The month of Iyar - between the holidays of Passover and Shavu'ot - is best known for Yom HaAtzma'ut - Israel's Independence Day. This year the 5th of Iyar marks Israel's 61st birthday. Many of us remember that day in 1947 when the United Nations voted in favor of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine. And many of us remember David Ben Gurion formally announcing the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. I remember watching the news of the 6 Day War in 1967 and subsequently the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and every other battle since then.
It was never certain that Israel would survive. The Arab countries in 1948 vowed to push Israel into the sea, and most of them are still officially at war with Israel. Yet somehow Israel has survived and prospered.
Jews in America always were always overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. Billions of dollars have been raised over the years through Israel Bonds, the UJA, and other agencies. But recently, that support has eroded and though many Jews still support Israel, many also question Israel's policies.
In honor of Israel, look to the charities of the month on the side. I've included the Israeli Conservative Movement (Masorti) and our sister synagogue Netzach Yisrael in Ashkelon for support. I've also included a foundation that helps people with disablilities, Yad Sarah. There are of course many more agencies in Israel worthy of our support and I would encourage you to browse the internet and find them.
Wishing Israel a happy birthday!