New Year Reflections: Seventy Years of Israel

By: Ayelet Levi

Ayelet Levi has just begun her second year of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Congregational Shlichim Program, working at both Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation and Moed.  Originally from Ra’anana, Ayelet is in awe of Israel’s diversity of landscape, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Negev Desert to the Golan Heights.  

I would like to present to you a number: 70.

What is the meaning of this number?

In the Jewish tradition:

Seventy souls went down to Egypt to begin the Hebrews’ Egyptian exile. There were 70 men in the Great Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Ancient Israel. According to Jewish folklore, there are 70 perspectives, or faces, to the Torah. Seventy elders were assembled by Moses on God’s command in the desert. Jewish Psalms, or tehillim, allot three score and ten (70) years for a man’s life, and the Mishnah (Jewish law) attributes strength to the age of 70, as one who survives that age is described by the verse as “the strong”.  In the Bible, it is noted that King David lived seventy years. Jerusalem is said to have seventy names.

This year, the number 70 gets assigned another meaning. Seventy years of independence for the state of Israel.  This year, we will look back at the past seventy years, and try to imagine the countless years ahead. I can’t help but wonder if the phrase from the Mishnah about the “strength” of the age of 70 can also describe the strength of Israel these days, just before its 70th anniversary.

Since 1948, the population has increased tenfold.  Immigration from Europe, Africa, Asia and more has turned the country into a multicultural society with diverse people and traditions, creating a new country and a vibrant democracy.  Small towns have become developed cities, dirt roads have become highways.  TV channels and radio stationshave grown from a few numbers to hundreds of options. Israeli actors, producers and artists are winning prizes around the globe.

During these last 70 years, Israel has transformed from a developing country to a start-up nation. Israeli apps are featured on the top charts of the App Store.

Over the years, Israel’s economy has developed from a small, closed economy to a large, developed economy that uses modern methods and advanced technologies for manufacturing. Manufacturing in Israel has evolved from small establishments that engaged primarily in processing agricultural products or clothing to high tech production.

And justice – Justice is one of the main issues in Israel, and I think that even in 70 years, it will remain as such.

The reason I chose to add the issue of justice to this reflection is because it can be said that justice in Israel in 2017 is administered by women. The justice minister is a woman, the current and future president of the Supreme Court is a woman (unlike 70 “men only” in the supreme court of ancient Israel!), and of course, the young, activist, and leader for universal justice, the hero of the Justice League, is a woman: Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot!

But, even after 70 years, Israel remains a country full of great complexities. We still have a lot to learn, have a lot of evolving to do to make our place a better place.  What better time for self-examination, or heshbon nefesh, than Rosh Hashana?

I want to wish my beloved Israel a blessing of Shana Tova, to always seek for her true and best strength.

And remember age is just a number.