I love the 4th of July. It is one of those holidays where I feel like we, Americans, are all on the same page. We congregate around barbecues, we wear patriotic clothing, and we sit with our friends, neighbors and strangers to marvel at fireworks displays. Sometimes, just sometimes, we even talk about the sacrifices that were made to enable the celebration of our Independence Day.
The entire aura around July 4th is fascinating as, despite popular belief, it is not the actual day that the Continental Congress declared independence. Our independence was actually declared on July 2nd. July 4th was the day that the day that the Continental Congress approved the final language that was included on the fancy copy that was signed in August of 1776 and now hangs in the National Archives. So, the true significance of July 4th is that it was the day that the politicians stopped debating over the language and the final edit was submitted.
The significance of July 4th clearly goes beyond the fact that the Declaration of Independence was given it's final edit. It was the beginning of our journey down the path of creating a country, "Of the people, by the people, for the people." It was the launch of a new country, founded by immigrants escaping persecution, and wanting to live a life on their terms - not those of a foreign government or crown.
A mere 172 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, another nation was founded by refugees seeking political and religious asylum. Like America, these refugees were forced to battle for their independence against those who denied their right to exist and they absorbed waves of immigrants seeking political and economic freedoms. Today, both countries have evolved into democracies that respect the rule of law, the will of voters and the rights of minorities. This other nation is the State of Israel.
Certainly there are differences in the founding of these two nations. Chief among these differences is that Israel was more of a re-establishment than a founding. Unlike the original 13 colonies, Israel was and is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people spanning a timeline of over 3,7000 years. The founders of the State of Israel were moving back home versus the American founders who were carving out a brand new one. Despite the nuances on the path to establishment of these nations - Israel and the United States - have many commonalities. They share the same values and a common commitment to democracy and freedom. In stark contrast to other Middle East nations, Israel, like the United States, has an independent judicial system, which protects the rights of individuals (both Jewish and not). Israel also holds regularly scheduled, free, fare and transparent elections that are open to all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or sex.
Beyond their political and societal similarities, Israel is America’s most reliable friend and only democratic ally in the Middle East. Israel remains America's most steadfast strategic partner in the Middle East, working to defeat common threats and supporting America's regional and global policy objectives. Military, intelligence, and technological partnerships have provided a mutually beneficial partnership that has literally saved thousands of military and civilian lives. Internationally there is no other country that has voted with the United States in the United Nations more frequently than Israel. Economically, Israel has the most companies listed in the New York Stock Exchange outside of the United States and Canada. The bottom line is that Israel has been and is, one of the greatest allies of the United States.
This July 4th we should celebrate the fact that we have been privileged and blessed to live in the United States. We should be thankful for not only the founders, but for those who have worked to ensure that our society continues to evolve in the areas of civil rights, politics, and the rule of law. We should also take a moment to be thankful for those countries, like Israel, that have stood with the United States in our desire to ensure "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." ~Erma Bombeck
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