The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.
3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!
5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.
8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’
12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. - Ezekiel 37
This is a special, poignant time in Israel, when Israel mourns the dead and celebrates its redemption and rebirth.
Yom HaShoah, which occurred last week is a time when Israel remembers the slaughter of the Holocaust. It's hardly a holiday at all, but a quiet, sober time of reflection. There is usually a public ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Six torches are at lit, usually by Holocaust survivors and the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches. Like most Jewish holidays, it begins at sundown. Flags are flown at half-mast and bars, clubs and other entertainment venues are closed.
Documentaries on the Shoah itself are commonly shown, and the elderly survivors give testimony of what happened. This is how the Valley of Dry Bones was created, and the survivors of that carnage get fewer every year. But those that remain can speak for those whom no longer can to remind us that yes, it happened and yes, with some honorable exceptions most of the world could have cared less at best, or participated in it at worst.
There are those who think this is simply old news and not worth repeating, and wish that the Jews would shut up about it. But denial of what happened remains alive and well, and a lot of the people that would much rather not be reminded have reasons of their own for wanting this abomination, this stain on humanity forgotten.
About a week later, another part of Ezekiel's prophecy comes about on Yom HaZikeron, Israel's Memorial Day,when Israel mourns the soldiers who have fallen defending this small country from its genocidal enemies.
It starts with sirens wailing all over the country at 8:00 PM the preceding evening. No matter where they are or what they are doing, Israelis uniformly take a minute to stand at attention to honor those whom sacrificed their lives as the price for Israel's survival as a free nation. Even cars and buses pull to the side of the road, and the passengers leave their vehicles to stand for a minute and remember Israel's fallen heroes.... 23,447 as of this year, a terrible price for such a small country.
The next day,there is a ceremony at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and President Rivkin, accompanied by a widow of one of Israel’s fallen will light a memorial candle, after which Kaddish, the Jewish Mourner's Prayer will be recited and and the traditional prayer for the dead, K’el Maleh Rachamim will be chanted. Similar prayers will be recited at cemeteries all over Israel.
Because Israel is a state where most people serve in the military, the Tzahal is literally a people's army. Often, these are people who have grown up together in the same neighborhood, join up together, serve in the same unit and then continue to serve together yearly in reserve duty.They become an extended family, and this is their day to mourn and remember as well. On Yom HaZikaron it's not only the family that mourns the fallen soldier. It's his comrades. And that applies to Christians, Bedouin, Druse and other non-Jews whom served in Israel's IDF and have given their lives to defend their country.
All over Israel, people visit the graves of the fallen...and remember.
Even Israel's prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu is not immune. He has his duties as head of state on Yom HaZikaron, but he will go as he does every year to Mount Herzel cemetery before speaking at the public ceremony there to visit the grave of his brother Yoni, who died in 1976 while leading an attack to rescue Jews held captive at the Entebbe, Uganda's airport.
What happens the very next day, after all of this sadness? Absolute joy as Israelis celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. In Israel, it's kind of like old fashioned American-style Fourths-firecrackers, parades, lots of flag waving and lots of mangal (barbecues) and games of matkot(Israeli style paddle ball) at the beach.
So here are the Living Bones, fleshed out and restored to their home. How are they doing, 68 years later? To read the daily news,they should be on the verge of collapse.
Instead, they're thriving.
In 1948, the country had a population of only 806,000. Then, the country's gross domestic product was only $1.5 billion in today's money and worth a lot less back then. The problems of national defense against 7 Arab invaders had be to faced and arms purchased on the black market at high prices because Israel was under an arms embargo by most countries, including the U.S.
Even after the war, Israel was faced not only with refugees from the Holocaust but almost one million penniless refugees from the Arab countries, whom came to Israel with the clothes on their back if that after everything they owned had been plundered. These refugees all needed food, jobs, housing and medical care and unlike Arab refugees of the conflict, Israel had to cover the cost itself. There was no UNRWA for the Jews.
Many of them ended up living in tents for months until some kind of housing could be found.
Fadayeen raids were a constant problem, and the Arab boycott kept many countries from trading with Israel. Consumer goods were scare and expensive. Even by the mid-1950's only 12 percent of Israelis had washing machines, while by 1963, only 13% had a phone line. In 1951, there were only abut 34,000 cars in the whole country.
Let's flash forward to today. In spite of its humble beginnings. Israel today has a gross domestic product of over well $300 billion, a 2,000% + increase. Israel is virtually the only country in the Middle East that is self-sufficient in both food and water. Over 96% of Israeli have washing machines today, and phones lines and cell phones are pretty much universal. In spite of easy and convenient mass transit, Israel today has about 3 million cars on its roads. Israeli high tech is in demand world wide,Israeli innovations continue to astound, foreign investment is booming and remarkably, some of Israel's long time Arab foes finally show some signs of thawing. Israel at long last even now has abundant oil and natural gas, provided the politics about utilizing it ever get resolved.
Israel's population increased by 182,000 people, a growth of 2.2% since the last Yom Ha'atzmaut according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. During that period, 195,000 babies were born and about 36,000 new olim - immigrants- came to Israel.
Israel's population now is 8,522,000. Oddly enough, the percentage of Jews to Arabs is just about the same as it was in 1948, 6,377,000 Jewish Israelis, 74.8% of the total population, and 1,771,000 Arab Israelis, 20.8% of the population. Christians, Ba'hai, non-Arabs, and other minority groups account for 374,000 people, or 4.4% of the population.
The fertility rate among Israeli Jews has risen to over 3.2 per woman, the highest in the developed world and eclipsing the birth rate of both Israel's Arabs and those in the Palestinian Authority. Among Jews in Judea and Samaria the birth rate is even higher.
The increase in fertility rate is interesting because psychologically, such trends are a sign of optimism about the future. And not so surprisingly, Israel is rated one of the 5 happiest countries in the world according to according to a new Better Life Index report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
So what's going on here, in a country where every other news story is about a vicious terrorist attack, threats of annihilation from Iran or condemnation from the so-called international community for the 'crime' of building homes and infrastructure for its people to relieve a housing crunch? Or condemnation for goodness knows what else?
The secret is a simple one, I think. Home is where you feel most relaxed, where you set the rules and make the decisions on how you're going to live.For Jews, this is a relatively brand new sensation after centuries of living by other people's rules and being made to feel like strangers and outsiders no matter how they tried to fit in.
Well, the Jews are finally home. Anyone who's been there senses that immediately. And they aren't going anywhere.Their roots in the Land of Israel go deep, back through the centuries. And they will not be uprooted as easily as some people imagine. Not this time.
When your country's very existence is a modern miracle, you may not pay much lip service to it, but it's something you carry with you and that you remember always. That's something I think many Americans, whose own nation is rather miraculous in its conception understand instinctively, perhaps.
In the past 68 years, although the price has been agonizingly heavy, the Jews have made Ezekiel's prophecy come true..the remnants of the Jewish people, the remnants, the Dry Bones came home from fire and slaughter and they not only prevailed, but they have prospered in a way that amazes the world. G-d's question to Ezekiel 'Can these bones live?' has an answer in the miracle that is Israel today.
Yom huledet sameach, Yisrael. Am Yisrael Chai!