About the Nazi Holocaust, one Christian historian has written: “The fact that it could take place in the heart of Europe, in the middle of the 20th Century, carried out in the name of what had seemed to be and in many ways was the most developed of nations, called into question every notion of Christendom, of European civilization, of enlightenment, of progress.”
There was a grisly lobby of six million ghosts floating above the East River.
November 29 marked the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council’s passage of the much-overlooked and thoroughly misunderstood Palestine Partition Resolution. The UN was new, the thermal heat of the European Holocaust of the Jews still pressed, and the global Christian conscience was reeling from the truth.
The Resolution, dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, was passed by a vote of 33-13. It was the only the time that the United States and the then-Soviet Union ever cast the same vote (Yes) in the history of the UN. There was a grisly lobby of six million ghosts floating above the East River.
For a flash, it was morally incumbent upon the nations of the world to understand some virtue in Jewish yearnings, to hear some truth in Hebrew folk songs. We need to point out that the soul-searching of the Gentile world, especially the Catholics, on this subject, and its fascination with the reborn Israel, has been a significant element of recent Christian liturgy and principles. Some of them are really trying.
But meanwhile, the blessing of the greater world would have been fruitless without the sharp preparedness of the Jewish people to seize the moment – and this remains the singular achievement of Zionism. The Jewish Agency was ready in Palestine: It had sustained a provisional government under the British there even with arid conditions, poor resources, meager support, civil war in the land, disaster in Europe. It turns out that the Jewish people, especially the tattered pioneers of modern Israel, were not dead – we were prone.
You have to think about this! Let us honor the triumph of Zionism exactly 70 years after the UN made Israel its own child. It was only 35 months after the liberation of Auschwitz. What other ethnic group might have done it? What other nation in human history has remade itself, literally and physically, on desert land, after losing not one million, but six million of our family, including nearly two million children?
It is a stunning accomplishment, and it stands in stark contrast to the general failure of the Palestinian Authority to create a real national home for its very deserving people in the selfsame region. We were handed ashes and we made a home. They are handed territory, tools, guns, resources, and the benefit of our experience.
Perhaps it is not for us to judge them, when we should fulfill Zionism’s greatest hope by learning to live with them and we should honor the Torah’s constant teaching about welcoming and including the stranger. But one thing is for certain: The Palestinian Authority is no Jewish Agency.
Now, meanwhile, on this significant anniversary of Jewish yearnings fulfilled, Israel is not altogether a folk song, nor is it a biblical verse. It is a real place, with a budget, intense security issues, and a traffic pattern, born of an inspiring Zionist movement that is a resounding success.
Yes, you can say that Zionism has not made the world a totally safe place for Jews. Yes, you can remember that most Jews have not made aliyah to the land, but thank goodness that Diaspora Jewry, especially in North America, is proactive in the protection of the state.
There have been, and remain, significant issues. Israel remains mired in a human rights crucible exacerbated by the now fifty-year occupation of the West Bank. The fact that the situation was created by the combined invasion of five Arab armies in June, 1967 no longer exonerates the Jewish State from responsibility to the innocent Palestinian children living in the region. They want books, not blockades. They require milk, not military. Israel has been so exceptionally innovative in so many areas—where is that inventive spirit in this painful matter?
You can bemoan the fact that more than half a million Israelis now live outside of Israel, that Los Angeles is the fourth largest Israeli city by population in the world today, and that the Hebrew language is now actually spoken by more Arabs than by Jewish-Americans.
And yet: who are we without Zionism, even if Zionism is not exactly what it originally was?
Israel is the modern realization of the melodies of David’s harp, the military songs of Deborah, the love lyrics of Solomon. The fact that its founding movement, now well over a hundred years old, born of pain, chutzpah, and a million eucalyptus trees, has reinvented itself time and again, is a tribute to its endurance and glory.
The Romans were supposedly an eternal dominion. The sun never set, they said, on the British Empire. The Third Reich was to last a thousand years. All three of these powers have, at one time or another, subjugated the Jews. Zionism, that special expression of Jewish life that has turned the Psalms into action, has succeeded.
It says to every Jew: we’re still here. And it speaks to everyone else: know the history before you judge the present.