It is 1948. The state of Israel is born. The new country requires help. World Jewry and other friends spring into action. Military volunteers sign up to ward off the attack from neighbouring Arab armies. Arms are purchased. Funds are raised. Money is lent. The country survives.
It is 2016. The state of Israel is 68. Neighbours still threaten to destroy it. The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is questioned. Terrorists armed with knives attack and kill innocent Israelis, and are celebrated as heroes. Initiatives to boycott Israeli businesses and academics proliferate. Questions regarding the legitimacy of the Jewish state persist. The country still requires our help.
But how can we help today?
In the early years of the state, it was obvious. There was so much to do, and funds were desperately needed to do it. Donating money to Israel was a critical way to help. An advertisement for the 1948 Campaign for the United Jewish Appeal in America (UJA) was very blunt about it:
The destiny of a people is at stake. Whether a new nation will live or die depends on your giving. Your dollars will decide whether this new nation will survive…You are writing history. Write it BIG — as big as this dream come true.
To supplement donations to Israel made through the UJA and other charities, Israel developed the Israel Bond program in 1951.
This initiative allowed those of us living outside of Israel to invest in the country, thereby becoming partners in its economic development.
The first advertisement for Israel Bonds appeared in Life magazine on October 8, 1951. Declaring that “men died so that these bonds could be born,” the ad said that purpose of the program was to help the 600,000 Jews in European displaced persons camps and in peril in Arab lands move and begin new lives in Israel.
Today, the people of Israel live vigorously, proudly, vibrantly-their country, like the United States, conceived in the passion of liberty. Yet the Israelis do not want to hug this freedom to themselves. They want to share it with others — with 600,000 more of their people, now homeless in other lands.
In his fascinating 2013 book, Sinews of a Nation, Dan Lainer-Vos argued that contributions to Israel via donations and investment not only reflected a Diaspora commitment to Israel, but also helped to build the nation. He argued that investing joined those living in Israel with its supporters living outside of it. I heartily recommend this book to anyone involved in the cause of Israel and in the effort to keep Israel united and strong.
Investing in Israel, via money or other means, helps build the nation. Donating to the UJA and buying Israel Bonds remain important ways to build the state of Israel. I am personally involved in the work of both of these organizations in my home city of Toronto.
However, there are additional things we each can — and must — do. We can support Israel by advocating for it when we hear it being treated unfairly. We can support Israel by going there, buying Israeli products, or investing in Israeli companies. The Israel Forever Foundation provides a host of opportunities to be actively involved in supporting the Jewish state.
One topical opportunity is the Balfour Initiative, whose objective is to collect one million signatures in support of the Balfour Declaration by its 100th birthday, November 2, 2017. The Balfour Declaration was the official statement by the British government in support of the Zionist aspirations for a Jewish national home in what was then called Palestine. The Palestinian Authority is planning to sue the British government for issuing this declaration.
It is no longer 1948, but the era of helping Israel is not over. When we each do something in support of Israel, the nation is stronger — and the country will be too.