We are currently celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of Israel. The State of Israel was erected on the foundations of the autonomous institutions set up by the Jewish pioneers and the settlements they built, and on the basis of the broad international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to their own nationstate in the Land of Israel. The Declaration of Independence, composed while the Jews of Eretz Israel were under bloody attack, transcended the time and place of its creation, with words that defined Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Its promise that Israel would guarantee equality and freedom to all its citizens, and its call for partnership with its Arab residents and peace with the neighboring Arab states, remain valid today.
In its seventy years, Israel has faced many difficult challenges, while registering impressive achievements. The events that have shaped our society are a testament both to the fragility of Israeli democracy and to its strength. Uniquely, Israeli democracy draws both on the universal democratic heritage of freedom and equality, and on the Jewish humanistic tradition that evokes such values as “love your fellow as yourself.” Among other sources, it is our dual Jewish and democratic heritage that has produced an “Israeliness” that combines perseverance, power, creativity, daring, cheek, compassion, and fraternity.
As we mark this seventieth anniversary, we must remind ourselves that it is up to each and every one of us, the citizens of Israel, to protect our democracy and ensure that it does not turn into a hollow shell, with democratic institutions and processes for appearances only. Only a genuine, substantive democracy—one with a deep commitment to the principles of equality and freedom, respect for human dignity, and tolerance of others—will be able to cope with the tensions within Israeli society, with the challenges at home and abroad, with the threats posed by terrorism, war, poverty, and hatred. Democracy and all of its institutions, including the Knesset and the Supreme Court, whose role is to enable the realization of democratic principles, are the glue that holds us together in a society that is greater than the sum of its parts. If we protect our democracy it will protect us; if we safeguard our democracy, it will enable us to prosper as free and equal citizens in a Jewish nation-state.
I hope that the experience of the Democracy Pavilion will bolster our faith in the fortitude of our democracy, while reinforcing our commitment to ensuring its future. May we continue to draw on the strengths of our Jewish and democratic legacy to confront the challenges that lie ahead.
This project was made possible by the generous support of the Taube Foundation.
About Taube Philanthropies: For more than 30 years, Taube Philanthropies has been a leader in supporting diverse educational, research, cultural, community, and youth organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Poland, and Israel. Founded by businessman and philanthropist Tad Taube in 1981, and now led by Tad and his wife Dianne Taube, the organization works to ensure that citizens have the freedom and opportunity for advancement of their goals and dreams. Taube Philanthropies makes this a reality by issuing grants through its two foundations, the Taube Family Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture. For more information, visit www.taubephilanthropies.org.