It is another brilliant sunny day, as I step onto the balcony and face the Jerusalem hills with their lush pine trees. My eyes move to the right and the El’ah Valley emerges, with shepherds moving their sheep on the rocky terrain much like in biblical times. Then I look at the opposite side to encounter brand new high rise towers and construction cranes everywhere. Bet Shemesh has quadrupled its population in the last few decades which is symptomatic of the incredible infrastructure development of the Jewish state, including the growth of it high-tech industries. Yet, the better known area of its miraculous transformation is the military.
At the end of WWII, the Jewish people lost a third of its population in the Nazi Holocaust. Three years later, survivors of the Holocaust, alongside native Israelis, fought for independence in 1948, with deficient arms and manpower against vastly superior armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Military contingents from North Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf also participated in the drive to “push the Jews into the sea.” Israel’s triumph at the cost of 1% of its total population could be seen as a “David against Goliath” struggle. As a nation and a people exiled from its homeland, persecuted everywhere, ghettoized in Christian Europe and the Muslim world, Jews have been defenseless since the Bar Kochva rebellion (132-135 CE). The perception that Jews do not fight was made clear when this reporter encountered a gentile lady in New York after the Six Day War, who commented “I didn’t know Jews could fight…”
Indeed, Israeli Jews fought and triumphed in major wars in the 1956 Sinai Campaign, 1967 Six Day War, and even in the bloody 1973 Yom Kippur War. Using brain and brawn, Israel eliminated Iraq and Syria’s nuclear facilities, chased Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists out of Lebanon, and dealt severe blows to the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists in recent engagements.
Counted as one of the most effective armies in the world, Israel’s military, including its intelligence services, which is perhaps second to none, is in itself a miracle. That notwithstanding, Israel’s more incredible miracle is the revival and restoration of the ancient Hebrew language as a day-to-day language spoken by almost 9 million people.
Modern Hebrew began as an effort by Eliezer Ben Yehuda who immigrated to Palestine in 1881, (under Ottoman Rule at the time) following his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he majored in Middle Eastern studies and history. A committed Zionist, he was born in Lithuania to a family that spoke Yiddish at home and used Hebrew as a sacred text in his Yeshiva studies. Ben Yehuda saw the revival of Hebrew as a vital component to unite the Jewish communities in Palestine who spoke various languages. He himself spoke Hebrew with his wife and children, and developed a dictionary to address words that had no Hebrew interpretation (words like newspaper or car). Ben Yehuda developed the new Hebrew grammar. His Hebrew language newspaper, Ha’Tzvi became popular, spreading throughout the Jewish communities in Palestine and the Diaspora. Ben Yehuda pressed for Jewish communities to adopt the Hebrew tongue, taking upon himself to become the father of the revival of the Hebrew language for the Jewish people in what would later become the state of Israel. Ben Yehuda famously said “In order to have our own land and a political life…we must have a Hebrew language in which we can conduct the business of life.”
Prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C., Hebrew was the language spoken by the Jewish people since the second millennium B.C. From the 6th century until the close of the Middle Ages, many Jews spoke Aramaic. In Palestine, prior to the arrival of Ben Yehuda, Ashkenazi Jews spoke Yiddish while Sephardi Jews spoke Ladino. The ancient Hebrew language was preserved by the Jewish people through holy texts. It was not until the beginning of the immigration of Jews from Europe to Palestine in the late 19th century and early 20th century that Hebrew was revived as a spoken language. Jews immigrating to Israel from more than 80 counties now speak Hebrew as their native language (immigrants are sustained by Israeli government funds while studying Hebrew in Ulpan – Hebrew language preparatory institute). The restoration of Hebrew as a living language fulfills the promise made in Ezekiel 37: 14, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”
Another miracle is Israel’s cultural integration. Immigrants speaking scores of languages and coming from diverse and pre-modern cultural backgrounds have been integrated into what we might safely called “Israeli culture.” Ethiopian and Soviet immigrants have become “Israelized,” too. Many Arab-Israelis have also adopted the Israeli secular culture. This reporter, sitting in the lobby of an Eilat hotel, couldn’t distinguish between an Arab and Jewish Israeli or between a Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jew. All dress alike (the exception being Arab Muslim women and Druze women) while mingling in the cultural and social venues. The once “Black Panthers,” as the oriental Jewish community members of Wadi Salib in Haifa called themselves as they rioted against “discrimination” in 1959, are today middle-class Israelis, and some have even become members of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament).
One cannot ignore Israel’s economic miracle – a small country without natural resources other than the brain power and creativity of its people. Israel, from 1950 to 1952 absorbed 750,000 immigrants (from 650,000 to 1.4 million), more than doubling its population. By the end of the decade its population stood at 2 million. The arriving immigrants were mostly impoverished Jewish refugees who, during the Holocaust, were preoccupied with survival, not education. Their counterparts from Arab nations, especially those from Yemen, tended to be less educated.
Doubling its population over the course of two years put a tremendous strain on the Jewish state, given the lack of natural resources. The desperate immigrants needed to be absorbed and integrated, and the government’s limited resources had to be directed to building infrastructure to serve the people and the military. In the intervening 70 years, Israel has transformed from a war-torn nation struggling for survival to become a technological powerhouse, which has seen economic growth for 15 consecutive years.
The OECD Economic outlook database for March, 2018 reported that “Israel’s economy continues to register remarkable macroeconomic and fiscal performance. Growth is strong and unemployment low and falling. With low interest rates and price stability, financial policy is prudent, and public debt is comparatively low and declining. The external position is solid, thanks to a dynamic high-tech sector. The average standard of living is improving, mainly due to higher employment rates. Continued accommodative macro policies and planned investments in the offshore gas fields in the coming years will spur further growth. Against this backdrop, Israelis remain on average more satisfied with their lives than residents of most other OECD countries.” Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug pointed out in a Jerusalem press conference earlier this year that “We can stop and look back with satisfaction at the amazing achievement made by the Israeli economy in the 70 years of the State’s existence.” Flug added, “The country has gone from a chronic balance of payment, huge debt, and runaway inflation to a balance of payment surplus, a surplus of assets over liabilities, and inflation that we would like to be a little higher.”
The cranes I saw in my surroundings symbolize the miracle that is Israel. It is building towers for future generation while shepherds still roam its biblical land…
Members of Students for Justice in Palestine speak at the “Palestine Without Borders” session at the 2018 United We Dream National Congress. Photo: Youth Empowerment Alliance.
A pro-Israel group on Thursday denounced an “antisemitic” session recently hosted by an immigrant youth organization, which compared Israel with Nazi Germany and equated the movement for Jewish self-determination with white supremacy and genocide.
69% of progressives are ashamed to be Americans, but 63% are proud of their political ideology instead. The majority don’t attend religious services, but 73% list politics as their preoccupation.
Numbers from one poll showed that, “religiously unaffiliated Democrats were more than twice as likely to have attended a rally within the past 12 months compared with their religious peers” and were “significantly more likely to have contacted an elected official or to have donated to a candidate or cause” or “bought or boycotted a product for political reasons or posted political opinions online”.
Campus Week: A guide for Jewish students and their elders
Anti-Zionism ghettoizes Jews from the rest of the justice movement, putting a wall around us that separates us from other marginalized people. It cannot be reconciled with any movement striving for inclusivity. It denies us access to solidarity-based movements which should be fighting for equality, for historically oppressed peoples. As American Jewish students return to campus, they should prepare to be challenged academically and intellectually, and should also prepare to challenge movements that don’t respect Zionism and their Jewish heritage.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed a video showing two speakers who called for the “liberation of all of Palestine 48” and “we must take a stand and boycott Israel. BDS.” The slogan to “liberate all of Palestine” reverts to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948 and is widely considered a euphemism to cleanse Israel of Jews.
The German Middle East expert Thomas von der Osten-Sacken wrote an article on the website of the Austrian-based think tank Mena-Watch, with the headline “Speaker at indivisible demonstration calls for Israel’s destruction.” The protest was called #unteilbar (indivisible) by its organizers.
From 1998 to 2008, 5.4 million Congolese died as a result of civil war. Most of the Congolese asylum seekers in Israel came during this period.
It is now the turn of hundreds of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to be deported back to their country. The Foreign Ministry has implied that the conditions that justified collective protection to Congolese asylum seekers no longer prevail and that there is nothing to prevent them from returning home safely. The Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) has given them 90 days to leave the country.
With its decades-old track record of murder and mayhem, Hamas has already secured itself a place in the annals of infamy.
From bus bombings to underground terror tunnels to the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and projectiles at Israeli towns and cities, the Islamic extremist group has repeatedly found new ways to sow widespread death and destruction.
Since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005, the standard of living for the Palestinian people in Gaza has steadily declined, even though Israel gifted the Palestinians with thriving agricultural lands, productive greenhouses and beautiful beachfront communities.
Every once in a while, I come across a book that I can say changed the way I understand the world I live in. Raymond Ibrahim’s new book, Sword and Scimitar, altered the way I understand the development of our civilization – I mean the one that America inherited from Europe and made our own. It drove home to me how little I knew about the way Islam – in the form of attempted and often successful conquest – really changed the way our civilization evolved and the way it grew to understand itself.
American Thinker: “How War with Islam Shaped and Defined Us”
“In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews,” Hatem Bazian reportedly declared, “until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him!”
That was in 1999.
Two years later, Bazian had co-founded Students for Justice in Palestine. Three years later, 79 members of his new SJP hate group were busted for disrupting a Holocaust Remembrance Day event.
Iran is a formidable enemy. A large country of more than 80 million people, endowed with energy riches, it has always been a regional power. Having an imperial past and revolutionary zeal (since the 1979 Iranian Revolution), Iran nourishes ambitions to rule over the Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, theologically there is no place in Iranian thinking for a Jewish state.