Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise in recognition of Israel Independence Day. Sixty-four years ago, after 2,000 years in exile, the Jewish people declared their independence and established a nation in their ancient and sacred homeland.
Since then, the Israeli people have developed a vibrant democracy, a vigorous economy, a dynamic cultural life, and an admirable commitment to the environment.
In the Jewish tradition, even joyous occasions are mixed with sorrow, to honor past history and to acknowledge the debt owed to those who came before us.
I have always admired the confluence of Israel Independence Day with Remembrance Day, when the day before the celebration of independence Israelis stop to remember their fallen soldiers, and those who gave their lives in service to the nation. It is a reminder of the heavy price of freedom, and of the burden on future generations to uphold the ideals for which Israel's sons and daughters gave their lives.
Beyond the conflicts that seem to dominate the news, Israel has made extraordinary achievements in every field imaginable. From agriculture and medicine to environmental sustainability and literature, Israelis offer a steady stream of improvements to global challenges.
One of my most memorable visits to Israel was to a desalinization plant in Ashkelon, where I saw firsthand how Israel deals with some of the same water challenges that confront South Florida. This is just one example of how the close relationship between our two countries benefits both Israelis and Americans.
Israel Independence Day is a celebration of renewal, and this year Israelis have much to be proud of in the remarkable nation they built from the desert. For 64 years Israel has stood as a symbol of hope for millions of people around the world. For 64 years Israel has modeled a society where determination and passion, and an emphasis on social progress and education, can build a productive nation.
Mr. Speaker, I have been to Israel 14 times as a Member of Congress, and every time I go I encounter ordinary citizens and government officials alike who are genuinely dedicated to living up to the ideals of Israel's independence. I am always impressed by the Israelis' intense desire to persevere. Israel deserves to be secure and prosperous, to live in peace with its neighbors, and to live free from fear and violence.