A CURSE OR A BLESSING?

January 30, 2008 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

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What makes Israel so special?

By RALPH DOBRIN

Religion and history make Israel special. According to Jewish belief, this is the land promised by the Almighty to the Jewish people for ever. There are many other reasons, religiously, why Israel is so special. Many of the events recounted in the Bible took place in this land. Every hill and valley is connected with the scriptures. The poetic books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Prophetic writings created thousands of years ago allude over and over again to the Land of Israel. The prayers of 70 generations in Exile supplicate for a return to this land. All over the world, Jews turned in the direction of Jerusalem when they prayed. Even in wedding ceremonies, the destruction of Jerusalem was lamented. Countless generations were prepared to risk death in order to remain faithful to the Jewish religion, always with the hope that one day their descendants would be able to live in the Land of Israel.

Historically, there is no doubt that the Jews have had a powerful emotional bond with this Land for over 3,500 years. For much of this time their bond has been physical as well. During the long years of Exile, Jewish yearning to return was actually heightened by oppression. By the turn of the nineteenth century many Jews felt that the only solution to the oppression was the Return to the Land of Israel.

But over the centuries much of the land had become malarial wasteland. Hundreds of years of neglect and abuse had transformed large areas into barren, practically uninhabitable desert or swampland.

Famous travelers such as Mark Twain and Herman Melville comment graphically about the wretched situation in the Promised Land. A mere few hundred thousand people lived in the whole of Palestine, which at that time was still a Turkish province that also included today’s Kingdom of Jordan.

Life was fraught with disease, widespread poverty and a desperate struggle to feed one’s family. Banditry was usually more effective than farming, and was therefore quite prevalent, especially among the Beduins. Also thousands of people were killed in the periodic battles between Arab villages and tribes. The reasons for these battles were either simply to take another tribe’s land or because of an insult or attack perpetrated generations before. Often clans continued to fight each other even though no one remembered the original reason.

It was a truly cursed land. A few tens of thousands of Jews lived in various parts of the country, but mainly in Jerusalem, Safad and Jaffa. Their lives, too, were noted for their abject poverty. A main occupation was the study of Talmud. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the Jewish renaissance took place in the form of a return to the soil. Despite colossal hardships, Jews managed to establish thriving agricultural settlements.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, many local Arabs viewed the increased influx of Jews into Palestine and their building ever more settlements with great alarm. They weren’t interested in the three millennia Jewish connection to the land.

So the stage was set for a terrible, ongoing struggle between two nations. A tiny Jewish population which would become the State of Israel, standing against the local Arabs, joined by the surrounding Arab countries, and bolstered by their enormous oil revenues and international support.

Since then the conflict has continued – in many forms and on different scales. Over 21,000 Israeli soldiers have fallen in Israel’s wars of survival. Many additional thousands of civilians have also lost their lives. In terms of relative population this figure is the equivalent of a million American soldiers losing their lives
This huge sacrifice in lives alone makes Israel special.

The ongoing struggle to build and maintain a Jewish state – the only one in the world – makes Israel special.

Israel is special because no other nation on earth has survived exile and then become resurrected again.
Israel is special because history has shown that in the Diaspora, the Jew can never really feel safe from racial discrimination and persecution, and it is only in Israel that Jews can determine their own fate and fight for their security.

Israel is special because of the huge national effort directed to the Ingathering of the Exiles.
Israel is special because here the Jew can feel a tangible connection to his or her earliest roots.
Israel is special because of the hope for a better world, implicit in its very existence. Israel is more than just a country. Israel is really an ideal, that suggests a striving for all that is fine in the human spirit.

Observing Israel’s society today, this might seem to be a rather strange notion. But that is what the word Israel suggests. And in actual fact that is what Israel should be working towards, because without doing so the dream of redemption, part of which has come true in our time, is turning sour.

But on a personal level people in Israel have devoted their lives to the naturally mundane efforts of livelihood, acquisition of homes and items aimed at enhancing their comfort and entertainment. They have allowed the specialness of Israel to slip their minds. This doesn’t really make sense if one considers the Jews’ special past as a nation – a past that stretches far longer than most other nations, a past that includes colossal suffering as well as amazing achievements, a past that has had a bearing on the ethics and morals of half the world.

One of the most pressing needs of the moment is to strengthen the spirit of Israel so as to give it the moral strength to transcend its present challenges and to truly be deserving of its fabulous name: Israel! To do all this the Israelis must once again realize just how special Israel is!

To read more visit http://www.israelandtruth.org

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Entry filed under: Inspiration.

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