Shabbat, near Tel Aviv, 5:10 AM.
I AWAKEN to a distant wail on the horizon. The gentle rising and falling gets closer – and louder. I am half asleep, not sure if I’m dreaming. Then the siren grows louder, and goes local, peaking over the cacophony pouring in from the surrounding communities. I climb out of bed. What to do? Well, I’m in my pajamas, so I’m not going to run downstairs. I’ll take my chances where I am.
I walk over to the window, to check if I can see anything. And then it comes: a loud BOOM!
I jump from the intensity of the blast, and a CRACK as the rocket connects with and destroys its target echoes across the town. The wailing fades away to silence. I have witnessed my first downing of a Hamas rocket by Israel’s incredible Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel has been a pretty good job telling the national story. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other administration officials have been explaining all along that Israel is not targeting civilians in Gaza, but rather attempting to hit terrorists as they launch rockets against Israeli civilian communities. Israel has worked hard to show that since Hamas fires rockets from schools, hospitals, mosques and densely populated residential areas, they are using their entire population as human shields. Israel has also described to all who will listen that Hamas’s culture of death worship makes them responsible for both Israeli and Gazan casualties.
Beautifully done. Expressed in the clearest and simplest of terms. A far better effort than in previous conflicts.
But it doesn’t seem to make one bit of difference.
Israel’s carefully planned and expertly executed ‘hasbara’ (explanation) efforts have in practice amounted to nada. Nation after nation, believing the Arab narrative in full, has pulled the plug on relations with Israel. And the leaders of Israel’s regular allies, the United States and Britain, have repeatedly and publicly chided Israel for its ‘gross disregard for the life of Gaza’s civilian population.’
Israel is looking more and more like the pariah nation that its enemies have always longed for it to be.
An even more alarming development is the rapid and steep rise in anti-Semitism that is taking place throughout the world. All over the globe, demonstrations in solidarity with the Arabs wind up as passionate cries of “Death to the Jews!”; “Send them to the gas chambers!”; “Liberate Palestine from sea to sea!” and more. In several capitals in Europe, increased police presence is needed to prevent outright pogroms against Jewish citizens. It’s leaving good people angered and confused.
And what’s more, the anti-Israel frenzy is making its way to America. There have been violent demonstrations in Pittsburgh and Boston, and a rabbi on his way to Shabbat services was shot to death in a drive-by shooting in Miami.
What is going on here? Things are looking grave indeed.
We Jews are the ultimate people of the Book. And the book we’ve been talking about for more than 2,000 years is called the Hebrew Bible. In this intriguing international best-seller, several Hebrew prophets discuss their vision of the future of Jewish and world history. Could it be that what they have to say about the situation is relevant, and can help us make sense of the paradox of Israel’s inability to put a dent in world public opinion?
“’Because here, days are coming,’ says God, the Lord of Israel, ‘when I will return the captivity of My people Israel and Judah,’ said God, ‘and I will return them to the Land that I gave their forefathers – and they will inherit it.’”
‘We have heard the sound of quaking; fear, and there is no peace. Yo! That day is great, with none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob, and from it – he will be saved. And it will be on that day,’ says the God of Hosts, ‘I will break his yoke off your neck, and I will cut your restraining straps, and strangers will no longer enslave him. And they will serve God their Lord and David their king, whom I will establish for them.
‘And you: don’t be afraid, My servant Jacob,’ says God, ‘and do not be dismayed, Israel; because I am here to save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob will return to being silent and at ease, and there will be no one to frighten him. … For I am with you,’ says God, ‘to save you; because even if I were to make an end of all the nations where I dispersed you – you, I will not make an end of. I will make you suffer according to the law, but I will not completely destroy you.’” [The Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 30, Verses 3, 5, 7-11]
What is Jeremiah telling us? Well for starters, he is saying that at some particular point in Jewish history, there will come hard times for the Nation of Israel, where there will be no peace. But he says that we should never give up hope, because the very arrival of those hard times signals the beginning of the Redemption of the Jewish Nation.
And what is an integral part of that future Redemption? Jeremiah adds a telling point on in his prophecy:
“and I will return them to the Land that I gave their forefathers – and they will inherit it.”
Here is what another Hebrew prophet, a contemporary of Jeremiah’s, envisioned: Ezekiel the son of Buzi the Cohen:
“Therefore say: thus says the Lord God: ‘I will collect you from the peoples, and I will gather you from the lands into which I scattered you; and I will give you the Land of Israel. And you will come there, and you will remove all the idolatrous abominations, and all the disgusting things from there. And I will give you one heart, and I will place a new spirit inside of you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; in order that they will walk in my statutes, and guard and do my laws. And they will be for me a people, and I will be for them the Lord.’ (…)
‘Because on My holy mountain, on the mountain at the heights of Israel,’ says the Lord God; ‘there, they will serve me – the whole House of Israel, ALL of them – in the Land ….’” [The Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 11, Verses 17-20; Chapter 20, Verse 40]
Ezekiel reports that the very nature of the Jewish People will someday be changed for the good, and that the entire nation will be in the Land of Israel to serve God.
If we assume that these visions reflect future reality, we must ask: how can these things come about? Most people would think that the whole Nation of Israel making aliyah this is impossible. After all, it is too comfortable for the Jews of Europe, of South America, of North America, for them to ever want to come to Israel en masse, right?
In recent weeks, each of these three loci of Jewish communities has experienced the worst bouts of anti-Semitism since the days of the Holocaust. It looks as if the world has forgotten the lessons of the Second World War. And though Israel’s actions in Gaza are often touted as the reason for this ominous outbreak, it is clear that the line between protesting Israel’s policies and pure, traditional Jew-hatred is sometimes blurry.
So what does it all mean?
I propose that the real reason that Israel’s excellent public relations have no effect on world opinion is because the nations of the world are getting ready to send their Jews homeward, whether the Jews want it – or not. History has shown over and over again that Jews have been unable to see the writing on the wall and get out before the gentiles force them out. Yet this population transfer will be different, because for the first time in 2,000 years, Jews have a place all their own, a homeland where they can carry on a true national life.
I am not, saying, God forbid, that future pogroms that may happen are the best thing for Jews. No. But at the same time, one must be amazed at the timing. Just as Israel is taking a leadership position in the development and delivery of technology for helping all of humanity, God is preparing in His own backhanded way to bring the entire Jewish nation back home.
Stay tuned. Don’t touch that dial. Everything until now has been merely a warm-up act. The real show is just beginning.