I was born less than a year before May 14, 1948, when Jewish leaders established the state of Israel. When I was a child, the Passover phrase “next year in Jerusalem” was an abstraction, but as I matured, I came to understand how Jerusalem and Israel have been the epicenter of the Jewish people’s identity — their national and spiritual life since King David in 1003 B.C.E.

Establishing the state of Israel finally gave Diaspora Jews an officially recognized home, a state, after thousands of stateless years.

Chuck Berk

After basically lying fallow for thousands of years, Israel came to life, and over 70 years it developed a culture that should be admired by all, coupling education, hard work and acts of charitable giving. It has its faults and blemishes, as all countries have, but the progress of its people and its achievements are remarkable.

Since its founding, Israel has built a society that protects the rights of its citizens and ensures that all religions have freedom to worship and have access to their religious sites. It protects minority and women’s rights and a free press in a part of the world where such rights and protections are alien.

In a letter, Danny Danon, the permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, summarized why Israel is unique and a key reason I admire and support Israel: “The ancient Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, has always guided the Jewish people toward helping others. This commitment runs through the veins of the modern State of Israel in the form of innovation and global aid … and seeks to improve the lives of others.”

Israel is impressive. I admire the people, culture, society and possibilities.

See all the reflections on Israel’s meaning on this special anniversary.