Home at Last
Editor’s Note: It was 1,878 long years after the destruction of the Second Temple when God, in His mercy, returned the Jewish people to control of the land He had promised would be theirs forever. This article, originally titled “Blessed Be the Lord God of Israel, Who Hath Visited His People,” trumpeted that matchless work of God in Israel My Glory in June 1948, one month after the creation of the new State of Israel.
It may be that, at midnight, May 15, 1948, when the British departed from Palestine and the Jewish state came into being, we have witnessed one of the greatest dates in the history of mankind.
Certainly it brought a thrill of joy and prayer to every Jew throughout the world and, undoubtedly, to countless numbers of friends of the Jewish people among every nation and kindred.
We are told that in the cities of Palestine, when the proclamation of the new Jewish state was published, Jewish people wept for joy and prayed in thanksgiving and supplication for God’s mercy upon Israel—land and people.
If history teaches us anything, it is surely this: No people have achieved their independence and freedom without suffering and yearning, without sweat and tears, sacrifice and struggle, without shedding of their own blood, or without dying. If that be the price of independence, Israel has paid the full measure, pressed down and running over.
Israel, the most tragic of all peoples under the sun! For nearly 2,000 years without a home, without a land, wanderers upon the face of the earth, persecuted, driven from place to place, robbed of all things dear to men, even of her name and character! In our own day, decimated by the wrath of a Satan-possessed fiend! Sick unto death, craving liberty or death! Now the hour of fulfillment has struck. It came in a strange way, perhaps contrary to what we thought or imagined; but it came!
Is there a human breast that does not feel the surge of a great emotion when considering the pathos and drama of a people so wonderfully visited as this generation of Israel in our day? What shall we say to her on the day of her rejoicing and travail? For it is amidst tumult of battle, the roaring of guns, and the bursting of bombs, amidst blood and tears, that the new land is being born—not unlike the birth throes of our own American independence. The fight has only begun. The outcome is yet unknown, save for the fact that He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121:4).
There they are, 650,000 Jews in a turbulent Arab sea that is hostile, jealous, unrelenting, and unforgiving. But this is nothing new. This is the way Israel became a nation under God, fighting for life against a coalition of native tribes and peoples: the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Canaanites, the Moabites, and all the rest of them who are the ancient counterpart of the Arab league of today. Then, as now, the questions were: Shall they withstand? Shall they prevail?
And now we see at least the partial fulfillment; and though the road be steep and hard and great sorrow and tribulation still ahead, the promise of God is sure, yea, and amen. The land is Israel’s. The soil, every inch of which has been so dearly paid for with money, toil, sweat, and tears, is theirs. Out of Zion’s arid land, populous towns and teeming villages set amidst well-tilled fields and fruit-laden orchards, shall arise; and the singing of children shall yet be heard in their streets, children born in freedom.
As Americans, we thank God that our country was the first to recognize the nation of Israel, thus making up in part for the hesitancies and vacillations of our policies relating to Palestine. Would that America should always be the first to right the wrong and to help the oppressed.
The Honeymoon of Freedom
Like all great human emotions, the joy of independence restored and liberty regained will eventually subside, the honeymoon of freedom shall pass, and a day of sober realities will stare the Jews of Israel in the face.
What then? All the problems, not only political and economic but also the universal problem of sin and evil, will still be there to plague and harass Israel as it does all humankind. The acquisition of the land will not remove this obstacle.
Our Prayer for Israel
In this hour of rejoicing (and anxiety because of the troublesome days yet to come), our hearts go out to our Jewish brethren in earnest prayer to God that He may spread His wings to shield and protect them and to save them in the face of their enemies. We pray that in the land of Israel, countless thousands of her weary children may be gathered in and find shelter there, a haven for her afflicted and storm-tossed sons and a pulsating center for joy and fruitful labors.
But above all, it is our heart’s desire and prayer to God that on the soil of her forefathers, Israel may remedy the failures and sins of her youth, which have brought so much sorrow and disaster.
We pray that Israel may find her way back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of David, the great king and seer; the God of the prophets; and the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Israel’s Glory. God grant that a new vision may be given to His people and that the Holy Spirit may be poured out—the spirit of recognition, insight, humanity, grace, and repentance, so that Israel may embrace Him who is her Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Lord and Savior of all mankind.
God grant the leaders of the new State of Israel a generous spirit of goodwill and tolerance toward all who will come to live within her borders; that freedom may prevail within her gates; that all men may feel at liberty to profess God and worship without hindrance; and that His Word, gloriously revealed in the Old and New Testaments, may be free to all with no one to hinder.
And to the ancient prayer of the synagogue, which says, “And may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy,” we add the prayer of the church of Christ: “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus, and redeem Thy people and with her all men who long for salvation.”
The Jewish Declaration of Independence
We have decided, relying on the authority of the Zionist movement and the support of the entire Jewish people, that upon termination of the mandatory regime there shall be an end of foreign rule in Palestine and that the governing body of the Jewish State shall come into being.
The state which the Jewish people will set up in its own country will guarantee justice, freedom and equality for all inhabitants, regardless of religion, race, sex or land of origin. It is our aim to make it a state in which the exiles of our people are gathered together and in which happiness and knowledge shall prevail and the vision of the prophets of Israel shall illumine our path.
At this hour when bloodshed and strife have been forced upon us we turn to the Arabs in the Jewish State and to our neighbors in adjacent territory with an appeal for brotherhood, cooperation and peace. We are a peaceful people, and we are here to build peace. Let us then build our state together as equal citizens, with equal rights and obligations, with mutual trust and respect, each with a true understanding of the other’s needs.
Our laws are dedicated to defending the liberty of our people. If further trials and battles are in store for us, we shall defend with all our might the achievement upon which we place our hope.
Right is on our side. With us are the hopes of the past generations of our people. With us is the conscience of the world. With us are deposited the testament of the millions of our martyred dead and the resolute will to live of the millions who have survived. The sanctity of our martyrs and heroes rests upon us and the God of our fathers will help us.—TEL AVIV, APRIL 12, 1948
Jewish State Proclaimed in Tel Aviv
At 4 P.M., in the three-story Tel Aviv Museum on Rothschild Boulevard, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the new State of Israel to an audience of 400 men and women who wept in happiness. In the address later, in which he announced the bombing of Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion pledged full cooperation with the Arabs in working for the progress and peace of the world and pleaded for help from “decent people around the world.”
Some of them had attended the first Zionist Congress 50 years ago in Switzerland. Some had suffered in Russian pogroms. Some bore the scars of Nazi lashings or the shameful tattoo marks of internment camps. Some had come to Israel from the United States and other free countries to be citizens of their own country.
All Bow in Prayer
In the independence ceremony, when Ben-Gurion reached the passage in the proclamation declaring the new state, the older Jewish leaders burst into tears.
“Thank God for this great day,” one chanted.
As Ben-Gurion finished, the heads of all present were bowed in prayer.
Ben-Gurion, who had sat down, rose and said, “We have waited 2,000 years, and it took us but half an hour to go through this.”
Chaim Weizmann Elected President
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, senior statesman of Israel, was elected president of the Council of Government—a post tantamount to provincial president of the new state.
Dr. Weizmann, who has a distinguished career as a scientist and helped the British avoid disaster during the First World War, is now in New York under a doctor’s care. He accepted his election, as he said, with great humility and gratitude. Dr. Weizmann is considered a moderate Zionist, and his efforts have always been conciliatory toward Britain. He is now a British subject but presumably, in accepting the presidency of Israel, will thereby become the first citizen of the new State of Israel.