The New Year is coming and with it festivities and time to take stock of one’s life. Rosh Hashanah is also a holiday associated with sweetness. To kick off a sweet new year, AJC looks back on the happiest developments of 5778 in the Jewish state.
5) Israel Rescues Syria’s White Helmets
In the hush of night, Israel evacuated hundreds of Syrian White Helmets—brave volunteers who have saved over 60,000 Syrian civilians during the country’s civil war—and brought them and their families to safety. While the full details of the operation are not publicly known, the daring action involved Israel moving hundreds of civilians out of a war zone through its Golan Heights border to Jordan. Many have now been resettled across the world.
4) Celebrating 100 Years Since the Balfour Declaration
While Jews had prayed for their restoration to their ancestral homeland for centuries, the first time a world power expressed support for this goal was on November 2, 1917. In a letter from Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, to Lord Rothschild and the British Jewish community, the British government declared its support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The letter’s release to the public was a watershed moment: the Zionist Movement received international recognition for its key political goal, a key milestone on the journey to the reestablishment of a Jewish state.
3) Israel Welcomes the World
Since the founding of the Jewish state, no British royal had visited the country in a formal capacity. That ended in 5778, when Prince William made history as he arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to tour Israel. While the Duke of Cambridge was one of the highest-profile dignitaries to visit Israel this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also had a high-profile exchange when he was invited to visit Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tour India. The relationship between the two leaders has been widely described as a “bromance” since Modi’s visit to Israel in 5777.
2) The Jewish State’s Global Celebrities
Gal Gadot is now a household name around the world following her blockbuster hit Wonder Woman. While the movie was released in late 5777, Gal Gadot capitalized on her fame throughout the past year, notably with an appearance on Saturday Night Live where she spoke Hebrew in her opening monologue. In the world of pop music, Netta Barzilai swept the Eurovision Song Contest with her feminist ode ‘Toy’ and won Israel the right to host one of the world’s largest music competitions in 5779.
1) U.S. Embassy Moves to Jerusalem
Jerusalem has served as the seat of Israel’s government since the country’s establishment. But for most of that time, countries that maintained diplomatic relations have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv. That ended this year as President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. embassy moved to the city. The embassy was dedicated in a formal ceremony in May, timed to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of American recognition of the Jewish state in 1948.
Bonus: Israel Celebrates Its 70th Birthday
Most importantly, 5778 marked the seventieth anniversary of Israel's establishment. The country's population has grown 10-fold since 1948, hitting 8.9 million on the eve of the New Year, and the country is known worldwide as a wellspring of innovation and creativity. Millions of Jews from around the world have made the Jewish state their home since the country's creation and the country is a proud and robust democracy, affording all its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, full rights and equality before the law.
We join the people of Israel in wishing the Jewish state prosperity and peace in the new year ahead. Shana Tova!