I watch the sun set on Jerusalem’s horizon, painting the sky fiery red and the city in a heavenly gold. Israelis celebrate today 67 years of independence and I sit and reflect upon the recent history of my ancient People. I’m drawn to the chronology of a nation’s Near Death Experience to her amazing rebirth, then instantaneously facing battles outnumbered and out-armed but miraculously triumphant with unprecedented victories. From the day the attackers retreated to this day the country is in a state of unresolved perpetuating civil war. It is evidently a complex issue with no obvious solution in sight. Questions remain unanswered and thus are damned to be invoked repeatedly. The culture, morale and destiny of the country are in constant dispute, hence the laws are forever debated and changed, and thus its direction remains unknown. It is a strange mixture of desperation and prosperity, confusion and relative tranquility.
For two thousand years the exiled people of Israel carried a dream, one they knew with all their conscience, will come true one day. It was the vision of their ultimate return to their ancient homeland and the restoration of their own sovereignty and power. But it was primarily the promise of the reconstruction of the Temple and its rituals in a world of peace and coexistence that inspired them throughout the ages. On Passover night when commemorating our freedom and liberation of Egypt, grandchildren all over the world sat on their grandparents’ lap while they recited in the Haggadah: “This year we are here, next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year free men.” From Poland and Spain to Baghdad and Morocco, in Greece, Italy, America and Russia- all children listened quietly united in tears and hopes yearning for the same future: next year in the Land of Israel. Next year free men.
In 1948, a prophetic drama unraveled. The nations of the world (many of which were sworn enemies to each other) convened and decided that the Jews should have the legal authoritative rights to the strip of land then called Palestine. Jews all over the world rejoiced and celebrated, and one by one slowly started returning to their homeland. Right upon arrival they discovered the land of milk and honey to be a fruitless dessert land and a poverty-stricken environment. No schools or universities to send their children, no business or opportunity to make a living it was a truly forsaken territory. Apparently the spirit of the Land was exiled together with her people.
Indeed, when her people returned so did her spirit. In only a few short decades the soil and trees that were barren for two millennium were converted to international exporters of fresh produce, the ignorance was transformed to world leading inventory and front-runners of cutting edge technology, and the illiterate inhabitants are now scholars and professors in every area of knowledge. The slums of yesteryear are homes to skyscrapers and luxurious resorts, the abandoned land became an industrial capital where investors and entrepreneurs flock en mass. The defenseless wandering nomad is now a military hero, and recognized among the mightiest armies that holds its own sophisticated weaponry.
But perhaps most marvelous of all, is the awakening of tens of thousands of Jews that feel the significance of this era and the importance of their role in it. Thousands of schools for boys and girls, children and adults of all backgrounds where Torah is taught sprouted all over the State. Programs for new learners and institutions for the highly educated are proudly funded by the government and private donors. The interest and thirst for knowledge of God’s Word is remarkable. And while the fear of being openly Jewish is increasing in many places for the tides of poisonous waves of anti-Semitism is again on the rise, every Jew knows that the gates of Israel will never be sealed before him. It’s a safe haven he can rely will answer his call in times of crisis.
On the other hand, many vicious enemies attempt ceaselessly to extinguish this blazing torch of freedom and redemption. Many carry a fanatical religious apocalyptic future for the region, others which are driven by bloodthirsty, greedy politics and Jew hatred. By bombarding cities with missiles and buses with explosives, digging tunnels under kindergartens, kidnapping and murdering passers-by on the street; they terrorize the population psychologically and physically. Although the world is not (yet) as blind to threats against this people as it always was, the choices of policy made by legislators and leaders in Israel and abroad are isolating this young state economically and socially.
But this all might seem to be a smaller threat relative to the larger danger, and that is of this evolving miracle committing suicide. As the trend in the world is heading to godlessness, it seems to seduce many at home too. Thus, they became uncomfortable with their origin and consequently denying themselves its destiny. Many mock their rich heritage as primitive and immature; succumbing to the fleeting fashions and styles of today and leaving behind the morals of yesterday. The identity and reason for being, the dream and the vision, the promise and the hope, the voice of the prophet that inspired them throughout the long night in the forests, is almost forgotten. Not yet. It is this limbo that the soul of Israel lives in today, beautiful and tragic at once.