The second Jewish Diaspora began in A.D. 70. That's when the Roman Empire defeated the Jewish rebels at Masada, then destroyed the main Jewish temple and exported the defeated Jews as slaves. Jewish civilization was scattered for centuries until finally, in 1948, they had an official homeland to return to. During my visit, Israel celebrated 65 years of independence.
It is national policy to welcome all Jews into Israel. Its "law of return" welcomes immigrants with grants and loans, subsidized housing, and classes to facilitate their assimilation. No matter how poor, foreign, and rough the returning Jew may be, the program expects to create well-educated, Hebrew-speaking Israelis out of his family within two generations. Israel claims to have successfully absorbed at least a million penniless refugees this way.
I was told that when President Obama visited last month, every Israeli girl fell in love. ("How nice, how charming he was.") Many considered him naïve in his first term and now more mature. My guide said, "His advisors had him very well prepared. He pushed all the right buttons." His charisma charmed the Israeli media.
The tradition each Independence Day in Israel is for friends and families to have big barbecue feasts.
We made new friends who invited us home for a family Independence Day party. It's easy to find yourself welcomed into an Israeli home on this festive day.
Our friend's daughter was newly married and shared photos of her amazing, over-the-top wedding. With many Israeli families newly immigrated from a wide array of countries, a wedding -- designed to please all involved -- invariably includes a mix of old country traditions.