We just celebrated our Independence Day and it is my great joy and privilege to congratulate my readers on Israel’s 69th 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 this is also your joy, your celebration too!
Many of 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 miniscule as ours, one can only imagine how heart-wrenching this day is. Therefore, one of the most peculiar experiences one can have in Israel is this incredible jarring transition from the most difficult, the most tragic day of the year, to the most joyful and festive day of the year! From the graves of the loved ones to the fireworks of the national celebration! It is hard enough, as it is 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 the country is plunged into the festivities of Independence Day.
Originally I had planned to present some information about the State of Israel in this post – but then I realized that you probably know as much as I do about it, and even if not, there is plenty of information online. Therefore, I’ve decided to share with you my own reflections over this special time of year, over this jarring transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut – from Memorial Day to Independence Day – from the utmost pain, sorrow and grief, to the utmost joy and happiness!
Do you recall where in the Bible we have a very similar transition: From the utmost pain and sorrow and grief, to the utmost joy and happiness? Do you remember the story where Jesus wept just a few 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. To make this parallel more valid, I would like to 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 – are placed before us today. Let’s take some time to meditate on these scenes.
When Lazarus became ill, Mary and Martha, informed Jesus of his sickness with following words: ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick’ Whom you love?!! Didn’t Jesus love everyone? Why did the sisters elevate Lazarus over others, and emphasize the special love the Lord had for him? It seems however that, not only for Lazarus’ sisters, but for the Lord Himself, the phrase ‘he whom You love’ was a perfectly simple and yet exhaustive description, the most meaningful and specific one that would denote Lazarus even more directly than the mentioning of his name.
To me, these words are priceless: God’s special relationship to Israel shines through them. God loves each one, irrespective of nationality or country of residence, and yet the exquisitely tender words of Jeremiah: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love,’ were originally addressed to Israel and remain God’s declaration of love for His people.
Not only was Lazarus special to Jesus, his sickness was also special – it was defined from the beginning as being for the glory of God. We all know the story: we all know that when Jesus learned of this sickness, instead of hurrying to heal him, “He stayed two more days in the place where He was”. When Jesus finally arrived Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Mary and Martha, make almost no attempt to hide their disappointment, each say exactly the same thing: ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ The entirety of the immense pain these horrible days caused is compressed into the bitterness of these few words which, try as they might not to reproach, yet reproach all the same: Why, why were You not here, Lord? Why did You not come? Why did you leave us in this sorrow? Didn’t you love him? And then, before their very eyes something very unexpected and very remarkable happens: Jesus wept.
Why did He weep? Didn’t He know that in just a few moments He would raise Lazarus from the dead and that Lazarus, alive, would come forth from the tomb? Of course, He knew, – why then did He weep?
John shows us that the suffering that Lazarus went through, were important to Jesus. 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 is abandoned and rejected by the Lord, and not only that, he is dead.
In Luke’s Gospel. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem with the same tears of love and compassion that He wept over Lazarus. 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 will seem abandoned and rejected by the Lord. He mourns the boundless suffering His beloved people must endure on the path to resurrection; He cries for the suffering of His people, for the torment of waiting for the Lord and the inability to comprehend why He remains silent during the pogroms and the Inquisition, the Holocaust and the Intifada. He weeps with us every Memorial Day. Our grief is His grief. Our tears are His tears .
But also, our joy is His joy. On May 14, 1948, when the State of Israel was born, it was the story of Lazarus indeed: God’s reality became visible! The walls that for two millennia had not been on man’s maps, had always been on the hands of the Lord:
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me–
The walls of Jerusalem that had been always on the palms of God, found a place on the human maps again. That is why, with our eyes still wet with tears, we light the torches of our Independence Day, honoring our incredible doctors and scholars, engineers and rabbis! Nothing short of the miracles can explain the achievements of our tiny country – and every year, as I listen to these amazing reports, I recall the words of Ben-Gurion: In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.
 John 11:3
 John 3:16
 Jer. 31:3
 John 11:6
 John 11:17
 John 11:21,32
 John 11:35
 Isa 49:16