“The Israel Advocate”
by Nathan Borsky, Israel Advocacy Chairman
During October and November of this year we featured a film series titled Pillar of Fire capping off a year of celebrating Israel’s 70th Anniversary. The episodes deal with awakening and actualization of Zionism by the Moses of our time, Theodor Herzl all the way through the creation and declaration of the State of Israel.
Herzl’s Zionist Aha Moment. It’s December 1894 in Paris. Theodor Herzl, a 34-year-old assimilated Austrian-Hungarian Jew, is covering the Dreyfus Affair. This lawyer, playwright, and journalist, with piercing eyes and a beautiful black beard, embodies the Enlightened rationalism and liberalism that freed Europe from the Middle Ages and Jews from their ghettoes. Alfred Dreyfus, a French officer and a Jew, stands trial for treason. On December 22, 1894, when the court convicts Dreyfus—on trumped up charges, leading later to Emile Zola’s famous J’accuse—the crowd, inflamed by nationalism, doesn’t shout “Down with Dreyfus.” Instead, they yell—in Enlightened Paris—“Down with the Jews.”
Theodor Herzl has his Jewish awakening. He is possessed and becomes obsessed with an idea that is bigger than life. How to bring it into reality? He is strongly aware of events swirling like a whirlwind in Europe. Watching European nationalism cohere, appreciating the nation-state as the modern world’s defining political unit, knowing that, as he writes, “the Jews are one people,” Herzl realizes that until the Jews control their own country, Jew hatred will persist. The Jews must leave Europe and re-establish their ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel. With this evolution from the Wandering Jew to the Settled Israeli, Herzl theorized, anti-Semitism would disappear, Jewish pride would reappear. Jews could be normal again—after centuries of national purgatory causing persecution. Thus, began his journey.
This was his first entry in his diary:
I have been occupied for some time past with a work which is of immeasurable greatness. I cannot tell today whether I shall bring it to a close. It has the appearance of a gigantic dream. But for days and weeks it has filled me, saturated even my subconsciousness; it accompanies me wherever I go, broods above my ordinary daily converse, looks over my shoulder and at my petty, comical journalistic work, disturbs me, and intoxicates me. Finally in 1896, Herzl finishes the pamphlet, Der Judenstat, the Jewish State.
Events proceeded swiftly.
In 1897 Hezl organized the first Zionist Congress in Basel; in 1898 he visited Palestine; Herzl presided over the next six congresses. Unfortunately, Herzl died prematurely on July 3rd, 1904. A day before his death, he told the Reverend William H. Hechler: “Greet Palestine for me. I gave my heart’s blood for my people. The man who insisted “If you will it, it is no dream,” was prophetic. Herzl wrote in 1897, “At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in 5 years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it.” Fifty-one years later, in 1948, Israel, the Jewish State, was established.
If Herzl could only have lived to see the fruition of his dream here is what he would have witnessed. Israel: A 70-Year Miracle One of the proudest accomplishments in world history. Now, as Israel’s 70th birthday has just been celebrated, it is a good time, in our own day, to review what has been accomplished.
Now, as Israel’s 70th birthday has just been celebrated, it is a good time, in our own day, to review what has been accomplished.
What are the facts?
The Birth of a Nation: The State of Israel was born out of the ashes of the Nazi Holocaust, probably the most horrible crime in the blood-stained history of mankind. The “yishuv,” (the Jewish population of the country) consisted of barely 400,000 people. On the very day of its birth Israel was invaded by the armies of five neighboring Arab states. Almost miraculously, the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Jewish forces managed to overcome the combined Arab might. But they paid a horrendous price for their victory. More than 6,000 combatants and civilians perished in that War of Independence. It was as if the United States were to lose over 6 million people in combat. But the War of Independence was not the only one that Israel’s implacable enemies foisted on it. There was, perhaps most importantly, the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel gained a spectacular victory, which will be studied and analyzed in military academies of the world until the end of time.
The Jewish People’s Renaissance.
There is no comparison in history to the Jewish people’s renaissance after 2,000 years of persecution, discrimination and exile, and its transformation into a Jewish nation. Jews from all over the globe flooded into the newly established haven of the Jewish nation. All received a brotherly welcome and were seamlessly integrated into the new state. One of the proudest accomplishments of the Jewish State of Israel was the ingathering of the black Jews of Ethiopia. They, also, are now an integral part of their new country. As an example, the past Miss Israel was a lovely woman of Ethiopian heritage.
Almost one-half of the world’s Jews now live in Israel, having immigrated from all corners of the world. These millions are now fully part of their country, truly an unprecedented accomplishment.
One of Israel’s major successes is the revival of the ancient Hebrew language. It had been used only as a religious language for the over 2,000 years of the Jewish diaspora. It has been fully “modernized” and is used as the daily vernacular of Israel for all purposes. There is nothing comparable to it in the history of the world. To the amazement of all, including perhaps many Jews, Israel, forced by necessity, has emerged as one of the world’s important military powers. It has proven more than able to hold its own though surrounded by enemies, who are determined and fixated on its annihilation.
An Economic Powerhouse.
Economically, Israel’s position at its 70th birthday can only be described as miraculous. It is economically comparable to most European countries and superior to quite a few. It is a front of innovation, a high-tech powerhouse, fueled by the country’s world-class universities and technical schools. Most United States high-tech companies have branches and laboratories in Israel. They consider them as a source of creativity and of new development. Next to the U.S. itself and Canada, Israel has more companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges than any other country. So, in summary: