Dr. Martin Luther King Day
Yariv Ovadia (Embassy of Israel)
April 4, 1968, humanity lost Dr. Martin Luther King to an assassin’s
bullet, and as the world honors his legacy, we in Israel remember
the special bond he had with our people and our country. Dr. King
witnessed the birth of the State of Israel, and spoke out against
those who would destroy her, stating, "Peace for Israel means
security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its
right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one
of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous
example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed
into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means
security and that security must be a reality."
King fought for the most sacred of human rights: to live in peace
with your neighbors and to stand as equals in the eyes of their
fellow men and women. His embrace of nonviolent resistance, of
the right of every citizen to work for change with their voice
and their vote, and not with guns or bombs, made him a true freedom
when it was politically unpopular to do so, Dr. King did not compromise
his defense of both Jews and Israel, answering an overtly hostile
question about the issue of Zionism, saying, "When people
criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."
as Israel begins again her quest for peace, Dr. King’s legacy
is more important to us than ever. He knew firsthand the destruction
to the soul caused by oppression and discrimination. He knew that
true liberation was as necessary to life as breathing, regardless
of race, creed or religion.
the Ethiopian Jews rescued from war and famine in Africa to the
release of the many prisoners of conscience from the former Soviet
Union, over a million people fleeing oppression in their native
countries have made their new home in Israel.
and now, Israel remains an oasis of safety for all who come seeking
freedom of worship, political beliefs, gender and sexual orientation.
Dr. King’s dream encouraged their journey to freedom, while his
insistence the world not turn a blind eye to the suffering of
those not yet free inspired action.
one of the smallest countries in the world, has consistently been
a country with one of the most open hearts.
he alive, Dr. King would celebrate the diversity that is the democratic
reality of Israel, from its dual official languages of Hebrew
and Arabic and coexisting populations of Jew, Arab, Druze, Bedouin,
to its absorption of even more immigrants comprising dozens of
languages and nationalities.
each of Israel’s new citizen’s embrace of freedom have come unique
challenges and opportunities. Dr. King spoke prophetically of
the rewards to a society with such multicultural openness when
he said, "The large house in which we live demands that we
transform this worldwide neighborhood into a worldwide brotherhood.
Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will
be forced to perish as fools."
in Israel miss Dr. King. We miss his courage, his vision and his
voice. He inspired us to reach higher, to put aside our fears
and insecurities, and embrace each other, to find and nurture
both our commonalties and our differences as the only way to strengthen
all of humanity.
was Dr. King’s dream, his legacy, and, just like the trees we
plant in the Martin Luther King Memorial Forest in Israel, it
grows stronger in the hearts, dreams and aspirations of the people
and State of Israel.