Fourth of July memories

Israel has sacrificed more for American freedom per capita than any nation


Americans celebrate Independence Day, by far the most important national holiday of the year in the United States. With fireworks, picnics, concerts, parades, political speeches and ceremonies we commemorate the birth of the nation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is a day of patriotism and the largest birthday celebration in America – a true day of remembrance.

It is in this spirit that I, as an American, will celebrate Israel. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people have sacrificed more for American freedom per capita than any nation on Earth.

Radical Islamists call America the “Great Satan” and Israel the “Little Satan.” The reason is obvious: The Jewish people in Israel has, with its own blood, defended America and the Western world against radical Islam since the days Israel’s rebirth on May 14, 1948.

When Jewish poetess Emma Lazarus penned the immortal words emblazoned on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Palestine was desert, a wasteland in the hands of the unfriendly Turks. From 1881 to about 1920, three million Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States. Welcoming them to America were Lazarus’ words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Ties between the Jewish people and the early pilgrims in America were as foundationally strong as the rock on which the pilgrims stepped ashore in 1620. A group hoping to found a “New Israel” would become highly influential when the colonists began to aspire to freedom. Early founders and presidents of the newly formed republic would express the hope that the children of Israel might one day find rebirth in their homeland – the land God granted to Abraham.

Our forefathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, lobbied for an image of Moses guiding the Israelites on America’s Great Seal. Such presidents as John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln lobbied for a homeland in Palestine for the Jews. President Harry S Truman was the first world leader to recognize the new State of Israel in 1948.

One of the greatest symbols of Israel’s sacrifice is Yonatan Netanyahu, commander of Sayaret Matkal, who was killed in action on July 4, 1976 during Operation Entebbe in Uganda. His brother, Benjamin, is the current prime minister of Israel. Character and dedication are symbolized in a letter Yonathan wrote to his parents on December 2, 1973.
In the missive he wrote: “We are preparing for war and it’s hard to know what to expect. What I am positive of is that there will be a next round and others after that. But, I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end. As I don’t intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish State in the twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode amid thousands of years of wandering. I intend to hold on here with all my might.”

In 2008, Ugandan President Yoweri Musevani flew to Israel at the invitation of president Shimon Peres to attend the Facing Tomorrow Conference. When I discovered he was there, I immediately approached his wife, Grace Musevani, first lady of Uganda. I told her that her husband had broken his promise to me to honor Yonatan Netanyahu with a memorial at the airport in Entebbe.

When I reminded Grace, a very religious woman, that the promise had not been kept, she looked at me and replied, “Man of God, you are right. God will strike my husband down like Naaman the leper in the Holy City of Jerusalem if he does not keep his promise. He will keep his promise!”

I was so pleased to realize when, on the following day, Musevani met with Benzion Netanyahu and his son, Benjamin, at the Knesset to announce that he would convert the control tower, the only remaining part of the original airport, into a memorial for those who participated in the raid on Entebbe.

It was they who had rescued 248 passengers and 12 crew members being held hostage after Air France flight 139 was hijacked by the PFLP, a German terrorist cell. Later renamed “Operation Yoni,” it would honor Yonatan Netanyahu, the commander of the raid, and its sole IDF fatality.

The death of Yoni Netanyahu inspired me to write Israel: America’s Key to Survival in 1981. On the front cover of the book are US and Israeli flags sliced in half by an Islamic sword. The premise of the book was that Israel is the only democracy and firewall between radical Islam and the West. I wrote that if Israel were weakened, radical Islam would begin attacking the West; that New York City’s tallest building would be the first target.

On the back cover is a quote from Benjamin Netanyahu: “Their goal is to destroy America … destroy it … reduce it to nothing and they feel they can effectively do it through terrorism.”

Mike Evans is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with 72 published books. He is the founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem.

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