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Zionism Looked Like A Unicorn
"If you will it, it is no dream." Such is the phrase attributed to Theodore Herzl. In fact, the original German phrase was "Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein Märchen" (Altneuland 1902). The word Märchen refers to a fairy-tale or legend, and this is reflected in the Hebrew version of this phrase, אם תרצו אין זו אגדה. When Herzl conceived of a Jewish country, it doubtless appeared to everyone as a complete fantasy.
The problem with fantasy becoming reality is that once the reality becomes established, it becomes difficult to remember how fantastical it initially appeared. If you were to go back in time a little over a year and tell your old self that the summer of 2020 would have more El-Al flights to Dubai than to the United States and that there would be a man wearing a horned helmet and fur skins standing at the podium of the US Capitol, your old self simply wouldn't believe it.
But even those bizarre events would have been more believable than the Jewish People creating a new country in their ancient homeland! It's only because Israel has been around for 73 years that we take it for granted. From perspective of Jews living in 19th century Europe, it must have seemed as fantastical as a unicorn.
And from the perspective of Jews who lived through the Holocaust, when they would have believed that it was the end of the Jewish People, it was unimaginable. It is said that when Rabbi Kahneman overheard one of the rabbonim in the Ponevezh yeshiva make a nasty comment about the State of Israel, he called him in to his office and told him that only a person who hasn't smelled the air over Auschwitz could be disparaging of the State of Israel. And despite his chareidi opposition to Zionism, he insisted that Ponovezh fly the flag on Independence Day.
The return of the Jewish People to their ancient homeland, creating a sovereign nation, is one of the greatest miracles of history. To quote a certain US president:
“More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.”
Happy Yom Ha-Atzmaut - and may everyone merit to appreciate the miracle that is the State of Israel!