A man called Jonah… again

On December 1, 2015 I published an article entitled “Jonah, A Man of Conscience”. It told the story of a man named Jonah, an American Christian, married to a beautiful wife and father of five beautiful children. This Jonah had responded to some of my published articles and he responded with lengthy letters very brilliantly written.

As a man of conscience, he has many problems digesting the history of our 100 year old war with the Arab population which dwells among us. Today he told me that for six years he has been studying the problems but solutions evade him. He quotes from the writings of Benny Morris, a left-wing Israeli author who distorts our history to support his own very wrong and often anti-Israel conclusions.

He describes the rapes of Palestinian women by IDF soldiers in 1948, how they were forcibly taken from their homes or had to flee from the approaching soldiers. No doubt, there was cruelty and even brutality by some of our soldiers but there was also humanity. Israeli soldiers carrying Arab babies in their arms to put them in a place of safety from the mortar shells nearby. And soldiers who provided bread and water to the new bands of refugees.

There was only one tragic event in our War of Independence against innocent Arab civilians and that was a massacre in the village of Deir Yassin where many Arabs were brutally murdered, not by the Israeli army but by Israeli fighters of the Irgun and Stern gang, to the ever-lasting shame of the people of Israel.

The British mandatory authorities in 1948 sent out broadcasts and leaflets to all the Arab towns and villages urging Palestinian Arabs to remain in their homes where they would be granted Israeli citizenship.

But the poor Palestinians heeded the calls of the mufti and the imams to flee Palestine until the Arab forces had wiped out the Jews at which time refugees could return to their homes. False promises with tragic results. The refugees of 1948, joined by refugees of 1967 still live in dilapidated refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they have never been granted citizenship.

As I wrote of Jonah in my December 2015 article, I praised him as a man of conscience. He is concerned for the welfare of the Palestinians and holds us responsible for their conditions.

It is very difficult to explain Israel to a non-Jew. They see Jews only as a religion whereas we see ourselves as a civilization with three thousand years of culture, religion and language. Exiled twice from our ancestral homeland, thousands of years before the birth of Christianity and Islam, first in the year 586 before the common era when our holy Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians who took us captive by the rivers of Babylon, and once again by the Romans in the year 70 of the common era.

Never did we forget Jerusalem or Zion, mentioned in our religious scriptures 900 times but NEVER ONCE in the Muslim Quran. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. Our captors required us to sing songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s songs in an alien land? If I forget thee, o Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember Jerusalem, if I do not raise up Jerusalem above my chiefest  joys.”  For non-Jews, Jerusalem is only a city, a geographical place. For Jews it is the holiest place on earth, the place on Mount Moriah where God promised Abraham our Patriarch that he would inherit the land called Canaan forever.

For two thousand years we dreamed of our return to Jerusalem. At the conclusion of the Passover seder we recite, “L’shana ha ba’a b’Yerushalayim”. Next year may we all be in Jerusalem.

In 1882, Jews began returning to their homeland to live and to build and to be rebuilt by it. They drained the swamps, planted vineyards and built towns and cities. My city of Rishon Lezion was founded in 1882.

Gradually more Jews began returning to their ancient homeland. They came from Russia, Rumania and Yemen in the early years. And then, in 1893 an Austrian journalist named Dr. Theodor Herzl wrote his famous book, Der Judenstaat, the Jewish State, and convinced the Jews of Europe that they must abandon their homes in anti-Semitic lands and return to the land of Zion. His thousands of followers  founded the Zionist movement and began to settle in Palestine to reclaim the soil.

They were frequently attacked by Arab bandits until they formed military units to protect their villages from marauding Arabs.

The battle has continued from 1882 to the present day and will probably continue for many more generations. Arabs and Jews cannot live together in harmony. There must be a separation of the two people claiming the same territory.

In 1917 Lord Arthur Balfour, British Foreign Minister, wrote his famous Balfour Declaration in which His Majesty’s government promised a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.  In 1922, it was ratified by the League of Nations at the San Remo conference.  And in that same year , Winston Churchill partitioned Palestine giving 77% to the Emir Abdullah of Trans-Jordan and the remaining 23% for Arabs and Jews.

In 1947 the United Nations proposed the partition of Palestine into two states…one for Arabs and one for Jews. The Jews accepted the partition whereas the Arab leadership rejected it entirely. In May 1948 when the British Mandate for Palestine ended, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independent Jewish State of Israel.  Immediately the Jews were attacked by the armies of seven Arab nations.

Since 1948 Israel has held out an olive branch to the Arabs, which the Arabs again rejected.

And so the battles, riots, massacres, terrorism, and bloodshed continues without an end.

Perhaps Jonah, the God-fearing honorable man of conscience, can lead the parade of peace-makers from both sides. Then we can witness shalom and salaam. But regrettably, we will have to wait for the coming of the messiah.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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