As I Walk the Streets of Jerusalem, I Smile In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
We are the most privileged generation in 2000 years – privileged to live at a time that our ancestors, our bubbies and zaydees could only pray for … could only dream of … could only give their blood, sweat, tears and too often their lives for. To the shock and awe of all our “friends,” our people were brought home, carried by G-d “on the wings of eagles,” to be a light unto the nations – this miracle of humankind called the Jew. Has anything changed over the last 70 years in Europe? Or here in America on our college campuses? Or at the United Nations of the ignorant and the depraved? (Although Nikki Haley has become the new sheriff in that town.) Actually, one very important thing has obviously changed for our people: Jews are no longer being shoved into gas chambers, to the deafening silence of the rest of the world. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with those obscene, despicable condemnations of Israel from those deranged cesspools of malignant ignorance, whether from Arab countries, multinational Europeans, or pathetic leftist, fascist, hypocritical, sanctimonious Jews. Our people have been in many promised lands, and each one turned out to be a bloody diaspora delusion, a temporary stop on our journey back to our G-d-given homeland. Have our people learned the lesson yet?
“I have heard you are the reader of dreams,” said Pharaoh to Joseph, the proud, young Jew. Invoking his great-grandfather Abraham’s status as “a stranger,” Joseph tells Pharaoh, “Dream interpretation is beyond me, it is G-d who will respond.” And after deciphering Pharaoh’s dream, it is Pharaoh who declares, “Can we find another man in whom is the spirit of (the Hebrew) G-d? Since G-d has informed you of this, you shall be in charge of my palace, and by your command shall all my people be sustained. Only by the throne shall I outrank you.” Pretty good for a 30-year-old pisher.
Take your pick – the first Jewish Nobel Prize winner for Economics, or our first Harvard Business School graduate. But our pride in Joseph prompts our perennial question: Are you a resident or a stranger? Joseph, our first historic “court Jew,” will be praised in his new land with his new position for a time, until there inevitably arises over the next 3,300 years “a pharaoh who knows not Joseph.” The story has been repeated generation after generation in every land where our people have often tried to assimilate and forsaken G-d and blessed themselves in their own heart. Our G-d, Creator of the Universe, has had to re-teach His stiff-necked children a painful lesson: “For but a brief moment have I forsaken you, and with abundant mercy will I gather you in. With a slight wrath have I concealed My countenance from you for a moment, but with eternal kindness shall I show you mercy.” (Isaiah 54:7-8) And so He has.
And it was in 1923 that another peace-loving Jew, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, lamented, “Just because I want peace, the only task is to make [the Arabs] lose every vestige of hope that neither by force nor constitutional methods…can you prevent Palestine from getting a Jewish majority. … Thus we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel … [but] an iron wall that the native population cannot break through. This is our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy.” You just gotta love Jabotinsky’s clarity.
And to illustrate G-d’s kindness and mercy – His incurable love for His people – there is a modern story on which I would base the claim that the two greatest American presidents for Israel (whether intentionally or unintentionally) were George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Now I realize that might discomfort some politically, but G-d acts in mysterious yet undeniable ways, for some things just don’t appear to make sense. Back in 1991, the elder Bush had a secretary of state who spoke the uncomfortable truth when he said, “F—the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway.” Truth is, non-Orthodox Jews don’t vote Republican. There was no great love between the elder Bush and Jews, and yet for no apparent reason he demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, let these people go!” insisting that Russia open the gates for Russian Jews to go to Israel. It was to cost billions. The challenges for Israel would be enormous, and I don’t believe Bush had any appreciation of what he was asking. It was in some ways an adaptation of the Torah’s story of Bilaam’s attempt to curse the Israelites. How goodly [will become] thy tents, O Jacob, they dwelling places, O Israel. But man plans and G-d laughs. Russia opened its doors and out poured a million Russian Jews. And many questioned how could little Israel absorb an additional 20 percent of its population into its existing population. But it did. Which brings to mind the memorable words of David Ben-Gurion: “The difficult we can do reasonably well. The impossible – that takes a little longer.”
And it was the younger Bush who was responsible for Israel’s next great miracle, from an economic standpoint. The Camp David intifada of 2000 had been costly, and by 2003 Israel was in a serious financial crisis. Ariel Sharon, who was then prime minister, had dismissively appointed Benjamin Netanyahu to what he thought would be the thankless job of minister of finance, and Netanyahu needed a miracle to stabilize Israel’s economy. His proposal to begin privatizing banks and major Israeli corporations faced strong opposition from the Histadrut (labor union) and its allies in the Knesset. Netanyahu managed to overcome the Histadrut’s hostility to finance reform only with the help of President George W. Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury John Snow.
As George Gilder noted in The Israel Test, Netanyahu sought a loan guarantee from the United States that would give Israeli bonds the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. In exchange for the American guarantees, “Israel would have to give up its nationalized banks and industries, its socialized insurance and pension systems, its sclerotic double and triple taxes on foreign investment … and its handout ‘woe-is-me’ culture. It could have been no coincidence that the massive reforms demanded by Snow turned out to be exactly the reforms Netanyahu was already preparing for Israel’s economy. … The privatization of Israel’s state-owned industries reduced government ownership from 60 percent to 20 percent and permitted Israel to use its $300 million per month cash flow to begin a program of investment in its most important asset – the power of the Jewish brain.”
Gilder relates that at the same time, coincidentally, Morris Smith, a new immigrant who had just quit his extremely lucrative job as head of the No.1 venture capital fund in America, the Fidelity Magellan Fund, thought he had moved to Israel to retire. But G-d had other plans. Partnering with several other venture capitalists, including Michael Medved’s brother Jonathan Medved, who had also made aliyah, they went to work at a newly formed company called KCPS. Israel’s transformation went into high gear, and Israel’s high-tech economy today is the fastest growing, most creative economy on the planet, with 80 percent of Israel’s customers today coming from all over the world.
Gilder keenly observes, “As America [during the Obama years and with Democrats in charge] moves toward socialism, Israel is moving in just the opposite direction, into the creative energy of the Jewish brain … and Israel and the Jewish people can take pride in Israel’s accomplishments and the world that benefits from Israel’s creativity.” George Gilder—a non-Jew—expressed the most profound observation. Asked in an interview why he believed Israel and Jews were different, Gilder explained that the world is made up of two types of people. The zero-sum gamers believe this is a world of haves and have-nots – that whatever wealth one possesses has been taken from someone else’s pocket. The Jew comes at the world from his Bible, and in the Bible is a most profound statement: “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.” G-d created the universe ex nihilo – from nothingness. It was through the act of creating that the world came into existence, and one certainly must acknowledge that the Jewish people are some of the most creative people on the planet. When a people of less than one quarter of one percent of the world’s population has received over 38 percent of the Nobel Prizes, “something is going on that defies the laws of logic and nature.”
Can there be any doubt that Gilder is touching on the words of Abraham, I am a resident, I share my creativity with you; I share my discoveries with you; I share my love of mankind with you. But at the same time, I am also a stranger in a world where I am one with my Creator. It is a world of Torah – a world that is completely foreign to you. I am a stranger in your world, and you are a stranger in mine. The essayist Milton Himmelfarb once wrote, “Each Jew knows how thoroughly ordinary he is, yet taken together we seem caught up in things great and inexplicable.” When we stand up as strong, proud, unapologetic Jews, our neighbors may not always celebrate a l’chaim with us, but they will respect us – and in respecting our people they will grudgingly acknowledge that our G-d, Creator of the Universe, is watching over us.
In 1948, the U.S. State Department was infuriated that the “damned Jews” won the War of Independence – especially since the U.S. had cut off all arms shipments to Israel by Truman’s orders! In 1967, the U.S. government was again infuriated that Israel so handily defeated five Arab countries in the Six-Day War. President Lyndon Johnson had warned, “If Israel goes it alone, it will be alone,” constituted another American betrayal of a vital security agreement with Israel. In Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President, Robert Dallek explains that on May 23, after Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran, “the Israeli government pressed Johnson for a public statement on the extent of America’s commitment to Israel’s security. The president warned that without prior consultation Tel Aviv should not expect any commitment of support from the United States.” And again in 1973, Henry Kissinger and the United States demonstrated its animosity by withholding vital weapon supplies after Israel had been attacked. The U.S. only began re-supplying Israel after General Ariel Sharon crossed the Suez and was on his way to Cairo.
Sadly, all the congressional resolutions, all the letters of support and all the glad-handing on Capitol Hill are just eye candy. When the chips are down, we and our State of Israel have been and will be alone. “Unshakable, “unbreakable” and “common values” aside — in the end, Israel must remember not the words of our enemies but the deafening silence of our friends. As a Jew, I’m not looking to be loved and I’m not looking for shalom or a l’chaim from my neighbors—but I’ll be damned if another Jew will ever be called a “sacrifice for peace” or nuked by Iran while the world plays Neville Chamberlain again with Jewish lives. It may be the few against the many, but never forget Hashem’s words to Abraham: I will be your shield, but you, My most treasured people, you must have the courage to be the sword! Let’s be clear: What upsets our neighbors and some of our so-called friends accustomed to dining on powerless Jews is that they still won’t accept a smiling Jewish boy piloting an F-16!
“Remember the days past; understand the years of generation after generation. … Ask your father and he will tell you; ask your grandfather and he will explain it. … For Hashem’s portion is His people. … He preserved them like the pupil of His eye.” (Deut. 32:1-10) Since the days when Abraham took his first courageous step out of Ur, from resident to stranger, with G-d’s eternal love for His people, our people, those who are with us and those who no longer are, have been and unapologetically continue to be the Greatest Show on Earth. Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker. (The Eternal One of Israel does not lie.) And we don’t have to apologize to anyone. A JEW WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE IN MIRACLES IS NOT A REALIST!
L’Shana Tova, 09/08/2017
Jack “Yehoshua” Berger
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