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A Feisty Little Nation Is Reborn

 

It could be said that the Jewish people were literally “programmed” to return to Zion. The idea of Zion has always been attached to the Jewish heart. At the end of the Passover seder, these wistful words are usually spoken: “Next year in Jerusalem!” On Jewish walls there customarily hangs a small plaque with the word mizrah (east) inscribed.  Three times every day the devout Jew faces toward the east and prays.  He prays for Jerusalem at meals and also in the synagogue.

Indeed the scriptures themselves would not allow the Jews to forget God’s holy city. In Psalm 137:5-6, we are warned about neglecting Jerusalem: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

EARLY ATTEMPTS AT RETURN

Through the long centuries of their dispersion, there were many attempts by the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to the land of Israel. Immigration attempts can be traced all the way back to the earliest days after the unsuccessful Bar Kochba Revolt in AD 135. In those days, a few Jewish scholars immigrated to Israel from Babylon.  Much later in the eighth century, numerous Karaites, a sect of Judaism, immigrated to Israel.

In the twelfth century, the renowned Jewish poet, Judah Halevi penned these mournful words:

My heart is in the east and I am in the far-away west… How little would it mean to me to abandon all the bounty of Spain… How precious it would be to behold even the dust of the Holy Temple that was destroyed. 1

Halevi at last forsook his land and made the hazardous journey to Jerusalem. It is thought today that this beloved poet died in route.

Benjamin of Tudela, the noted traveler, who visited the country in 1167, reported that there were two hundred Jews living in Jerusalem, with 300 in Ramla, 300 in Ashkelon, and 200 both in Casearea and in Akko. Undoubtedly these decimated numbers reflected the ravages of the First Crusade. In 1211, three hundred Rabbis from France immigrated, settling in Acre and in Jerusalem. 2 Their aliya was followed in 1267 by the famous scholar Nahmanides.

The living conditions even in Jerusalem in these early times were difficult and discouraging. A Christian pilgrim visiting the land from 1491-92 made this report:

Christians and Jews alike in Jerusalem lived in great poverty and in conditions of great deprivation, there are not many Christians but there are many Jews, and there the Moslems persecute in various ways. Christians and Jews go about in Jerusalem in clothes considered fit only for wandering beggars… 3

Later, some Jews came from Germany, Spain and France. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and from Portugal in 1497, many more European Jews began to make their
way to Israel.

The seventeenth century saw a wave of immigration as a result of the false Messiah, Shabbetai Zevi. According to one observer, the Jewish community of Jerusalem had grown to 10,000 persons in 1741. In the eighteenth century the Hasidim, an ultra-orthodox group, began to make aliya to the country. Their immigration greatly benefited Jewish settlement. 4

Many other groups trickled into the country in the early nineteenth century. These groups were primarily from Germany, Holland and Hungary.

THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN ALIYA

It was not until the 1880s that the real movement toward settlement in Israel began. Before it could take place, a philosophical and even theological groundwork had to be laid. Initially there was fervent opposition to the idea.


The almond tree blossoms

The almond tree is the first to bloom in Israel, and thus the harbinger of spring. The tree may have gotten its name, sh’ked, which has the meaning of “looking” or “watching,” from the shape of its fruit. The almond fruits indeed are shaped like eyes. In Jeremiah 1:11-12, the Lord spoke to the prophet about the almond tree: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied. The LORD said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’”
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Among the East European Jews, the restoration was considered only in messianic terms. Many believed that only the Messiah could restore Zion. 5  Two things began to have a bearing on this opinion. First, there were the almost prophetic voices that arose to proclaim the cause of Zion. Second, there were the waves of persecution that made the Jews consider a return to the land.

The earliest of these voices raised was Moses Hess (1812-1875). Hess wrote his book Rome and Jerusalem in 1862. His idea was that the Jews should be aided by mankind to re-establish their own nation. After Hess, was an Orthodox Rabbi, Zevi-Hirsch Kalischer. His book, Derishat Zion (Quest for Zion) was also published in 1862. In addition to publishing his book, Kalischer advocated the establishment of agricultural colonies
in Palestine.

Due to Kalischer’s influence, the first agricultural colony was founded in Palestine in 1869, by Alliance Israelite Universelle. The colony was given the name, Mikveh Yisrael (Hope of Israel). Kalischer traveled widely to promote Jewish colonization. In doing so, he laid the foundations for what became a popular movement called Houeve Zion (Lovers of Zion).6

Another prophetic voice to arise among the Jews was Leo Pinsker, an Odessa physician. After the Russian pogroms of 1881-82, Pinsker wrote his pamphlet, Auto-Emancipation (freeing oneself). His thesis was that the Jews were obligated to free themselves, and not wait on others to do it for them. His cries, “Now or Never,” electrified many Jews and particularly the societies of Houeve Zion7

It seemed that these prophetic voices were a last and desperate attempt to save Israel’s dispersed from the horrors that would soon engulf them in Europe.

RUSSIAN POGROMS

In the early 1880s a growing oppression of the Jews began in several European countries. This oppression was particularly strong in Russia. In that country, after the assassination of Alexander II, severe pogroms broke out against the Jews. In the next twenty years over a million Jews fled to the United States. Others however, felt it was time not just to flee, but to find a resolution of the Jewish problem. That resolution focused on the land
of Israel. 8

What it means to “make aliya.”

Aliya is a Hebrew word meaning “ascent.” It is used to describe the coming of the Jews to the land of Israel. The land of Israel ascends from the seashore upwards to Jerusalem, which is situated on one of its highest points. Olim is the collective term for those who have made citizenship. Yoredim (going down) is the term used for those who have left the land.

The First Aliya (1882-1903)- Some 25,000, mostly from Eastern Europe, came at this time.
The Second Aliya (1904-1914) – Consisted of about 40,000 and was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.
The Third Aliya (1919-1923) – Contained many young pioneers. About 35,000 arrived in this period.
The Fourth Aliya (1924-1928) – Totaled some 67,000 with many middle-class immigrants. The bulk of this group was from Poland.
The Fifth Aliya (1929-1939) – There was a total in this group of about 250,000, with many from Nazi Germany.
The Sixth and Seventh Aliyot (1940-1948) – About 100,000 entered the country during this period Immigration was greatly hindered due to British restrictions.
The mass aliya or ingathering of exiles (1948 and following) – When Israel became a state, all immigration restrictions were removed. For instance, in the years 1948-1951, 684,000 immigrants returned home to Israel. 9

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From out of the Houeve Zion movement sprang the first wave of settlement in the land of Israel. These settlers gave themselves the acronym BILU, which taken from the Hebrew scripture in Isaiah 2:5 means, “House of Jacob, come let us go!” As expressed by another verse in Isaiah, those who were ready to perish, began to return to the holy mountain at Jerusalem (Isa. 27:13).

This group marked the beginning of what has come to be known as the First Aliya. The very first group of settlers in 1882 included only 14 people. Life in the desolate land of Israel was very difficult for this small group but they persisted. More new immigrants followed, and by 1884, six settlements were established. These settlements included Gedera and the revival of the previously established settlement at Petah Tikvah (door of hope). 10


Early Jewish settlers work the land (Courtesy, Israel Information Office)

In these early days settlement was greatly assisted by the philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothchild, who started four colonies, including Rishon le-Zion (First to Zion). At Rishon, Rothchild began a redevelopment of the ancient wine culture.

Most of these early settlers suffered severe hardships including a difficult climate and malaria from the surrounding swamps. They also endured attacks from hostile Arabs and harassment from corrupt Turkish officials. 11 Although unfamiliar with the rigors of farming, the early settlers learned its rudiments and did their best. With these early arrivals and with many more who came after them, the words of the prophet Isaiah began to be fulfilled: “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you [the land]…” (Isa. 62:5). The land that had been forsaken so many centuries would now be loved
and married.

HERZL, THE PROPHET OF ZIONISM

As early settlement progressed in the land, the Zionist movement began to be greatly accelerated in Europe. The efforts of the Zionist pioneers soon began to focus on one man, Theodore Herzl.


Theodore Herzl (Courtesy, Israel Information Office)

Herzl, born in Budapest in 1860, exhibited a great deal of literary skill and personal charm. At first he had success by writing light, entertaining plays. Later he submitted regular features to the Neue Freie Press, the most important paper in Vienna, his hometown. 12
In time the newspaper appointed the promising Herzl as its correspondent in Paris. It was in Paris, the cultural capital of Europe, that Herzl received the shock of his life. He witnessed there the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus, a Jew, was tried on trumped up charges, stripped of his rank and exiled to Devil’s Island. What amazed Herzl was not so much the trial, but the cries of the people that rang out, “Death to the Jews!” 13  These barbaric cries were coming from people who lived in what was considered at the time the most civilized part of the world. Herzl left Paris a shaken and changed man.

In a fever of inspiration, Herzl wrote his soon to be famous book, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). The book drew immediate attention. Some Jews criticized the book while others rallied to Herzl’s cause. Among the stalwarts who helped Herzl were Israel Zangwill, Max Nordeau and David Wolffson.

THE FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS

By 1897 the tireless efforts of Herzl plus the rising momentum of Zionism brought about the First Zionist Congress in Basle. The congress was a great success and almost instantly the age-old idea of a restored Jewish state had a political and economic basis. It was no longer just a dream. In his diary, Herzl recorded after the congress:

At Basle, I founded the Jewish State! If I had said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.” 14

In exactly fifty years, the UN voted to clear the way for the establishment of the State of Israel.

A LANGUAGE RESTORED

One problem that immediately surfaced as scattered Israel returned to the land was the need for a common language. The Jews came home speaking scores of languages, but they could not speak their own. The ancient Hebrew tongue had simply become a “dead” language. Its usage was limited to prayer, to study, to family or communal observances and to ritual purposes. Some even thought the language was too sacred to be used for everyday affairs. There was an additional problem. Hebrew was now missing thousands of modern words like ice cream, sidewalk, airplane and telephone.

Today when one rides a bus in Israel and hears little children speaking Hebrew at lightning speed, or when one looks out of the bus window and sees multitudes of Hebrew signs on the streets, he must admit that a miracle has taken place. This miracle focused primarily on one man, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Although desperately sick with tuberculosis, Ben-Yehuda was driven to accomplish one great goal in life. His burning desire was to resurrect the Hebrew language. It was almost like a divine call and obsession with him.

In order to accomplish this goal, Ben-Yehuda and his wife moved to Jerusalem in 1881. Ben-Yehuda, although sick, worked 18 hours a day for the next 41 years to accomplish his goal. Eliezer published a Hebrew paper in Israel and he traveled abroad visiting libraries in search of ancient Hebrew roots. Eliezer was determined to raise the first Hebrew-speaking children in Israel. To this end he forbade anyone to speak with his children except in Hebrew.

Ben-Yehuda and his wife, Deborah, spoke Hebrew at home and in the street. The biographer, St. John, relates this story of one of their strolls through town:

One day when Deborah and Eliezer were walking down one of Jerusalem’s narrow streets, talking in Hebrew, a man stopped them. Tugging at the young journalist’s sleeve, he asked in Yiddish: “Excuse me, sir. That language you two talk. What is it?”  “Hebrew” Eliezer replied. “Hebrew! But people don’t speak Hebrew. It’s a dead language!”  “You are wrong, my friend,” Eliezer replied with a fervor. “I am alive. My wife is alive. We speak Hebrew. Therefore, Hebrew is alive.” 15

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda Lived to gather the necessary materials for his 16-volume dictionary of the revived Hebrew Language. He lived to hear Hebrew become a spoken language once again, and he saw it gain the status as one of the three official languages of the
re-born country.


On Israel’s streets today Hebrew is everywhere

FURTHER SETTLEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

Following on the heels of the First Aliya, was the Second Aliya, beginning as a result of Kishinev pogroms of 1903. After that there was a Third Aliya beginning in 1919. These waves of immigration were followed by several more as the new century progressed.

With the Second Aliya the first kibbutz was founded (1909). These collective farms enabled the settlers to pool their resources for better and more efficient farming and for defense against Arab marauders.

At this time, the first organized attempt at Jewish self-defense was made with the Ha-Shomer, the mounted guards of the Jewish settlements. Also in this period the Jewish National Fund was established as a tool for acquiring and improving the land.

At the beginning of aliya in 1880, there were approximately 470,000 Arabs and 24,000 Jews in the land. By the beginning of World War I, the Arabs numbered 500,000 and the Jewish settlers (yishuv) numbered approximately 85,000. During this same period over fifty Jewish settlements had been formed. 16

WORLD WAR I AND THE MANDATE

Even before the close of World War I, the British and French had made the Sykes-Picot agreement to divide the area of Palestine between themselves.

At the close of the war, Turkey, the “sick man of Europe,” collapsed, and the agreement became a reality. On November 2, 1917, in the famous Balfour Declaration, the British government declared itself in favor of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Soon after the war ended, the League of Nations granted a mandate to Great Britain to establish the national home.

The Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
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It quickly became apparent that the newly-assigned guardian was not seeking the Jew’s best interests. This was made especially clear when Britain in 1921 gave away 75 percent of the mandate lands in order to found Transjordan (today’s Jordan).

As early as 1920, Britain also began to restrict Jewish immigration. Finally, with the British White Paper of 1939, the door of immigration was virtually closed to Jews. Millions of trapped Jews had no place to escape from the Nazis.

Britain was vigilant to guard against Jewish immigration, even to the point of firing upon “illegal” ships as they tried to deliver their human cargoes to the land. Some of the ships were turned back to face a certain Holocaust. Three ships sank, with two of them losing all aboard. Other “illegal” immigrants were captured and exiled to British colonies. 17

While Britain sternly resisted Jewish immigration, she at the same time opened the doors wide to Arab immigration from the surrounding countries.

In order to protect their interest the Jews were finally forced to organize an underground opposition to Britain.

WORLD WAR II AND THE HOLOCAUST

In Europe a dreadful thing was taking place. Millions of Jews were trapped by the rapidly moving Nazi armies. The Jews were immediately assigned to ghettoes where they were slowly starved. Soon the Nazis devised the plan of total extermination of the Jewish populations. Camps like Auschwitz, Chelmno, Treblinka and Sobibor, were established to bring about this extermination.

With all doors of escape closed, six million unarmed Jews were slaughtered. They were starved, worked to death, shot, and finally gassed in unbelievable numbers. Among the Jews murdered between 1939 and 1945, were two million children.

Could Israel arise from these ashes? The Lord had promised such a thing through his prophet Ezekiel centuries before:

Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.’ (Ezek. 37:12)

The historian Paul Johnson remarks about the connection of the Holocaust with the rise of Zion in these words:

The Holocaust and the new Zion were organically connected. The murder of six million Jews was a prime causative factor in the creation of the state of Israel. This was in accordance with an ancient and powerful dynamic of Jewish history: redemption through suffering. 18

A NATION BORN IN A DAY

Israel as a political entity would be resurrected and brought forth. That too would happen as the prophets had spoken centuries before:

Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children (Isa. 66:8).

Although it seemed impossible that a nation dispersed since AD 70, and even as far back as 586 BC and 722 BC could rise again, it indeed happened.

On November 29, 1947, against all odds, the United Nations voted for the partition plan. The acceptance of this plan by the nations cleared the way for the nation of Israel to be legally established the next year. Neither the American State Department nor the British Foreign Office wanted a Jewish state. For the most part the Russians did not want it, but still found themselves voting for it. Israel thus became a reality. Johnson remarks, “Israel slipped into existence through a fortuitous window in history which briefly opened for a few months in 1947-8.”19

Arab opposition to this plan was intense and Arab violence continued until the British withdrew their forces the following year on May 14. On that date Israel declared its independence, with David Ben-Gurion heading the provisional government. The Arabs immediately declared war on the newly-born state. The Jews fought back valiantly. One Jewish weapon that did much damage to Arab morale was the homemade mortar called the “Davidka.”  It made a terrifying noise but in the end actually did little real damage with its discharge.


The Davidka at Herut (Liberty) Square in downtown Jerusalem

Hannah Hurnard, a Christian witness of these momentous days states:

As Israel again became a nation in the land of Israel, the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel was read in Hebrew over the radio –the glorious prophecy of the scattered, dry bones that were suddenly joined together with flesh and sinews and then received the life of God. We who remained in the country while the astonishing miracle happened will never forget with what a noise and shaking those bones came together and were formed into one body and nation. 20

THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

Even prior to Israel’s independence the Arabs had launched repeated and vicious attacks upon the Jews. The Jews had scored many impressive victories in response to these attacks. In April, the “Arab Army of Liberation” was routed by the Haganah. This marked the first military victory by the Jews since the days of Bar Kochba in the second century. 21 As the British departed, there were fierce battles for their deserted positions. The Jews took the cities of Tiberias, Haifa and Safed in the north.

It was at this time that many of the panic-stricken Arab residents fled their homes, causing the ticklish refugee problem. This problem would plague Israel for many decades to come. The Arabs were encouraged to leave by their own Arab leaders, while the Jews begged them to stay. As many as 65,000 Arabs fled Haifa and 50,000 fled Jaffa. 22


Modern Israel celebrates her independence

Immediately after declaring her independence on May 14, the new state of Israel was invaded. On May 15, 1948, six Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq attacked Israel.

The Arab armies were well equipped and trained. The armies of Transjordan were actually trained and staffed by British officers. The Jews were ill trained and poorly equipped. Yet the Jews fought fiercely, realizing that defeat meant annihilation. After only ten days the Jews were able to launch a counterattack.

Soon large areas fell into Jewish hands. The Arab cities of Ramleh, Lydda and Beersheba were captured. The blockade of Jerusalem was broken. The Israelis gained control of the coastal plain and much of the Galilee. Unfortunately they lost the Old City of Jerusalem, as the Jordanians occupied it along with the remainder of the area that came to be known as the “West Bank.”

By the time of the conclusion of the War of Independence in 1949, the Israelis had won control of most of the land that presently makes up the state of Israel.

THE FLOOD OF IMMIGRATION

With the end of the war, the Israelis were able to do something they were never permitted to do under prior Turkish or British domination. They were able to bring the sons and daughters home from the nations without any limitation. The very declaration of Independence of the new nation stated: “The State of Israel shall be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles.”23

A ship loaded with Jewish immigrants arrives in Haifa


The Jews of Yemen come home (courtesy, Israel Information Office)

In the short period between May 15, 1948 and the end of 1951, 684,201 new immigrants came home. This was more than the entire Jewish population on the day independence was proclaimed. 24 Possessed with an almost Messianic fervor, some 47,000 Jews of Yemen came home. They were flown out in an airlift known as “Operation Magic Carpet.” The Jews of Iraq, over 124,000 strong, were also flown home in an airlift named “Operation Ezra-Nehemiah.” Many of the Jews of Iraq (ancient Babylon) had been officially in captivity since 586 BC, and now they were home. The remarkable event prompted the President of Israel to declare that the Babylonian captivity had ended.

The defeated and embittered Arab nations immediately began to expel their Jewish populations. While an estimated 650,000 Palestinian Arabs were made refugees between 1947-49, an estimated 820,000 Jewish refugees were expelled or fled from Arab lands, in most cases leaving their property behind. 25  Only a few Arab refugees were absorbed by the surrounding Arab states. Instead, these Arab states have kept the refugee problem smoldering since 1949 and have used it for political reasons. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of Jews were immediately absorbed by the new state of Israel.


A bird’s eye view of Tel Aviv in 2007
(Wikimedia Commons by Avi Dror)

The Jews began to build their land, to establish new cities and farms. In the brief space between 1948 to 1951, the Israelis established 345 new villages of all types. 26  New industries sprang up as Israel was on the way to building a successful economy and a modern progressive democracy.

Israel‘s Knesset

NEW STORM CLOUDS GATHER

Soon after Israel was securely established as a state, Arab belligerence began to flare up once more. The Arab League established a boycott against all Israeli products. That boycott has persisted until the present day. Passage through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran was blocked to all shipping and cargoes bound to or from Israel. To make matters worse, Israel was regularly attacked by Arab fedayeen crossing her borders and launching terror attacks. In the years 1951-1955, there were 967 Israelis killed through
such attacks. 27

The situation soon became intolerable for Israel. On October 29, 1956, Israel launched a full scale successful attack into the Sinai. This became known as the Sinai Campaign. The attack was launched in cooperation with Britain and France, who were angered at Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal that same year. 28  However, because of US and UN pressure, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai in 1957. The area was then put under UN supervision.

THE MIRACULOUS SIX-DAY WAR

The tiny nation of Israel was forced to develop her infrastructure, commerce, industry, agriculture, education and government while the threat of war constantly hung over her. Hostile Arab nations could have no rest with Israel in their midst.

By 1964, at the Arab summit in Cairo and Alexandria, the decision was made to intensify the struggle against Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded. The Syrians also decided to divert the headwaters of the Jordan river and frustrate Israel’s water development plans. 29

After the War of Independence the Syrians became guilty of the repeated sniping and bombarding of Israeli settlements. These bombardments increased in 1966-67 until they could no longer be tolerated.

Egypt’s President Nasser began to broadcast and publish anti-Israel rhetoric. He soon gathered support from the other Arab nations for an invasion of Israel. Beginning on May 16, 1967 Egyptian forces moved threateningly across the Sinai. Nasser demanded that the UN forces there be removed and the UN complied. By May 25, the armies of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all moved to the very borders of Israel. The armies of Israel were then outnumbered three to one by the Arabs. 30  Once more the Straits of Tiran were blocked by the Egyptians, denying Israel access to her markets in the Far East.
Assessing the grave situation, Israel decided to pre-empt the attack. On the morning of June 5, the Israeli air force struck the airfields of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria. In all, 452 enemy planes were destroyed, 391 of them on the ground. 31   In less than three hours Israel had gained complete air superiority.

The armies of Israel went on the attack, and in one of the largest armor battles in history, the Egyptian armored power was shattered. Israeli troops raced on and soon reached the Suez Canal. The Egyptian losses were: over 400 tanks destroyed, with another 200 captured; 10,000 men dead, with another 12,000 taken prisoner. 32   Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt and once again Israel took control of the whole Sinai Peninsula.
The miraculous war progressed on all fronts. Judea and Samaria, which had been under Jordanian control since 1948, fell into Israeli hands. At last the Old City of Jerusalem came under Israeli control.

The 1967 war was so miraculous that even Israelis were stunned. Tough, battle hardened soldiers wept like babies when the Western Wall was captured. Gen. Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Armed Forces arrived at the wall, with the Torah clutched in his hands. Goren cried, “We have taken the city of God, we are entering the Messianic era for the Jewish People…” 33

The Golan Heights, from which Syria had terrorized the Galilee for years, was captured by Israel. In a mere six days the war was over and once again the vastly superior Arab armies were defeated.

ARAB TERRORISM AND THE YOM KIPPUR WAR

Unfortunately even miraculous wars do not have happy endings for Israel. Arab terrorism continued to plague the land. In the short period between June 1967 and December 1968, there were 159 terrorist raids deep inside Israel. In addition, more than a thousand raids took place along Israel’s borders. 34   From 1968 onward, Palestinian terrorists began to operate against Israel from Jordan. Egypt then began a war of attrition against the Israeli Bar Lev line, a defensive line established on the Suez Canal.

Soon, Arab armies were again at the door of Israel. In the afternoon of October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack. They were soon joined by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and a contingent from Kuwait. It was Israel’s holiest day, Yom Kippur. On this day, many Israelis were fasting from both food and water. All commerce, transportation and communication had ground to a halt. In the midst of this holy day of prayer and fasting Israel was forced to mobilize.

It was soon apparent that Israel could lose this war. The Arab armies were lavishly re-supplied from the USSR, but Israel soon began to run out of arms and equipment. Finally Israel was replenished by an emergency US airlift. The war waged on from October 6 until October 24. By that time Israel was the clear victor. The nation was once again saved but at the dreadful cost of 2,378 of its soldiers. 35

THE MIRACLE CONTINUES

Israel would know more terrorist attacks and war. She would see eleven of her Olympic athletes slaughtered in Munich in 1972. She would see the miraculous rescue of her citizens hijacked to the Entebbe airport in 1976. Finally in 1982, it would be necessary to invade Lebanon to destroy the massive terrorist infrastructure built there by the PLO.

In spite of all her adversities the miracle of Israel would continue. In 1989 the hand of judgment from the Almighty began to fall on the Communist world. The USSR had resisted Israel almost since her formation. The Communists had lavishly supplied Arab armies with weapons of all kinds that enabled them to attack Israel over and over. In addition, millions of Jews were being held captive in the USSR.

Finally, the finger of God touched these Communist nations and beginning in 1989, one Iron Curtain nation after another fell. In the words of Isaiah 43:5-6, God said to the north, “Give them up!” Suddenly Israel was almost overwhelmed with a massive new aliya from the north. In the years between the autumn of 1989 and the end of the century, almost a million new immigrants came home.

New immigrants from the former USSR are welcomed in Israel by members of the
International Christian Embassy

God not only brought them from the north, but in the words of Isaiah 43:6, he also said to the south, “Do not hold them back!”  Ethiopia in the south had been detaining Ethiopian Jews at the airport for a year. Suddenly in one 33-hour period starting May 24, 1991, almost 15,000 Ethiopians were flown to Israel in one giant airlift.

Ethiopian immigrants being airlifted (Courtesy, Israel Information Office)

According to the prophet Jeremiah this was a greater miracle than when Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Jeremiah says:

“However, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers (Jer.16:14-15).

In what seemingly was a demonic plan to stop the return of God’s people, Saddam Hussein rained down missiles on the cities of Israel in the Gulf War of 1991. Israel was bombarded although she was not involved in this war in any way. It was not difficult to see the fury of Satan in these attacks.

Against all odds the people of Israel had come home from all the nations of earth to their own heritage. They had returned to the land promised to them forever by God. While the nations of the earth cursed them, those who believed the Lord could only say in the words of Deuteronomy 33:29:

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

Why did many Eastern European Jews resist the idea of returning to Israel under Zionist leadership?

What shocking truth did Herzl, the father of the Jewish state, realize while covering the Dreyfus trial in Paris?

What part did Great Britain play in hindering the Jewish escape from the Nazi Holocaust?

What parallel fact helps offset the fate of 650,000 Palestinian refugees after the war of Independence?

NOTES

1. Quoted in, Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem (Jerusalem: International Forum for a United Jerusalem 1994) pp. 76-77.
2. Dan Bahat, ed., Twenty Centuries of Jewish Life in the Holy Land, The Forgotten Generations (Jerusalem: The Israel Economist, first edition 1975, second edition 1976)
pp. 40-41.
3. Quoted in, Bahat, ed., Twenty Centuries of Jewish Life in the Holy Land, The Forgotten Generations, p. 49.
4. Goeffrey Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, Immigration and Settlement (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1973) p. 40.
5. Solomon Grazel, A History of the Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1947) p. 665.
6. Grazel, A History of the Jews, p. 667.
7 Grazel, A History of the Jews, p. 669.
8. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, Immigration and Settlement, pp. 13-14.
9. Goeffrey Wigoder, ed., Encyclopedia Judaica Vol 2, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd.,) pp. 633-635.
10. Goeffrey Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, History From 1880 (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1973) p. 14.
11. Grazel, A History of the Jews, p.670.
12. Grazel, A History of the Jews, p. 671.
13. Grazel, A History of the Jews, p. 672.
14. Quoted in, Claude Duvernoy, The Prince and the Prophet (Jerusalem: Christian Action For Israel, First published in French 1966, English 1979) p. 58.
15. Robert St. John, Tongue of the Prophets (North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Book Company, 1952) p.84.
16. Martin Gilbert, Jewish Historical Atlas, 4th edition (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv & Haifa, Israel: Steimatzky, Ltd., 1969, 1992) p. 85.
17. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, Immigration and Settlement, p. 36.
18. Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Roe, 1987) p. 519.
19. Johnson, A History of the Jews, p. 526.
20. Hannah Hurnard, Watchmen on the Walls (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997) p. 154.
21. Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books,1954, fifth printing, 1966) p. 415.
22. Martin Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, third edition, (London: Widenfeld and Nicholson, 1974) p. 46.
23. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, Immigration and Settlement, P. 50.
24. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, Immigration and Settlement, p. 56.
25. Mitchell G. Bard, and Joel Himelfarb, Myths and Facts, A Concise Record of the Arab -Israeli Conflict (Washington, DC: Near East Report, 1984, 1988, 1992) pp. 120-121.
26. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, History From 1880, p. 151.
27. Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, p. 60.
28. Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, p. 62-63.
29. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, History From 1880, p. 195.
30. Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, p. 69.
31. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, History From 1880, p. 200.
32. Wigoder, ed., Israel Pocket Library, History From 1880, p. 202.
33. Quoted in, Charles F. Deloach, Seeds of Conflict (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1974) p. 63.
34. Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, p. 74.
35. Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps, p. 93.