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Why did they applaud?

הנשיא הרצוג נואם

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Yesterday, President Yitzhak Herzog opened his speech in the United States as follows:

"Mr. Speaker, dear friends. In Jewish weddings, a glass is placed on the ground, intentionally stomped on. This ritual evokes the destruction of our temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Only after the glass is broken, can the celebration truly begin. Amidst the most joyous occasion in the lives of two individuals who have come together to build something whole, we recall what was once broken in our nation. Thus, the bitter blends with the sweet. Today, the Hebrew calendar points to the 1st day of the month of Av.

In Jewish tradition this is a somber period in which we mourn the loss of
our sovereignty. Jewish communities all over the world lament the beginning of our national exile, where throughout two millennia, we continuously expressed a spiritual connection to our ancestral Holy Land and a longing to return home and regain our independence.

Yet today, at this moment in my people's history, gathering on Capitol Hill to celebrate 75 years of Israeli independence with our greatest partner and friend, the United States of America, my soul is overflowing with pride and joy. The people of Israel are grateful to no end for the ancient promise fulfilled and for the friendship we have formed.

In 1949, the President of the United States of America, Harry S. Truman, met with the Chief Rabbi of the newly established State of Israel, my grandfather Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Halevi Herzog, in the Oval Office. This was just a few years after each of them had pleaded and campaigned for the rescue of Europe’s Jews being slaughtered in the Holocaust by the Nazis.

In speaking to President Truman, Rabbi Herzog thanked him for being the first world leader to officially recognize the State of Israel, eleven minutes after its foundation. He spoke of the Divine Providence that destined President Truman to help bring about the rebirth of Israel, after two thousand years of exile. Witnesses of the encounter recalled tears running down President Truman’s cheeks."

I imagine that a few tears were shed yesterday as hundreds of members of Congress and the Senate rose to their feet and applauded a total of thirty times during President Herzog's speech. It seems, however, that they were not only clapping for him, but for our story -- that of the nation of Israel -- as well.


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