What Israel Means to Me: Sam Olens

What Israel Means to Me: Sam Olens

Here’s what the Dentons counsel and former Georgia attorney general has to say as we celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday.

Former Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens
Former Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens

Saturday, Oct. 6, 1973, was a very important day in the life of the Jewish people. Americans woke to news that Israel had been invaded by Egypt and Syria. Congregants came to synagogue that morning with cash and checks for the Jewish state.

The joint surprise attack, coupled with Egypt and Syria’s early military advances, led to the realization that Israel could no longer count on military superiority alone to survive and thus led to the Camp David Accords.

My family was not directly affected by the Holocaust. My maternal and paternal ancestors came from Belarus to Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century. Both these traumatic events, however — the Holocaust and the Yom Kippur War — cause me to be firmly committed to the Jewish homeland.

Sam Olens meets with Shimon Peres.

The Yom Kippur War also shattered the perspective that Israel could succeed without America’s assistance.

Several years ago I heard state Rep. Ed Rynders speak at a program sponsored by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. He referenced a traveling exhibit that he attended in Lee County and the effect it had on him and his constituents. His speech, describing the lessons learned from the Holocaust and the role Georgians must take in speaking out against hate, genocide and racism, was inspiring.

Israel is a thriving democracy in a part of the world where democracy doesn’t otherwise exist. Its promotion of religious pluralism, free-market capitalism, and emergency financial and technical assistance is astounding.

I first visited Israel when I was in college. It is a magical nation where you walk through history. I marvel at the Jerusalem stone, the Kotel and Tzfat, just to name a few cherished sites.

Opponents often confuse Israel with the party in power, similar to politics in our country. No country is or ever will be perfect. Demands that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders are unrealistic.

Israel is a beacon of justice, freedom and liberty. Let us celebrate her continued success for many more years.

See all the reflections on Israel’s meaning on this special anniversary.

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