The People In The Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.” President Theodore Roosevelt, from his speech, Citizenship in a Republic, April 23, 1910.

“Robert Strauss, a Democrat, tells a story about calling his mother to wish her a happy New Year, explaining that he would not be going to services for Yom Kippur because of an important meeting with then President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. His mother shot back, ‘If you have no respect for your religion, then no one will have any respect for you!’ and she hung up. Strauss called off the meeting with the President, went to services, prayed, and fasted. The next day as Strauss was about to apologize for cancelling the meeting, the President greeted him, ‘Shana Tova and Happy New Year—You Jews are really something!” [Sometimes it’s about showing self-respect]

“Israel is a very pro-American country, possibly more so than any other country in the world. As in the past, Israelis followed the US presidential election with great interest…After eight years of a frosty relationship with the US Commander-in-Chief, many Israelis cautiously welcomed the advent of Donald Trump…In a poll taken following Donald Trump’s victory, 83% [latest polls have Trump at 87%] of Israelis said they consider Trump a pro-Israel leader; by contrast, , another poll showed that 63% view Barack Obama as the ‘worst’ US president with regard to Israel in the last 30 years. Indeed after eight years of tense relations with the Obama administration, most Israelis are relieved to see a friend in the White House…Netanyahu fought tooth and nail against the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration with Iran. Trump slammed it as “one of the dumbest deals ever…” Furthermore, Trump’s promise to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem seems more sincere than similar promises made by previous presidential candidates. [Trump moved the Embassy on May 14, 2018, the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of the State of Israel] Throughout his campaign and into the early days of his presidency, Trump has shown that he follows through, and is more concerned with fulfilling his promises than flattering his electorate. The political correctness of the Obama years—when the president refused to acknowledge radical Islam as the source of most of the terrorism in the world— frustrated Israelis…Thus a Trump who wants to make his country great again by increasing defense spending and standing tall against Americas enemies abroad, especially Iran, strikes a responsive chord among Israelis…After eight years of the distant President Obama…a president who used his last days in office to lash out at Israel at the UN—it should not be surprising that Israelis are looking forward…to working with the new American president.” Efriam Inbar, Co-founder, Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies, 02/13/17.

And as our people come to the end of another wondrous year, I again read from the Book of Devarim and parasha Eikev. “The entire commandment (singular) that I command you this day you shall observe to perform so that you may live and may flourish…and you will possess the Land that Hashem swore to your forefathers. You shall remember the entire road (in our two thousand year journey) on which Hashem, your G-d did lead you…so as to test you, to know that which is in your heart…He afflicted you and left you hungry, then He fed you, to let you know that not on bread alone does man live, rather on everything (singular) that comes out of the mouth of Hashem does man live.” (Deut. 8:1-3)

And then one of my favorite sentences…”Ko’chi ve’etzim yadi…” And you may say in your heart, my strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!” Yet after a momentary delusional bout of hubris, truth will again spring to mind and… “Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d that it was He Who gave you strength to make wealth in order to establish His covenant that He swore to your forefathers…” (Deut. 8: 17-18). Continuing…

“Shema Yisrael, Hear, O Israel today you cross the Jordan, to drive out nations that are greater and mightier than you, cities that are great and fortified…a great and lofty people, children of giants, that you knew and who you have heard, [in parasha Shelach, thirty –eight years ago]. But today Hashem, your G-d—He crosses before you…He will destroy them, and He will subjugate them before you, and you will drive them out…as Hashem spoke to you. Do not say in your heart…it is ‘because of my righteousness did Hashem bring me to possess the Land…but because Hashem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob..(9:1-5).

And remember, and do not forget…”Now, O Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d ask of you? Only to fear Hashem your G-d, and to go in all of His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem with all of your heart and with all of your soul…” (Deut. 10:12) For man does not live by bread alone!

Our generation has been blessed to see miracles earlier generations could not have even dreamed of. From the depths of hell, when thirty-two nations, including America, turned their collective backs on European Jewry, and closed their doors to rescue, at the Evian Conference, in France, in July of 1938, knowing the fate that awaited six million of our European brothers and sisters.A time when the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was erased from our Torah. Britain then passed its White Paper of 1939, closing the gates to Palestine, sealing the fate of European Jewry. What happened to that eloquent pronouncement, whereby “His Majesty’s government views with favor…” The British government turned it into a worthless piece of paper, and the august world organization, created after The Great War, for peace and humanity, The League of Nations, sat silently. After all it was only about saving Jews.

But what happened to that great pseudo-Zionist, and hero of British Jews, Winston Churchill, who, after the British cracked the German messaging codes in 1940, he received weekly briefings of how many Jews were being rounded up, from what towns and cities, where they were being taken, and how many were being slaughtered in the death camps. After all the Germans did pride themselves on their efficiency, and accurate documentation of their atrocities. It should be remember it was Churchill who in 1922, created the original “Two State Solution”, when he partitioned the British Mandate illegally, giving the land on the east bank of the Jordan River to Abdullah to create Trans-Jordan.

It was when the new Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Mervis, gave a talk about the “Liberation of 1945,” that I asked him if he would say a few words about the “Second Liberation.” The nice fellow seemed confused, so I helped him out, reminding him that after the liberation of the Death Camps in 1945, the Jews who were lucky enough to have survived, hoping to finally go to Palestine, were then marched into Displaced Persons Camps, D P Camps, by the British, who continued to keep the gates to Palestine securely closed.

I look around my study in search of an old friend. A little remembered hero. Bartley Crum, a member of the Anglo-American Committee of 1946, and his memoir of his meetings in various DP camps titled, Behind the Silken Curtain. On page 85, “In Zeilsheim we were given the results of a poll of 18,311 DP’s …of the 18,311, thirteen said they wished to go back to Europe. Of the18,298 who said they wished to leave, 17,712 said they wanted to go to Palestine…But why Palestine? Five million Jews live in the United States. Jews live happily and in dignity in England…Why not the United States or England?…The answer was, in one way or another: “Yes we know Jews live happily in many lands. But they lived happily in Germany too…”

Yet when the British finally left Israel in May, 1948, and with the American government of President Harry Truman having imposed an arms embargo on all weapon sales to Israel, and with Britain supplying arms, officers and mercenaries to the Arab fighters, it was believed that the Arabs would finish the work that Hitler had begun. Britain’s Foreign Minister, Earnest Bevins, known for his dislike for the Jews, was in a good mood, while most American Jews and their leaders hid in their collective closet whispering, sha’ stil, believing the new State of Israel, and its 650,000 Jews didn’t have a chance.

And although the United States had voted in favor of the partition plan on November 29, 1947, what few remember was that on March 19, 1948, it reversed itself, betraying Israel, and attempted to force Ben-Gurion to accept a renewed trusteeship, once again under the authority of the United Nations. Ben-Gurion was conflicted, and so he asked his close confidant Yitzhak Tabenkin for advice. Tabenkin asked for a day in which to consider his response. He told Ben-Gurion he wanted to take counsel with two people. The next day he returned and urged Ben-Gurion to declare the state. Ben-Gurion accepted his advice and then asked, “To whom did you talk to?” Responding, Tabenkin said, “From my grandfather who died ten years ago who could only dream of living in a Jewish State, and from my grandson, not yet born, who will have the privilege to be born in a Jewish State.”

And after the State was proclaimed, and its anthem, Hatikva, could be heard in Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, and throughout the Land, a miracle was about to happen. “And I shall strengthen the heart of Pharo, and I will be glorified through Farouk 1, and all of Egypt will know I am Hashem…”(Ex.14;4)

And an echo was heard from a covenant made long ago…for Jacob had vowed a vow…”If G-d will be with me, and He will guard me on my way…and He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and I return in peace to my father’s house, then Hashem will be my G-d.” (Gen. 28; 20-21). Yet G-d had told Jacob…”Behold I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go…I will not leave you…I will return you to this soil…”(Gen. 28:20;15) And so it was that in 1948, seventy-one years ago, that our G-d stepped back into history, and returned His people to His Land, a Land promised to Jacob, and to Isaac, and to Abraham. A Land flowing with milk and honey, and computer chips.

And today, 2019/5780, in Israel, over 6 million Jews have joined their 650,000 Jewish brothers and sisters of 1948. “Look what their G-d did for them!” “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will make your name great, and you shall be for a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you…” (Gen. 12: 2-3)

And yes, there is a lot of craziness going on in Israel today, but what do you expect when you get seven million Jews together in one place. It has been written that Israel today is the eighth most influential country on a planet of one hundred and ninety-two recognized countries, after such humongous countries as the United States, China, Russia, India, Japan, England and Germany. That’s not bad for a ‘little pisher’ of not quite nine million, but I’m sure in the years to come, Israel will be moving up the ladder. .

A story has been told that Queen Victoria once asked Disraeli, the then Prime Minister of England, “How do you know there is a G-d?” And Disraeli replied, “The Jews your Majesty. The Jews!” A people often in the arena.

Shabbat Shalom 09/06/2019                                                     Jack “Yehoshua” Berger


About the Author
Educated as an architect with a Masters in Architectural History, Jack Yehoshua Berger became a practicing architect and real estate developer. In his late 30's he met a Rabbi who turned him on to the miracle of Israel and he began learning how the amazing country, against all odds, came to be the miracle of the modern world.