israel 65 | Celebration and more

Who: Jewish Community Center.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Center, 505 Gypsy Lane, Youngstown.

Details: The event celebrates Israel’s 65th year as a country. An opening ceremony from 11:30 a.m. to noon will feature an Israeli and American flag parade. From noon to 1:30 p.m., there will be Israeli dancing, market, “Jerusalem Room,” arts and crafts and Israeli T-shirt making. From 1:30 to 2:15, Israeli music will be presented by Zvika Arbel and Dolly Model. Activities will resume after the music.

Members of the Jewish community also offered comments on what the 65th anniversary of the Jewish state means to them personally and globally.

Rabbi Franklin Muller of Congregation Rodef Sholom, Youngstown: For the past 65 years, the miracle of Israel’s existence as a sovereign nation has sustained the Jewish world. I use the word “miracle” because the more one knows of Zionism’s history, the more one realizes that things could have turned out otherwise. There have been many precarious moments when Israel’s survival stood at the brink. Even today, no other nation on earth has to deal with the type of unremitting hostility that Israel faces. Our enemies are not shy about expressing their desire to wipe Israel off the map. Israel is increasingly becoming home for the world’s Jews, the only country with a growing Jewish population. Beyond Israel and America, the number of Jews across the globe will soon become even smaller than it is now. Therefore, when it comes to sustaining a Jewish presence in the world, Israel truly matters. Without the Jewish State, Jews would be far more imperiled today.

Dr. Bruce Willner: The Valley family physician has visited Israel three times. His daughters, Allyson, 25, and Emily, 21, live in Tel Aviv. “They are connected to Israel, “ he said. “They identify with Israel.” Dr. Willner plans to visit them later this year but forgo the tourist sites, which he has seen, and immerse himself in the Jewish lifestyle that his daughters have adopted. His family has been in the U.S. since World War I but has a connection to Israel. His grandmother was born in Israel when it was under Turkish rule and “went back and forth” between Israel and America. A great-grandmother was buried in a cemetery that was desecrated. His daughters found the grave where she was re-buried. His visits have been in 1979 on a family mission trip while he was in college, another trip about 20 years ago with the Valley Jewish community and about two years ago. He said he is impressed with how Israel has “changed so much.” “It has gone from being focused on farming and being poor to being a dynamic, modern place,” he said. He noted he and his daughters communicate through Skype, cell phones, texting and Facebook. “My daughters live harmoniously there ... not in fear,” he said.

Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, director of Jewish Community Relations Council: As I watched the traditional torches that were lit on Mount Herzl marking the 65th anniversary of Israel’s independence, my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. Israel represents the ultimate triumph over tragedy. I cannot help but beam with pride as we all celebrate the vision of the state’s Zionist founders and the extraordinary fulfillment of that millennial dream by its people. In spite of nearly insurmountable odds, Israel has built a robust and pluralistic democracy that boasts unparalleled achievements in science, medicine and technology, arts and the humanities. I believe that President Obama was most profound when he stated during his recent visit to Israel that there is no better friend to Israel than the United States because “it makes our countries safer, stronger and more prosperous and makes the world a better place.”

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