On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion met in the Tel Aviv Museum with Jewish representatives from across Israel and declared Israel's independence. Within 24 hours, the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon attacked. Ever since, Israel has been in constant state of self defense. Like Nehemiah's workers at the wall, Israel's nation builders have had to shovel mortar with one hand and grip a spear with the other.
During its first 15 months of life, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fought off invaders and over 6000 Israelis were killed. Despite the attacks, some 50,000 Jews - mostly Holocaust survivors – had poured into Israel by the end of the summer of 1948. Nearly 700,000 would arrive by the end of 1951 - 300,000 of those from Arab lands.
In January, 1949, Israel held national elections in which nearly 85 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. The first 120-seat Knesset went into session shortly thereafter.
On 11 May 1949, Israel became the 59th member of the United Nations.
Despite constant terror attacks, the people of Israel built housing, developed industry and mining, and planted thousands of trees along the expanding roadway system. They improved agriculture and opened new areas to cultivation. They established telecommunications and electrical networks. Schools were built and soon school attendance was free and required for all children ages 5-14.
Yet, Egypt hovered on Israel's southern border, Jordan growled on the west, and Syria and Lebanon chafed on the north.
In 1956, Egypt began to keep ships with Israel interests from passing through the Suez Canal, and Egyptian troop numbers on the Sinai grew. Israel took action, capturing the Gaza strip and the Sinai peninsula in an eight-day campaign. The United Nations stepped in and placed troops in the Sinai. Israel agreed to back off in stages, and Egypt allowed Israel to use the waterways for trade.
As Israel entered its second decade, its manufacturing and food production sectors continued to expand. Israel grew increasingly more self-sufficient and able to export the goods and food it produced.
In 1961, a large medical complex, the Hadassah Medical Center was constructed adjacent to the Ein Kerem neighborhood, along with a medical science campus of the Hebrew University. In 1965, the Israel Museum opened, and the permanent home for the Knesset was dedicated in August, 1966.
Israel's Arab enemies had made many deadly attacks on Israeli citizens since the nation's formation. On June 2, 1964, The Palestinian Liberation Organization(PLO) was created. In its Statement of Proclamation of the Organization (three years before the Six-Day War) the PLO declared:
"... the right of the Palestinian Arab people to its sacred homeland Palestine and affirming the inevitability of the battle to liberate the usurped part from it, and its determination to bring out its effective revolutionary entity and the mobilization of the capabilities and potentialities and its material, military and spiritual forces."
Then, in May of 1967, Egypt again moved troops into the Sinai. In the meanwhile, Jordan and Syria forces pushed in from the east and north. Surrounded by an Arab force of nearly half a million troops, Israel made preemptive strikes at the beginning of June, 1967. After six days of fighting, Israel had taken the Sinai, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. For the first time since the new state's formation, Israel controlled all of Jerusalem.
The Arab position at the Khartoum Summit in August 1967 remained full of animosity. The Arabs called for no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no recognition of Israel.
Again in 1973, Israel's existence was put in jeopardy. On October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces surprise-attacked Israel on the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur. Israel defeated its enemies once again during the 20 days that followed, making gains in the Golan Heights and hammering Egypt in the Sinai.
In 1978, Israel's Prime Minister Manachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat drafted a peace agreement with President Jimmy Carter at Camp David.
In 1994, Israel Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein signed the "Washington Declaration" to bring peace between Jordan and Israel.
But peace has eluded Israel. The PLO under Yasser Arafat refused to come to any real peace agreement. The destruction of Israel was more important, apparently, than helping its own people escape poverty and ignorance. Even today, with Arafat dead, that violent spirit continues among many Palestinians.
Yet, despite every war, every suicide bomb attack, and every stream of profanity directed at the Jewish state, Israel has pushed on for 60 full years. It lives on, offering the world a sense that the God of Israel still lives, and that He is protecting the apple of His eye. Just as He said He would.
Happy Birthday, Israel. God blesses those who bless you.