Israel has embraced the Beatles song "When I'm 64" as a theme on the eve of the 64th Hebrew anniversary of its birth (Thursday the 4th of Iyar). As the celebrations in Israel begin, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and editorialists at Arutz Sheva, Times of Israel, Haaretz, and a host of others have riffed on the theme.
That Israel is 64 years old is remarkable. The founder of Zionist ideology, Theodore Herzl, never lived to see anything approaching the success that Israel has had today. And yet, the history of the State has just begun. 64 years is a long time for a person, but it is only a drop in the bucket for a country which has waited 2000 years.
At the same time, as people age, the way we love them changes. Children need different kinds of love from their peers than do adolescents, who need different kinds of love than adults and senior citizens. 64 may be the beginning of seniority for a person, but it is merely adolescence for a country.
As with a person, there is considerable confusion over what love for Israel means in this age of its adolescence. Some are of the opinion that love for Israel means unconditional support. Some believe it requires honesty. Some believe it requires tough love. Some believe, sadly, that Israel is not worth loving. And as with real adolescents, the conversation about these issues is often over-emotional, melodramatic, and nasty.
But on this Yom HaAtzmaut, we can take heart in the fact that despite the real challenges Israel faces, and despite the real mistakes it has made, it has hundreds of thousands of friends, each willing to play a supporting role in their own way. Having only one kind of friend would be problematic because it would leave so many different needs unfulfilled. A plethora of friends of different backgrounds, political persuasions, and motivations ensures Israel's survival long into adulthood. Friendship may not always be the romanticized notion we see in movies (or policy conferences). But it underwrites the daily struggles Israel faces to improve itself and the world around it. And that is a struggle in which any friend of Israel can be glad to play a role.