Has the Dream Lost Its Luster?

If you will it, it is no dream.

Those were the immortal words of Theodor Herzl in his 1902 novel, Old New Land. The founder of modern Zionism expressed a hope welling up in the hearts of many Diaspora Jews who, along with Herzl, sensed the welcome mat was being pulled out from under them in Europe. Five years earlier, at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, Congress Chairman Max Nordau formalized the pursuit of the dream: “The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Eretz Yisrael [Hebrew for “the land of Israel”] secured by law.”

And so began in earnest the evolution of a spectacular miracle the likes of which had never been seen: After 2,000 years, an ancient people would return from around the world to their inheritance and experience the resurrection of their Promised Land. Thus began a dizzying spiral of events that captivated and inspired much of civilized society and affirmed agreement with Nordau’s declaration of purpose. Large swaths of the Western world became, in sympathies and conviction, admiring quasi-Zionists.

Then and Now
But that was then, and this is now. And the now is not a pretty sight. On March 30, 2012, an event billed as the Global March to Jerusalem hoped to incite a million people to storm Israel’s borders, displace Jewish citizens from Jerusalem, and hand over the land to Palestinian Arabs. In the end, the effort was a dismal display of tepid numbers and failed conquests. Nonetheless, leaders claimed participants from 84 countries demonstrated in rallies and marches elsewhere.

Although the Global March was nothing to write home about, it encapsulated the mushrooming mood of left-wing forces determined to turn the dream into a nightmare and shove the Jewish people back into ghettoes.

This time the plan involves combining Israel and the disputed territories into a single state—Arab Palestine—where a tattered remnant of Jewish survivors would be tolerated as dhimmis (non-Muslims living in an Islamic country); and, as in the aftermath of Israel’s 2005 retreat from the Gaza Strip, the spectacular achievements of Israeli ingenuity and energy all would be dismantled.

That prominent leaders in America and Europe would even consider such lunacy is incomprehensible. However, the real nightmare would come later, when Sharia law devotees in the new Palestinian state decide to replicate the ravages of the “Arab Spring” and terminate the only stable democracy and Western ally in the Middle East. The loss would be irreparable.

If the policies of leadership seem senseless, consider this: While the threat of being nuked by Iran dangles over Israeli heads, Western leaders dither away opportunities to stop it in favor of ineffectual sanctions and diplomatic gab sessions disguised as meaningful negotiations.

Rewind to Reality
Has the Zionist dream lost its luster? Has the concept of winning become distasteful and somehow detrimental to national integrity? If the answer is yes, we will all suffer the consequences. Israel is an invaluable case in point. For the tiny Jewish state, winning is about survival—although Israel’s enemies (and even some professed friends) don’t see it that way.

The fact is that the Arabs have lost consecutive wars and two intifadas and not only have lived to fight another day but still hope to launch a final coup de grace that will obliterate the Jewish state once and for all. Though losers, they can try, try again. But if Israel loses even once, it will cease to exist. And that is the material issue. Today’s warped international culture views fighting to win as a demoralizing, antiquated concept. However, when winning means survival, it’s not only fair but imperative.

A longtime friend of mine was a sapper who defused land mines and other explosives over four wars. When he was assigned to the job during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, his instructor told him, “You have the most unique post in the entire army because, in defusing explosives, you have to be perfect every time. You only get one mistake.” Some scenarios provide no viable choices; you either win, or you die trying.

In the 1940s, the fledgling Jewish state was seen as David fighting the armies of the Arab Goliaths. It was an accurate description. Who gave little Israel even a remote chance of surviving? Not many. But the struggling Jewish fighters were certain of several things: (1) The land was theirs. It was Israel or nowhere. (2) Building a Jewish state embodied every positive aspect of what the future promised. Eretz Yisrael represented a haven where the Jewish soul could at long last find rest and peace. Those imperative considerations made Israel worth fighting for.

In fact, Israel’s audacity of spirit in the face of threats of imminent annihilation was admired by prominent Gentiles Randolph and Winston Churchill, son and grandson of renowned British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In the run up to attacks on Israel by Egypt, Syria, and later Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, they wrote, “Israel, like a cowboy of the old Wild West, did not wait for the enemy to draw—he had seen the glint in [Egyptian President Gamal Abdel] Nasser’s eye.”

The Churchills stood with a core of British groups, such as the influential Restoration Movement, that promoted creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Often forgotten is the enormous contribution these groups made toward the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which the British government officially endorsed the Jewish right to a national homeland there. The document was the forerunner of other legal decisions confirming Israel’s legitimacy.

Furthermore, the Jewish homeland’s borders were to follow those delineated in the biblical land grant. So the original landmass set aside for the Jewish people after World War I encompassed everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the border of Iraq—meaning all of modern Israel and Jordan. Two points here are relevant:

  • The land was granted to Israel based on an inalienable right of ownership as established through historically verifiable records and confirming archaeological evidence.
  • In a later decision by Britain, which controlled the territory under the auspices of the League of Nations, 78 percent of the land set aside for the Jewish people was gifted to Sheikh Abdullah for the creation of Transjordan (now called Jordan) in exchange for perceived services rendered during the war.

Later, of course, serious problems arose with British conduct. Britain strongly favored the Arabs in their uprisings against the Palestinian Jews and issued the infamous White Papers that denied thousands of Holocaust survivors entrance to Palestine. Nevertheless, earlier British contributions were vital.

The Imperative of Truth
The West is making a colossal blunder painting Israel as the bad guy in the region. Israel is more of an inspiration than an impediment. Yet the far left peddles revisionist nonsense and pure propaganda, while claiming it is on a noble quest for truth, honesty, and fairness.

Most of the self-righteous Global Marchers and anti-Israel campus crusaders are an uninformed, over-emotionalized lot, completely out of touch with germane issues. Consequently, they not only will contribute to Israel’s harassment, but also will affect measures that will regrettably double back on their own countries.

This is not to say that Israel is always right. Israel is not immune to the same foibles that plague other functioning democracies. But Israel genuinely wants a stable peace with security. In my more than 35 years of personal interaction with Israelis at all political, military, and individual levels, I have seen firsthand how they are absolutely unified in their desire for a just, negotiated settlement with their Palestinian neighbors—regardless of differing political passions or persuasions.

Has the dream lost its luster? Perhaps, as with romantic love, it has matured into something deeper and more substantial; but in its essence, the answer is no. The heritage left by the Israelis who cleared the malaria-infested swamps, fended off a succession of brutal attacks, reclaimed Jerusalem, stunned the world at Entebbe, built great cities in the sand, and enriched the world through their med-ical and technological achievements cannot be diminished or erased.

The luster is still there—and with it, the assurance to Bible-believing Christians that God keeps His promises and the best is yet to come. May it be soon.

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