March 4, 2018 — New York, NY
AJC CEO David Harris, in a celebratory tribute to Israel’s 70 years of independence, has published “Israel at 70,” a 10-page pamphlet that assesses the remarkable rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948 and its extraordinary accomplishments despite constant threats from Arab neighbors and numerous nation-building challenges. The ten-page essay is available in 15 different languages.
“The story of Israel is the wondrous realization of a 3,500-year link among a land, a faith, a language, a people, and a vision. It is an unparalleled story of tenacity and determination, of courage and renewal. And it is ultimately a metaphor for the triumph of enduring hope over the temptation of despair,” writes Harris. “This story of nation-building is entirely without precedent,” Harris emphasizes. “No other country has even remotely faced such a constant challenge to its very right to exist.”
“Israel at 70” is published ahead of the AJC Global Forum, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization’s signature annual event, which this year will be held in Jerusalem, June 10-13.
Harris, who has served as AJC CEO since 1990, has devoted his career to building relations with governments across the world to enable them to understand and support Israel. “I’m not dispassionate when it comes to Israel. Quite the contrary.”
AJC also maintains a network of ties with Jewish communities and organizations around the globe, and many of their leaders attend the annual Global Forum.
“That the blue-and-white flag of an independent Israel could be planted on this land, to which the Jewish people had been intimately linked since the time of Abraham, just three years after the end of the Holocaust — and with the support of a decisive majority of UN members at the time — truly boggles the mind,” writes Harris.
Describing his first visit to Israel in 1970, he recalls, “I found my Israeli peers to be unabashedly proud of their country, eager to serve in the military. They felt personally involved in the enterprise of building a Jewish state, more than 1,800 years after the Romans quashed the Bar Kochba revolt, the last Jewish attempt at sovereignty on this very land.”
The state-building process is never easy for any nation, and Harris acknowledges that Israel faces internal challenges, notably the intrusion of religion into politics, the inexcusable marginalization of non-Orthodox Jewish religious streams, and the unfinished task of integrating Israel’s Arab citizens into the mainstream.
“Admiring Israel as I do doesn’t mean overlooking its shortcomings,” writes Harris. “But such shortcomings do not mean allowing such issues to overshadow Israel’s remarkable achievements, accomplished under the most difficult of circumstances.”
Harris points out that over the span of only seven decades Israel has established a thriving democracy and a dynamic economy increasingly based on mind-blowing innovation and cutting-edge technology; created one of the world’s most powerful militaries to ensure its survival; achieved a quality of life that ranks it among the world’s healthiest nations; forged a thriving culture whose musicians, writers, and television are admired far beyond Israel’s borders; and built an agricultural sector that has had much to teach developing nations.
“Step back from the twists and turns of the daily information overload coming from the Middle East and consider the sweep of the last 70 years,” Harris writes. “Look at the light-years traveled since the darkness of the Holocaust, and marvel at the miracle of a decimated people returning to a tiny sliver of land — the land of our ancestors, the land of Zion and Jerusalem — and successfully building a modern, vibrant state against all odds on that ancient foundation.”
“Israel at 70” is available in English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian. Additional editions in Greek and Romanian, and possibly other languages, will soon be available on the AJC website.