A Message for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut from WUPJ President Rabbi Sergio Bergman

Theodore Herzl proposed his hypothesis that establishing a Jewish national home would liberate us from the threat of antisemitism. His awakening to this vision followed the Dreyfus affair. However, in the contemporary context, after October 7th, a new vision is imperative. Merely having a Jewish State cannot fully address the ontological problem that persists – the universal gratuitousness of hating Jews. Herzl had defined it this way: The Jewish State posed as a solution for the normalization of the Jewish people. Yet this week, as we celebrate the creation of the State of Israel, we have not resolved what the world silently accepts as ongoing Judeophobia.

A Knesset law established the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), commemorating the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War II, exactly one week before the already established Yom HaZikaron, the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel’s Wars. Yom HaZikaron was instituted following the first anniversary of the State of Israel when the IDF Rabbi determined that preceding Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut), those who fell as heroes fighting for its establishment should be remembered. The deliberate week-long gap between Yom HaShoah ve HaGvura and Yom HaZikaron commemorates two milestones in Jewish history, emblematic of our identity and resilience as a people. It signifies traversing the unimaginable scale of the Holocaust, where six million lives, dreams, professions, and continuity were reduced to ashes. Simultaneously, the heroism displayed in ghetto uprisings served as inspiration for resistance, fortitude, and courage in the pursuit of establishing a sovereign State in the Land of Israel. The journey from the horrors of the Holocaust to the bravery of resistance, from the confines of the ghetto to the realization of a sovereign State, embodies the quest for freedom in our promised land. Following the Shiva, the seven-day mourning period, from Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron, the celebration of heroism culminates in Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut.

This independence is embraced by Jews worldwide. Zionism transcends mere state-building and migration; it now entails shared responsibilities within a global network. The interdependence between Israel and Jewish communities worldwide sustains the values rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate this week.

In our national home, amidst the challenges of these trying times, we unite to commemorate its independence and strive for effective governance for the Jewish people. Together we say “never again” to being victims of terror, vowing to never falter in our resolve. Our hope for freedom in the Land of Israel remains unwavering, as we proudly declare: Am Israel Chai, the nation of Israel lives!