One item that caught my attention in R’ Mayer Fendel’s book Nine Men Wanted for a Minyan was his response to the question of why we celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The person posing the question argued that the declaration of the state had little immediate significance. There was and still is so much work needed to be done to build Eretz Yisrael – so many more steps are needed to transform aschalta d’geulah (assuming it is at least that) into a full geulah. Even from a secular perspective, 5 Iyar was immediately followed by war, not tranquility. The infrastructure of the country had to be built and numerous hurdles overcome. You don’t celebrate a siyum when you are holding on daf beis! What exactly happened on 5 Iyar that warrants hallel and a yom tov?
Rav Fendel’s answer, if I remember correctly (I don’t own the book), was that having a sovereign political entity that all Jews can call home is of monumental significance. There will never again be an incident like, for example, what happened to the St Louis. Whenever and wherever a Jew is, there is now someplace he/she will always be accepted and welcomed.
That answer is certainly correct, but I would like to add my own two cents. The Sefer haChinuch asks why it is that when it comes to the mitzvah d’oraysa of birchas hamazon, we say the brachos only after finishing a meal, not beforehand, yet when it comes to the mitzvah of birchas hatorah, we reverse things and davka recite the bracha before learning. (Sounds like he assumes birchas hatorah is a birchas hashevach just like bh”m). Why the difference?
The Sefer haChinuch answers that the difference is in the nature of the hana’ah. You only get the enjoyment of satiation that comes from having a good meal after the meal is over. However, when it comes to the hana’ah of delving into a sugya, the enjoyment comes as soon as you start -- the enjoyment stems from the process of learning, regardless of whether you ever reach or ever can reach an endpoint or conclusion. A hana’ah sichlit is a different type of hana’ah, says the Chinuch.
True, you don’t make a siyum when you are only holding on daf beis – but you do say a birchas haTorah.
If all you see when you look at Eretz Yisrael is a physical place, a country like any other, albeit with more Jews living there, then ain hachi nami, you may not have much to celebrate yet. We’re not ready for birchas ha’mazon; the satiation is not there yet. But if you see the building of our land as the unfolding of giluy malchus shamayim, then it’s a hana’ah sichlit, then the process alone is worthy of bracha and celebration. There is a pnimiyus to Eretz Yisrael, to the physical land and trees and mountains, that does not exist anywhere else in the world. There is inherent spirituality that resides in every blade of grass and every brick that is there. Every drop of that that we enjoy is worthy of celebration, even if we don't see the whole picture yet. That’s what we say hallel and give thanks for. 5 Iyar is not a birchas ha'mazon -- it's a birchas haTorah.
“K’ma’aseh Eretz Mitzrayim asher y’shavtem bah lo ta’asu…” Do we need to be reminded that we once lived in Eretz Mitzrayim? “Uk’ma’aseh Eretz Canaan asher ani mavi eschem shamah lo ta’asu…” Do we need to be told that Hashem is bringing us into Eretz Yisrael? The Kli Yakar answers that the Torah is telling us exactly what wrong deeds are the “k’ma’aseh Eretz Mitzrayim” and “ma’aseh Eretz Canaan” that the Torah is warning us of. Firstly, there is the “k’ma’aseh Eretz Mitzrayim” error of “y’shavtem bah,” of choosing to dwell there as if galus was home, not understanding that Mitzrayim and every other galus is just a temporary waystation. We sometimes forget that we don’t belong here no matter how nice it is. Secondly, there is the wrong of “ma’aseh Eretz Canaan,” where “ani mavi eschem shamah,” where I am bringing you there, where I need to twist your arm and drag you through a desert and bring you there willy-nilly. It shouldn't be Hashem that is dragging us there -- we should be running and dancing with joy on our own accord to get there.
B'ezras Hashem we should get the message on our own, without a BDS movement or an Obama or what goes on in London, Brussels, and Paris to remind us.