Israel is 71 years young. Besides the United States, Israel is considered the youngest democracy in the civilized world. Other “democracies” have risen from imperialistic rules and world wars, but the majority have found themselves run by petty dictators that promise plenty and deliver nothing. Israel is different. Israel is a lonely reed in a turbulent sea of surrounding anger, envy, and malcontent. What others could or would not achieve, Israel doubled and tripled successfully. Jewish people are inherently tenacious. I came face to face with that tenacity three years ago, when a short visit to Israel changed my life.
It was love at first sight. Looking down at the Mediterranean from a third floor apartment in Haifa, made me realize that I was in a special place. Israel slowly and determinately peeled each layer of beauty as my short journey took me to places I had only read about in church. The significance of Biblical locations soon revealed itself as I made my way to Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and finally, Jerusalem. As a Christian, I had only given lip service to biblical names and locations; often blurry points of reference at Sunday service. Not until I visited Caesarea, Megiddo, Masada, and Jerusalem, did I realize that my faith is tied to Israel’s people and their Biblical past. Our past.
I have become an oddity in my small world. My staunch and unconditional support of Israel has raised eyebrows. The gold Star of David around my neck has raised questions. At a time when anti-Semitic feeling is on the rise, wearing an apparent Jewish symbol out in the open has been considered foolish. Adding living in Germany to the equation makes those who are close to me question my sanity. I have grown used to being asked if I was Jewish. My logical answer remains: one cannot be a good Christian without first being a good Jew. At this point, conversation ceases at an awkward scratching of the head. Does she have chutzpah or is she just meshugena?
Trying to explain Israel to those who have never been there is difficult. Preconceptions and misconceptions run rampant. Mass media does not help. Ignorance is equally a culprit. The misguided opinion that the entire country is located in Gaza should be of no surprise to anyone. That is all that politicians and mainstream media focus on. How can I adequately describe a moment in time that changed me both in faith and politics? The truth about Israel lies in the country’s tenacity to survive. Every day Israelis realize that they must take precautions to remain reasonably safe. Staying alive is a way of life. They wake up in the morning with the knowledge that half of their Arab neighboring countries want them gone. Under these conditions one tends to develop a strong and stubborn back bone.
Amid detectors and security is the inspiring ability for a nation to remain true to its faith. There is nothing more awe striking than Shabbat at the Kotel. Despite political differences, Jews will cry, pray, and sing in atonement and thanksgiving every Shabbat evening. A sight that remains edged in my memory forever. Shabbat was described as the collective moment in thanksgiving, when Jewish women from all walks of life, lead families and friends in prayer at the very same moment, and in homes all over Israel. Hard to imagine. The same loud unison praise to G-d is also lifted up at the Kotel. That image should send shivers to anyone on the outside. The unbeatable strength of a nation in prayer. I was lucky enough to be present at the Kotel on Shabbat. I was also privileged to touch the rough uneven walls to the Kotel. It was a combination of fear and joy that I had never experienced before. G-d was definitely present.
My Israeli connection did not cease three years ago. It continues vibrantly through my wonderful friend in Haifa. My Israeli “sister” who made me promise that I would write the truth about Israel. Over strong Israeli coffee in her Haifa kitchen, we spent hours looking over history books and discussing Israel’s politics and strife. She often worries about me, especially when she thinks that my pro-Israel political blogs cross a precarious line. She also remains my main source to the truth and my continual love of Israel. A young country that endured punches and prevailed. A country that is more diverse than any other country I have ever known. A country where Christians, Muslims, and Jews freely worship within feet of each other. Where I watched and clapped as Muslim, Christian, and Jewish children danced together on cobble stones in Jerusalem. Where one can eat an Arab lunch at noon, and dine kosher at night.
Israel is imperative to the stability in the Middle East. It’s democratic principles combined with freedom to worship and freedom of speech are unprecedented in the region. It’s a country advanced in technology, music, and intellect. The Judaic penchant to learn, debate, discuss, and determine are its strengths. Israel leads the world in patents. Israel also leads in scientific research and development. A resume some countries only dream of.
In his 2007 book “Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right”, Bernie Goldberg made a very interesting observation. He noted that pro Arab and pro Palestinian liberals tend to hold Arabs to a lower standard than they do Israel. They give Palestinians a pass whilst going after Israel with a vengeance. Are they disparaging those they are adamantly protecting? Are they inadvertently insinuating that bad behavior is expected of Arabs but not of Israelis? Is that not bigotry? I equate them to the teacher who expects more out of an A student than the mediocre kid at the back of the class. The burden of decency and fairness always seems to be put on Israel’s shoulders. Despite the “in your face” proof that Hamas, Hezbollah, and half of the Arab world wants to eradicate Israel, left-leaning liberals still find it necessary to condemn the only democratic free country in the Middle East. A warped sense of logic that still baffles me.
With a population of over nine million, Israel remains the most diverse vibrant country in the world. Made up of 74% Jews, 21% Muslims, and the rest Christians; Israel offers the best education and opportunities to all its citizens regardless of their faith or origin. For example, a small Israeli-Arab community of 24,000 in lower Galilee has the most doctors per capita in the world. Arraba averages more than 6 doctors per 1,000, and 25-30 new doctors a year. One does not read that in The New York Times. Israel also managed to turn deserts into orchards, lead the world in scientific and technological research, rank highest in start-up businesses, and contribute 12 Nobel Prize winners to the international community. Not bad for being 71 years young!
My undying support of Israel is not based on any superficial Pollyanna philosophy. I understand Israel’s various religious and political nuances that often seem incongruous to a democracy. That is true of any country. But hard facts remain undisputed. Israel was born out Jewish Diaspora and hundreds of years fraught in persecution. Israel’s right to exist is supported by historical, biblical and archeological evidence that disputes any other argument including Muslim claims of ownership. Israel is the only chance for peace in the region, but not at its expense. Like Don Quixote, Israel keeps on fighting windmills of public opinion and political rhetoric. I will keep on fighting for Israel.