Israel - An Unlikely Miracle



On a beach near the border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Israeli port city of Eilat, with the rich azure waters of the Gulf of Aqaba lapping up on its shores, I am taking a holiday with my son as is the whole of Israel on this the first day of Passover. On the beach, there is the full gamut of Israeli society, from generation Xers replete with tattoos and body piercings and the more religiously inclined with males in yarmulkes and girls and mothers with full length skirts and bonnets. They are busily chatting in Hebrew, although some few are speaking English and a smattering of other languages as well.

We have, in other words, a beach full of Jewish people enjoying a warm, cloudless day in the modern state of Israel. This altogether conventional scene, when taken out of the context of the 2,000 year Jewish Diaspora preceding it, belies its own absurdity and implausibility. For, since the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 AD, the Jews have wandered the world as perpetual outcasts, often, if not generally, despised and persecuted, of second class status (or worse), and frequently set upon by host communities or states in spasms of violence great and small, including Inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, and a Holocaust.

The appearance of the modern state of Israel on the world stage, in light of this, can properly be seen as something of a miracle, a most unlikely in-gathering of the exiles to their eternal homeland, part of the patrimony promised the House of Israel by God Himself, the living God of Israel and of world history, who maintains a special plan for His people. It was also a massive human undertaking, a dramatic and perhaps even utopian effort embracing all spheres that brought the Jewish state into existence. It remains the most improbable of enterprises except for the unappeasable yearning of the Jewish people, carried forth through the millennia, to carve out again from the harsh desert a sovereign state, a third commonwealth, in the Biblical homeland of its ancestors.

But the state of Israel could not be in greater tension with its neighbors, its long term prospects and strategic position more vulnerable and insecure. It is a modern Western nation, a liberal, multicultural democracy, a Jewish state surrounded by Arab/Muslim despotisms, either secular or religious, that consider the presence of the Jewish state in their midst an irritant at best and an intolerable affront at worst.

It does not matter that the land of Israel is a fraction of a percent of the total Arab lands encircling it; a sliver the size of New Jersey, pitched on the Mediterranean Sea, with a population of some five million Jews, for even this fragment seems too unsettling for its Arab cousins who remain uniformly unsympathetic.

When one looks at a map of the Middle East and finds with difficulty the minuscule state of Israel fixed against the overbearing collection of hostile nations surrounding it, one wonders, what it is about a world that finds no difficulty in approving the existence of a North Korea, a Cuba, or a Burkina Faso, for that matter, and all other sundry states, some 190 or so, great or small, vile or good, bankrupt, corrupt, or brutal, to which the international community confers recognition, comity, and acceptance, yet questions regularly the mere right to exist of the democratic Jewish state of Israel?

In the court of the world media, in the halls of power in myriad nations and international assemblies, including most especially the blighted UN, the right to existence of only one state is regularly debated, only one nation attains to pariah status and receives daily a diet of scorn and slander, that faces a chronic existentialist threat, with calls for its destruction by regimes, alliances, and sub-state cartels. It is not Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, or Red China, but the liberal democracy of Israel.

When one hears of the crimes of Israel as advertised in the media, by the Left, and in the Arab/Moslem world, it does not seem to matter that conflicts between Arabs and Moslems have been exponentially more blood thirsty than any between Jews and Arabs. We can cite so many that the world selectively ignores despite their far greater orders of human suffering and death: in Ethiopia, Somalia, Lebanon, Algeria, the Sudan, between Iran and Iraq, Iraq and Kuwait, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Chad and Libya, and many others. No, for varying reasons, only the Arab-Israeli conflict arrests the eyes of the world and its media, notwithstanding the far more brutal exercises occurring in dozens of other locales.

Nor will it help to mention, that if those who obsess regularly over Israel could have their dream of an Israel-free planet, the problems besieging the Arab and Moslem world, the poverty, social atrophy, and lack of freedom, would persist; only they could no longer hold Israel hostage for their self-inflicted wounds.

Despite the enmity of so many, the condemnations, boycotts, and myriad calls for its annihilation, Israel will continue to defy its detractors and astound the world. It will continue to boast an open society, a robust civic and cultural life, and an advanced economy; it will continue to lead the world in a multitude of high tech industries; it will continue to develop its world class universities, hospitals, and museums; it will continue to transform its desert into gardens and forests; it will continue to generate Nobel laureates and billionaires and create products like the cell phone and the Pentium chip - all the while defending itself against its enemies.

An Israeli taxi driver said to me, somewhat acidly, that perhaps Israelis would one day move out of the Holy Land en masse and live in the US or somewhere safe and forget the whole project, leave it to the Arabs, goodbye and good riddance.

But I think not, for the Jewish people live and so will Israel.


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