Esther) to see Truman in the Oval Office – and Truman received him and listened to him. Thus, God’s plan was set in motion: five days later Truman met secretly with Weizmann in the Oval Office and agreed to support the establishment of the State of Israel. Immediately after the State of Israel was declared, Harry Truman signed the proclamation.

Twenty years later, Truman wrote: “One of the proudest moments of my life occurred at 6:12 p.m. on Friday, May 14, 1948, when I was able to announce recognition of the new State of Israel by the government of the United States. I remain particularly gratified by the role I was fortunate to play in the birth of Israel as, in the immortal words of the Balfour Declaration, “a national home for the Jewish people”.

We find in this story the same message again: unlike us, God knows the end from the beginning! He has a hidden, secret plan even for such a time as this – and every Independence Day for Israel is like a vivid reminder that He is faithful to His people and He reveals Himself through that plan!

 

[1] John 11:38

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Lyuben Piperov

    Thank you, Julia! This is your new, profound reflection on the unbreakable connection between past and present. I would just like to add that the name of the state, ISRAEL, was chosen at the last moment, not having been acclaimed by everyone. This name was not written on the note signed by President Truman. It was overwritten on the preliminarily typed note in the last minute, using a pencil Alternatve names that were considered have been Judea,Palestine and Zion among quite a few. It seems strange, from contemporary point of view, when evryone has become used to listen and read about the Stae of Israel, to understand why the name ISRAEL was cosen so much unenthusiastically. A link with very interesting details is this:
    https://martinkramer.org/2020/04/27/1948-why-the-name-israel/
    May the Lord Bless you, Julia!
    Lyuben

  2. Nick Edwards

    Wow Julia!! What a beautiful and balanced summation of our worldview as people of faith!
    Sincerely,
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Nick! I am always so happy and blessed to hear from you! Blessings!