All people, Jews or gentiles, who dare not defend themselves when they know they are in the right, who submit to punishment not because of what they have done but because of who they are, are already dead by their own decision; and whether or not they survive physically depends on chance. If circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas chambers. — Bruno Bettelheim
I have a routine when I go to Israel. I usually land between three and four in the afternoon and sherut to Jerusalem. After laying out my schedule, I turn on my favorite television channel 108 (Al Jazeera), catch up on the news, and try to get on Israel time as quickly as possible.
If savagery entertains you, the news was not disappointing. It began with a story from Muslim Malaysia, where a young woman, having failed to pay her tax bill, had been sentenced to be gang-raped. Next up was a barrel bombing in Cairo, killing 83, and a dozen beheadings in the Congo, followed by Christian and Muslim slaughter in the newest African cesspool, South Sudan, while Syria, Iraq and ISIS filled another few minutes with ample bloodbaths and body parts. Against this backdrop of worldly Muslim carnage, a smiling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had touted the economic benefits to Israel of a peace agreement with its Arab neighbors—the economic powerhouses of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, each with an average per capita income of less than $300 per month and an average unemployment rate close to 40 percent. What finally seemed to be sinking in was that Kerry’s peace agreement framework with the mythological “Muhammad-come-latelies,” the Palestinians, was merely the tenth in a 21-year series of charades between Israel and the latest American administration—an agreement doomed to join the first nine (Camp David, Madrid, Oslo Accords, Taba 1, Wye, Sharm el-Sheik, Annapolis, Camp David 2 and Taba 2). Gotta give the U.S. administrations credit for tenacity; but has anyone asked the obvious: What’s in it for America to create another poverty-based, U.S. foreign aid-dependent welfare state run by a bunch of embezzlement-prone terrorist thugs who threaten the security of a country America claims is its ally in an alliance it describes as an “unbreakable bond”? Can this be chickenpoop?
At 8:30 the next morning, I hop on the No. 160 bus to pay my respects to a few old relatives who had the courage and determination to get our story going. It’s off to Hevron and the Cave of Machpelah to visit Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, and to again sincerely thank Hashem for the privilege of having picked me to be one of His Chosen. This time, I’d also be thanking Him for good news. The Supreme Court of Israel had finally determined that the Jewish purchase of a large building in Hevron called Beit Shalom was legal (which it always was) and Jews would soon be moving back. A number of friends and I shared a few l’chaims, while back in Jerusalem the main news story focused on the war in Gaza and the burial of three more Jews – this time, teenagers from a yeshiva.
A quick refresher in Middle East border history: Having won World War I, the Allied forces, under the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations), took control of lands the Ottoman Empire had controlled from 1517 to 1917. In 1917 the British government and Lord Balfour had “viewed with favor” a future Jewish homeland and agreed to the reestablishment of the homeland for the Jews in Palestine. In 1922 at San Remo, Italy, the League of Nations (the international governing body at the time) created ex nihilo new borders of Arab states that hadn’t existed for over 400 years or ever, and issued Mandates for the jurisdiction of the former Ottoman lands, one under the French, one under the British, and a third for Ibn Saud. The borders of the Palestine Mandate (the future Jewish State) were unanimously agreed to by the League. The San Remo resolution was later endorsed by the U.S.
Congress, also in 1922. Of the 2.4 million square miles of the former Ottoman Empire, 98 percent was given to various Muslim/Arab tribal chiefs, and two percent, 48,000 square miles, were set aside for the reestablishment of a national homeland of the Jewish People “on the banks of the Jordan River.” This Mandate, called Palestine, originally included not only the land “from the river to the sea” but the land east of the Jordan River.
In 1923, after agreeing to assume the legal obligations of the Palestine Mandate, Britain proceeded to violate the Mandate’s terms by dividing it. Winston Churchill (then Colonial Secretary), Herbert Samuels (then High Commissioner in Palestine) and Alec Kirkbride (then Colonial Secretary of Moab, the land east of the Jordan River), sliced off 78 percent of the two percent (the land east of the Jordan River), called it “Trans-Jordan,” and gave it to another Arab tribal leader, Emir Abdullah Ibn Hussein,
with the express understanding that all the land west of the Jordan, “from the river to the sea,” would be “held in trust for the future Jewish homeland.” Thus 99.5 percent of the land taken after World War I from the Ottoman Turks was given to Muslim/Arabs; and half of one percent –the land west of the Jordan – the land “from the river to the sea” – was again set aside for the future Jewish state. This same land remains under discussion for further division as a two-state “solution” – which, in historical fact, is actually a seven-state “solution”: Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.
After the 1967 Six Day War, the Johnson administration asked the U.S. War College to assess the territorial requirements necessary for Israel’s security. The War College’s independent analysis concluded that the minimum land areas Israel must retain for effective security and defensive borders include “all the high grounds of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.” In the words of Colonel Irving Kett (ret.), “Any American Jew advising Israel to surrender Judea and Samaria is no friend of
Israel; any Israeli who does likewise is simply suicidal.” (Jerusalem Post, April 20, 1990)
Throwing the War College analysis under the bus, Kerry obsessively kept the pressure on Israel,recommend that her security be entrusted to UN troops—an especially odd recommendation since Hezbollah has reportedly been resupplied with an estimated 70,000 missiles right under the noses of the UN monitors. With Kerry’s credibility in shambles after his absurd recommendation, Israeli Defense Minister Bogie Ya’alon’s own assessment of Kerry as “messianic” didn’t go over very well at the State Department. But what caught my interest was the expressed concern of both Secretary Kerry and President Obama that Israel continue to be both a democratic and Jewish state, and that “this may in fact be the last chance for a two-state solution.” In view of their “touching” concern for Israel’s future and its Jewish identity, I wondered whether they would help with the transfer of Israeli Arabs to a new
“Palestinian” state, since they obviously expressed no problem with transferring Jews. Probably not that concerned.
It was in 1979 at Camp David that President Jimmy Carter asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin to stop the “settlement-building” since at that time there were 10,000 Jews living in various “settlements.”
By 1993 Oslo, President Clinton asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to curtail settlement growth since by then there were over 100,000 Jews living in the “West Bank.” Remember that in his last speech in the Knesset, on October 5, 1995, Rabin spoke out against a Palestinian state, but rather for “an entity with autonomy” (but specifically) not a state for the Palestinian Arabs.” Today, in 2014, there are over 450,000 Jews living in Judea/Samaria (not including East Jerusalem); and it is projected that in the next 10 years there will be over 600,000 Jews living in our Biblical homeland. But this administration’s policy of opposing even “natural growth” begs the question, “What is natural growth?” Is the administration really demanding that Jews—because of where they live—stop having babies? Sounds a bit Pharaoh-esque, but I’m confused. Here I thought the issue for Obama and Kerry was demography. Wouldn’t more Jewish babies make for a more democratic Jewish state?
While in Israel, I attended a wedding at Kibbutz Ma’ale Hachamisha, founded in July 1938 by the Gordonia youth movement. It was a religious Zionist wedding, replete with knitted kippot, baby strollers, white shirts, sandals and cell phones. Not a black hat in sight! There were 50 tables of 10 each, 500 guests. At every table there were women either nursing or pregnant. As “Hava Nagila” (Let Us Rejoice) rang out, I was engulfed by more and more Jewish Israeli babies wherever I looked – a vision of beauty and of blessing. According to the latest figures available, Jewish Israeli births hit a record high for 5774.
A few days later, I traveled to an area south of Hevron, visiting three yeshivas in Judea, both hesder and mechina – knitted kippot, non-Haredi yeshivas – young men finishing their studies, eager to enter the army – young men who, after their army service, would return to Jewish communities like Susiya, Ma’on and Otni’el to start their families and begin making lots of babies. According to the rosh yeshivas and students I spoke with, the greatest need, after money for general operations, was to fund additional dormitories to ease the overcrowding since many students had to travel long distances to get to these yeshivas. And I remembered the three yeshiva teenagers who would be alive today if they hadn’t needed to hitchhike back home.
Packing to leave, I picked up the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Being open-minded, I enjoy reading the rantings of what I affectionately call the newspaper from Chelm. The first line of the front page article noted that 38 percent of all Jewish couples in Tel Aviv and Haifa (“the Israelis”) had no children! (Self-indulgent Israeli liberals apparently don’t think much of having babies.) But the article went on to disclose that “the Jews” of Judea/Samaria (Ha’aretz actually used the Biblical names for the West Bank!) were averaging 4.6 children per family. More babies! The Jews – not settlers, not Haredim, but nachala – the inheritors – were “pru urvu-ing” like crazy and having plenty of Jewish babies! And so, Messrs. Kerry and Obama, if you are sincerely concerned about Israel’s future as both a democratic and Jewish state, don’t worry! Be happy! Because more Jewish babies are on the way…and it’s a beautiful thing…and Israel is gonna need every square dunam.
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reflects a total Israeli population of 8.9 million, including the Jews of Judea/Samaria and Israeli Arabs but not the Arabs of the West Bank or Gaza. There are 6.6 million Jews, 1.5 million Israeli Arabs, 500,000 Christians and Druze, and 300,000 others from the river to the sea. In Judea/Samaria-West Bank there are estimated to be 1.6 million Arabs. The 1.5 million Israeli Arabs plus 1.6 million Arabs in the West Bank add up to 3.1 million Arabs “from the river to the sea.” Demographically, if there are 6.6 million Jews and 3.1 million Arabs “from the river to the sea,” there is today a 68 percent Jewish majority, (excluding the Arabs of Gaza and the mythological refugees). It’s just math, but no Jewish demographic problem.
As I traveled through Israel, it was Bilaam’s blessing that echoed: “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwelling places, O Israel.” (Numbers 24:5) Israel is the place where G-d believes in His Jewish people, and each day more and more of His people believe in Him.
Secretary Kerry and President Obama, if you really care about the future of a democratic and Jewish State of Israel, you’re on the Right side of history. We are blessed to be living in a time of miracles. So don’t worry. Be happy!
Shabbat shalom, Jack “Yehoshua” Berger