From Bill Sutter’s Desk May/Jun 2010
On my first trip to Israel in 1989, I remember thinking how much the Israelis struggled to live in the land of God’s promise. Soaring inflation, high unemployment, and persistent underemployment made life difficult for so many. And all faced internal and external threats to their personal and national security. In the years since, our Up to Jerusalem tours have witnessed dramatic developments in the economic infrastructure of this small nation, as well as vast improvements in the living standards.
Robust economic growth has transformed Israel’s landscape from an Old World look to a vibrant, modern country that has become the showcase of the Middle East. Construction activity has been so strong that Israelis jokingly say their national bird is the crane—not the tall, heron-like creature but, rather, the huge construction machine that lifts heavy objects into place in new buildings throughout Israel.
Communities are springing up on once-barren land—witness the modern city of Modi’in, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Up-to-date highways cross the country, some of which employ cutting-edge electronic technologies, including license-plate scanning for toll collection. Even the automobiles have taken on a decidedly modern look.
Our Up to Jerusalem tour buses now drive through numerous reforestation projects of the Jewish National Fund. And formerly parched ground has become productive, as Israel uses the latest techniques of water-harvesting and irrigation to push back the desert and create lush farming fields.
It is not surprising that Israel’s rise to a world leader in innovation and technology has attracted the attention of authors who have responded with several important books. One of the better known is Start-Up Nation, which boldly proclaims on its cover, “The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.” Authors Dan Senor, adjunct senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Saul Singer, columnist, author, and former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post, dissect Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit and remarkable economic growth. According to Debbie Buchwald of the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, “This book educates people about Israel’s successes in high tech, life sciences, and clean tech that benefit the world.”
George Gilder, author of 15 books including his international best-seller, Wealth and Poverty, takes it a step further in The Israel Test, which is available through The Friends of Israel. His opening words set the stage for Israel’s challenge to the countries of the world: “The real issue is between the rule of law and the rule of leveler egalitarianism, between creative excellence and covetous ‘fairness,’ between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it.”
The exceptionalism of the Jewish people is a vital concept to Gilder’s analysis of Israel’s success: “Israel today concentrates the genius of the Jews.” And beyond Israel’s borders, he argues, Jewish successes benefit their respective countries. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies reviewed Gilder’s work and concluded, “Indeed, he [Gilder] argues in The Israel Test that it [Israel] presents a moral and ethical challenge to all of us. Boldly, he states that we can either choose to support Israel or choose to reject justice, democracy, free-market economics, and excellence.”
As I reflect on the importance of what’s being said about the amazing story of Israel’s rise to economic prominence, I remember the late, legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, whose famous segments on “The Rest of the Story” provided lesser-known endings to familiar news accounts. While Israel’s observers analyze the nation’s dramatic rise to world leadership in innovation and technology, Christians of biblical faith understand there is a vital “rest of the story” found in the Bible. Israel’s transformation from meager beginnings to a vibrant, modern state represents the fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word in our lifetime.
God promised to:
- Regather Israel. “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24).
- Make Israel’s dry land blossom. “For the Lᴏʀᴅ will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lᴏʀᴅ; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (Isa. 51:3).
- Bring prosperity to a restored Israel and, through Israel, blessing to the world. “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).
To understand Israel’s “rest of the story” is to appreciate that God is at work, accomplishing exactly what He promised.