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  • Thrive Study Abroad

Happy July Fourth - And Why Israeli's Care

Happy July Fourth to the Thrive extended family! In honor of the fourth of July, let’s talk about what fighting for independence means to us as both Americans and Jews.

We recently celebrated another important day for Independence on our calendar, Yom Haatzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day. On this day in 1949, Jews were finally given a homeland and allowed to raise the banner of freedom on the stage of world affairs.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyau once commented on the unusual parallels between Yom Hatzmaut and July Fourth: “To me they [America and Israel] are unified by a common ideal – the fight for freedom. I am reminded of that parallel every year at this time. Israel and America are two bastions of liberty defending our common civilizations'' he said.

Freedom and independence are uniquely human qualities. We don’t see squirrels declaring independence from the chipmunks. We don’t need independence in order to keep breathing, maintain a pulse, and exist physically. We can live for years in servitude and even solitary confinement. Yet there is no greater corruption of the human psyche than a lack of independence. Freedom is a prerequisite to human accomplishment. The inner light of humanity, our greatest potential - is purely dependent on our ability to choose right from wrong. This is what the Torah (Bible) means when it says we are ‘created in the image of G-d’. G-d has instilled a nature of free will in all of humanity, created in the image of G-d himself. When this freedom is curtailed, we experience a severe lack, a sense of worthlessness, because it is the

essence of who we are.

Throughout history, we have seen the high price of bloodshed, tears, and suffering we are willing to endure to achieve freedom. We have seen the super-human strength that is ignited in all of us when our independence is threatened. We have seen brave soldiers, some even younger than our Thrive students, who put themselves in the line of fire to protect the freedom of total strangers. With our brothers and sisters in Ukraine in our hearts and minds right now, how much more can we appreciate both the value and the cost of freedom.

Imagine what it was like to be an American soldier on the July 4th following the Revolutionary War, after a brutal and costly battle, after dashed hopes of freedom time and again - to finally walk the streets as an American, as a free man, must have been the most liberating experience imaginable. But let’s take this a step further. It was the steadfast belief in the ideals of freedom that gave the Americans the courage to fight. When the battle is about something so universal, and so powerful- it changes the outcome of the war itself. America was fighting for more than political independence; it was initiating a movement of change. It was striving to build a country centered around the ideals of personal liberty and responsibility.

This is what it must have felt like to be a Jew witnessing the declaration of Israeli independence in 1948. The culmination of years of hoping and dreaming to return to Israel, and reinstate the ideals of our forefathers. It was more than being a Jew without the fear of expulsion, oppression, or segregation; it was the freedom to be who we are, ideologically, religiously, and politically. It was the freedom to reach our potential, to make an impact on the world around us by embracing our values.

It is this common ground that we share with our American brothers’ vision of liberty and personal freedom, it is this same feeling that is aroused when we think of our freedom as a Jewish state. It is this same passion in our ideals that unites us as nations, sharing the responsibility to be an example of Democracy to the world stage.

On the Fourth of July, it is crucial Jews in Israel and all over the world show gratitude to the United States of America for its immeasurable support and friendship. Jews have flourished in America like no other country before, due its commitment to freedom, its protection of the individual, and its many shared values with Jewish ideology.

As proud Americans and Jews, we wish you all a Happy Fourth of July!

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