We’re moving into the lazy days of summer. Recent celebrations of our Independence Day on July 4 remind us that days that are punctuated by the arrival of the neighborhood ice cream truck are meant to be enjoyed. We are blessed to live in a country that is free and that enjoys friendly relations with nations around the world.
But when we look at history, we realize that summer days weren’t always lazy. Indeed, 241 years ago, our Founding Fathers toiled over the language used to declare our independence. And immediately thereafter, when they hoped to be free, our rag-tag minutemen had to fight against the British Empire. They fought for their lives, their land, their new nation and their new form of government. That form of government, democracy, was mostly unknown in the world — a government ruled by the people with the consent of the governed. A modern day miracle in 1776.
Fast forward almost exactly 191 years to June 1967. Another nation, another democracy in a region not used to democratic governments, another land — but an incomplete land. The nation and land of Israel and its leaders had to make some serious, existential decisions. With Arab armies arrayed against it with better arms and with larger numbers, Israel’s rag-tag military leaders acted before they were acted upon.
We know the military history of Israel’s phenomenal victories in the Six Day War. We know how the Israel Defense Forces vanquished Arab air forces, cavalries and infantries. We know how the IDF captured the Golan Heights and Sinai, and reunified Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. In 1967, the world celebrated the modern day miracle of Israel’s victory. Israelis and Jews from around the world could once again pray at the Western Wall, the holiest site in the post-Temple world. The blood that was shed to reach that point, the blood of countless generations of Jews longing for a return to Zion and Jerusalem, was finally vindicated.
The words of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” — literally, “the hope” — were fulfilled. The 2,000-year hope of Jews in the Diaspora, to be a free people in our land of Zion and Jerusalem, was now real.
This year we celebrated in the United States along with Israel the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. We celebrated in 50 states and between two great capitals, Washington and Jerusalem. We celebrated a fellowship of like-minded, democratically-elected leaders who are committed to fostering strong ties between America and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed, through a live web link, large crowds in the U.S. Capitol and in 50 state capitals across the United States. The message was clear: Americans celebrate with Israel, and our commitment to each other is vital to both nations. Five governors spoke. Most were not from states with large Jewish populations. It was gratifying to see the governors of Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Colorado and Florida speak out in support of Israel, against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and in celebration of the unified capital of Jerusalem.
It is good to have friends around the world who stand by you when times get rough.
A short 50 years after the Six-Day War, Israel is a military powerhouse in the Middle East with some of the best weapons systems in the world. It has grown up in the eyes of the international community, and today we know that Arab nations like Egypt and Jordan would rather maintain a (sometimes contentious) peace with Israel than have it as a perpetual enemy.
The United States collaborates with Israel in every way, militarily, commercially, economically, educationally and culturally. There isn’t a single congressional recess that passes without official delegations of our representatives heading to Israel to cement the important relationship between our countries.
Equally important, though, are the relationships that our governors develop and maintain with Israeli officials and with Israeli citizens. Our 50 states benefit tremendously from exchanges of professionals, students, technologies, intellectual property, culture and tourism. Many of us know how excited Israelis are to travel the world after they finish their mandatory military service. American states compete with each other to have those Israelis visit as many of those visits lead to the formation of life-long relationships with Americans.
As we all know, relationships need nurturing and communication to sustain them. In the last several years, the communications coming out of governors’ offices across the United States have been critical to maintaining those relationships.
American governors have spoken publicly against the toxic and destructive BDS movement that has sprung up in anti-Israel enclaves around the country and world. Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was among the first to recognize the spiteful and corrosive nature of BDS. A Christian governor of a state with a relatively small Jewish population stood by the tiny State of Israel and called out the BDS bullies for who they really are, anti-Semites. Others have followed suit.
In my own state, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan traveled to Israel in September 2016. It was his first visit to Israel, and he traveled with a trade delegation that included three members of his Cabinet, the Maryland secretaries of state, commerce and aging. The visit left a deep and, no doubt, lasting impression on the governor — he saw ancient sites of spiritual significance to him as a Roman Catholic, and he saw the vibrant and lasting relationships that Marylanders have with Israelis.
Significantly, Hogan capped his visit with the signing of a memorandum of understanding establishing a sister state relationship between Maryland and Israel. That shows Israelis and Marylanders that there is more than just a business-to-business or government-to-government relationship that we share. We share the closeness of sisters, a relationship that most siblings would argue is the strongest type there is.
There will surely be more sister states to follow.
In half a century, Israel has worked hard to build a coalition of supporters all across this country. In the millennia since the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital, Israel has worked even harder to defend itself, to return from exile and to succeed in all ways imaginable. Just think what Israel and our 50 states will be able to accomplish together in the next half century!
Bonnie Glick is a nonprofit executive and veteran American diplomat and businesswoman. She lives in Bethesda.