Dear Friend of Israel,

On Monday, Americans will celebrate Independence Day. Throughout the U.S., we will congregate in our neighbor’s yard to share a meal, on Main Street to watch a festive parade, or at a nearby school or community center to watch the local fireworks. This holiday takes place in the very heart of our neighborhoods.

I think that’s the best place for us to be when we pause and thank God for our ability to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s here that these freedoms mean the most. And it’s here that we’re able to realize anew that, no matter our religion, race, or political beliefs, we are not so different. We are all Americans, sharing with our neighbors a love for the principles of freedom, democracy, and Judeo-Christian values.

No matter what happens in the political realm and at the national level, the American people have a natural love of freedom. We also have an affinity for nations that share our values — nations like Israel, the U.S.’s greatest ally. We look to the Middle East — a region filled with oppressive regimes and political and civil turmoil — and realize that Israel is the lone country that resembles the U.S., that values what we value, and that stands up for these principles.

Regardless of what politicians say, the American people continue to stand united with Israel. A recent study again confirmed this: 56 percent of those Americans polled said they would define themselves as “Israel supporters,” while 51 percent said they have “warm feelings” about Israel. Another poll taken earlier this year found that 63 percent of Americans place their sympathies with Israel, while only 17 percent favor the Palestinians.

Israel needs this support now more than ever. She is surrounded by growing instability in the Arab world, the ongoing threat of Iran’s nuclear progress, and constant rocket attacks from nearby terrorists. She is on guard against the so-called “Freedom Flotilla”, and still grieving for her captured son, IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner for five years by Hamas terrorists.

As we celebrate this Independence Day, let us thank God for the blessing of living in a free nation, and remember the many who have fought and shed blood so that freedom could be preserved. And let us also remember our greatest ally, Israel, the one place in the Middle East where freedom, democracy, and the rule of law are valued and protected. May we always know and appreciate our freedoms, and may the strong and enduring friendship between the United States and Israel continue to flourish.

With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews