The Jerusalem Quandary
By Alan Caruba
I have often wondered why it is such a tiny nation as Israel commands so much news coverage. Having declared its sovereignty in 1948, it is now just over sixty years old.
David Ben-Gurion went on the radio and said, “Two thousand years of wandering have come to an end.”
The name, Israel, means “he who wrestles with God.” The wandering began after the Jews had lived in Israel for over a thousand years, after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and drove them out in 70 AD.
Israel has fought and won wars intended to annihilate it. Zionism, a new Jewish state, began as the dream in the late 1800s among European and Russian Jews seeking to escape anti-Semitism. It became a place of refuge for Holocaust survivors in the late 1940s and for Jews who were forced to flee Middle Eastern nations.
For a relatively new nation, it has held the attention of the world from the day it was reborn in the sweat and blood of Jews seeking a place where being Jewish was normal, accepted, unexceptional.
To gain an extraordinary insight, I recommend you read Rich Cohen’s “Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and its History” ($26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), possibly one of the best books I have read in decades about the astonishing history of Israel from its earliest to the present times. It is filled with stories of the people who built the First Temple and, after the destruction of the Second Tempe, as Cohen says, “turned the Temple into a book”, praying for the next two millennia, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The real Jews and real Israel are obscured by the hatred attached to them by their Muslim enemies and other antagonists, but there are many who now refer to themselves as Christian Zionists because to be a Zionist is to advocate a land for the Jews. As Cohen puts it, to be Christian is to be Jewish without actually being Jewish.
The quandary of Jerusalem is that three major religions lay claim to it. To be Jewish, to be Christian, even to be Muslim, Jerusalem is considered holy, but its long history has been a litany of bloodletting as claimants sought to legitimatize their faiths with its possession.
What the original Zionists discovered was that Israel, called Palestine at the time because of the British mandate over it, was not “a land without people for a people without a land” or that its history ended after the Jews were driven out by the Romans to become the Diaspora living among other nations.
As Cohen notes, “The Zionist ideology was beautiful, but for the pioneers to fulfill it, the Arabs could not exist.” They did, however, exist. The quandary, the conundrum of Jerusalem and of Israel is that the dynamics of demography, of birth statistics, puts the existence of the Jewish state at risk. The Arabs were there. The Arabs are there.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Arabs did not wish to yield an inch of the land in 1948 and do not wish to do so now. They do not want a “two-state solution.” They want what the Nazis called “The final solution.”
For the early pioneers of Israel, its reestablishment was a form of redemption. As one of its founding rabbis, Abraham Kook expressed it the purpose of the Jew is to bring the divine idea into the world. To bring this idea to fruition, to bring the Lord back into the lives of man, he said, the Jews must return to Zion. His son, Ziv Yeshiva Kook, called the Holocaust a “cruel divine operation needed to lift (the Jews) up to the land of Israel against their wills.”
The Holocaust, however, was more like the fulfillment of the hope of anti-Semites, the extermination of Jews from the Earth. It has something to do with the role Jews have played in relationship to the one God three major faiths lay claim. The Jews are happy to share their God with others, but insist that some rules be obeyed in the process.
Jews living in America had already found their Zion, a place where Jews could live normal lives. At the turn of the century, Jewish immigrants overwhelmingly chose America, not Israel.
Before and since Israel’s founding, many made “aliyah” (return) and some fifteen percent of them are American born. Since 1967, following a decisive war, more than two hundred Jewish settlements have been built in what are referred to as the territories. In 2005, seeking to exchange land for peace, Israelis were forced to leave Gaza. Israel did not get peace. It got rockets.
Until now, American Presidents have been friendly to Israel, but that has changed with President Barack Hussein Obama. His recent demands to stop the construction of twenty housing units in East Jerusalem are a rebuke to Israel’s very existence. Cohen notes that, “There are two hundred thousand Jews living on the West Bank—half of them in East Jerusalem, in neighborhoods (that) Israel insists it will keep in any peace deal.”
There will be no peace deal and the Jews of Jerusalem and Israel will continue to lay claim to their nation. They have built a nation, but in doing so, they have transformed themselves, often in ways even they don’t like.
The fly in the ointment is Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and its constant threats to “wipe Israel off the map.”
The new generation of Iranians protesting in the streets has to hurry up and remove the evil mullahs and ayatollahs holding their ancient nation back from its full potential, from freedom. Israel cannot wait forever to end an atomic, existential threat. If it must, it will once again re-write the history of the Middle East.
Alan Caruba writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. A business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center.
© Alan Caruba, July 2009