As kids grow up, they get interested in seeing if they share their birthdays with someone famous. In my case, I realized early on that my birthday - May 14, 1948 - was extra special because I shared it with an entire nation, Israel.
Today, as Israel and I mark our 60th birthday, I feel more than a little trepidation. No, I'm not concerned about my looming demise. After all, at 60, you realize you've passed the half-turn and likely are getting to the three-quarters pole.
No, my trepidation is over Israel, which is more threatened than ever before in its fragile history. I'm struck by this particularly horrible notion: I may live to see Israel's end. This possibility seems more real than ever, given the rising anti-Semitism we see around the globe combined with the fanaticism of radial Islamists.
Leading Islamofascists like Ahmadinejad of Iran talk of "wiping Israel off the map" and call it "a stinking corpse." At least no one can accuse him of subtlety. But what is really distressing is the response from the West, which can be characterized as "whatever."
Where the Left once could be counted on to stand up for Israel, it now has taken up the banner of the Palestinians. Ex-president Jimmy Carter has lent whatever remains of his tattered prestige to accuse the Israelis of human rights violations against the Palestinians. Indeed, Europe, which forever wears the stain of the Holocaust, seems indifferent at best, and downright hostile in the main, toward Israel's right to exist.
When Israel was created six decades ago, the Western democracies were returning a people to their cherished homeland where they had flourished 2,000 years before. With almost 40% of Jews exterminated in World War II, this action was the least the world could do to right the most heinous wrong in human history.
At the time, the war victors contemplated a two-state solution, with an Arab state adjoining Israel. But conflict immediately broke out upon Israel's creation, and the Jews there have been fighting for their lives ever since.
What has come of this creation? Israel is a modern, prosperous democracy in the heart of a region of undeveloped nations. Arabs living in Israel have enjoyed rights they would lack in other countries, with Arabs serving as members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
Given its precarious situation, Israel has developed one of the finer militaries in the world, a fact not lost on its neighbors who have tried more than once and failed miserably to squash the Jewish state.
But where Israel once was buoyed by world opinion, it now finds itself increasingly isolated in a very hostile environment. Only the United States stands strongly beside Israel, providing both the political and financial support so critical for its continued existence.
Indeed, Israel has had no president more committed to its future than George Bush. Whether his successor, be it Obama or McCain, will be as steadfast remains to be seen.
So I blow out my birthday candles this week with a grateful heart for all I have enjoyed in my six decades - a wonderful wife, daughter and family now blessed with a grandson. But what will he, and someday, his children see become of Israel, if it still manages to exist?
I can only pray that Israel will continue to flourish long after I have left this earth, and that young Rylan will feel the same love and empathy in his heart that this Roman Catholic feels for his Israeli brethren.