Tomorrow, July 4 2006, marks the 230th anniversary since a group of American patriots sat together in the city of Philadelphia to sign a document that had been drafted as a protest to being ruled by a country located more than three thousand miles ‘across the pond’. That document known as the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed by men who were literally risking their very lives to do so. One of these men, a newspaper publisher and itinerant inventor named Benjamin Franklin, put forth his message so eloquently when he said: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or we shall surely hang separately”. In the midst of what is now referred to as the American Revolution, an extremely bloody and painful conflict lasting more than 7 years, the 13 American colonies were finally granted their independence from British rule in 1783. This achievement, and that famous document signed ‘In Congress’ on that hot and muggy July day, became the beginning of what has been the world’s greatest achievement in freedom and democracy.
On might argue that the system created, has not been a perfect one. After all, that ‘peculiar institution’ known as Negro Slavery was only abolished after a bloody, four year civil war occurring ‘fourscore and ten years’ afterwards as noted by President Abraham Lincoln. Another group of Americans, the ones who were occupying America when the original white settlers first arrived, also have also not had an easy go at it. In spite of this, when comparing the American experience to that of other countries, including ones like France, this concept called democracy has worked so well that even today, people are willing to do anything to go there and become part of it.
The State of Israel, founded much later also became a symbol and beacon for disenfranchised Jews from all over to come and live as one people in one land. It also hasn’t been easy since another group of patriots, led by David Ben Gurion, also declared their independence; ironically from the rule of the same country from which the Americans did previously. That declaration which also was signed in a similar manner as the American one had been more than 172 years before, resulted in a war in which the fledgling Jewish State was attacked by the combined armies of all its neighbors. Since its amazing victory, this tiny country, still vastly outnumbered by all the surrounding states in the region, has become the only true democracy in the entire Middle East.
Like America’s experience, the system created in Israel hasn’t been a perfect one either, and all groups living within its borders have not been treated equally as well. Still, in comparison with other states, Israel’s democratic process is alive and well, and is also an example to be followed. Though still lacking a national constitution, and with a legal system a bit different from that of the U.S.A. (especially lack of jury trials in civil and criminal cases) Israel has managed to maintain it’s version of democratic values and freedoms, which makes it respected and admired by many Americans.
Israel recently celebrated its 58th year of independence, and with many American “Ex-Pats” living there, Fourth of July celebrations will be held in Israel as well. In respect to these celebrations, it’s important to do so, as this keeps the “spirit” alive. Happy “Yom Ha’Atzmaut” to both of these wonderful countries!