Zvi Oct/Nov 1998
This year we are celebrating 50 years since our Declaration of Independence in 1948, which created the modern State of Israel. It seems like only yesterday. But, with the Declaration of Independence came a declaration of war. I was a new immigrant at the time, having come to Israel after passing through the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. I came here hoping to make a new life for myself after losing my entire family in Hitler’s gas chambers.
Only days after I arrived in Israel, following several months in an internment camp on Cyprus, eight Arab countries attacked us—just a tiny nation with a population of a half million souls, most of them Holocaust survivors like myself. Like it or not, we were involved in a whole new set of troubles.
With the memories of the cruel Nazi regime so fresh in our minds, we were thrust into a new Holocaust, a new destruction. Our enemies were so sure of themselves that they did not think they would even have to fight against us because of our small number. They planned a triumphal march through the city of Jerusalem to show the world their great power over little Israel. Were they triumphant? Of course not! In fact, they experienced a crushing defeat. They came against us with millions of men and their best weapons, but they failed.
At that time, I did not know the Lord, and I, along with all the other new Israelis, was reveling in our victory. Then one day I was given a Bible, the first one I had owned in my life. As I began to read it, I soon came upon the account in 1 Samuel 17 of King David’s great victory over the Philistine hero, Goliath. I then realized that in 1948, little Israel was just like the little shepherd boy before the giant. Goliath said to David, “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves [sticks]?” (1 Sam. 17:43). I remembered that we had gone against our Arab enemies with nothing more than sticks, compared to their sophisticated weapons. I realized that, just as the Lord had won David’s battle over Goliath, the Lord Himself had won little Israel’s battle over those eight Arab countries that attacked us. As it is written in Isaiah 49:25, “But thus saith the Lord…I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.” And again in Psalm 124:2–3, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us; Then they had swallowed us up alive, when their wrath was kindled against us.”
Even today, many people in Israel are sure that it was because we were so strong that we were able to defeat our enemies in 1948—and again and again down through the years. But I stand as a living testimony to all that the Lord has done for us in the many wars we have fought since we have been a nation. I served as a soldier on active duty defusing land mines from 1948 to 1973 and have witnessed the many miracles the Lord has performed for us. We never could have defeated our enemies in our own strength. That is why even now, 50 years after our independence, people still must be told who was on our side—and has promised to be on our side forever.
A few weeks ago, some students from a nearby high school came to my home and asked me to tell them about the War of Independence. They explained that they had received a homework assignment requiring them to interview a veteran of that war. I was happy to cooperate, and so they asked me many questions, but the most important in their minds was, “How could it be that such a small nation made such a great victory?” In answer, I opened my Bible and read Deuteronomy 7:17–18: “If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them, but shalt well remember what the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt.”
As we spoke, the students wrote and wrote in their notebooks, and the interview lasted more than two hours. I explained to them that we did not achieve this great victory in the way in which they had been taught in school—through our own power. No! In 1948, we were a destroyed people—physically and emotionally—having gone through the terrible Holocaust. Most of us had not learned to speak Hebrew, since the war erupted within weeks and even days of our arrival in Israel, so we had difficulty even communicating with one another. I then showed them pictures of the old weapons Israel used in the war of 1948. I told them, “They were nothing compared to the powerful weapons the Arabs used against us. So, I ask you, who was on our side? Were we that strong? Of course not. We were, as the Lord said in Isaiah 41:14, nothing more than a ‘worm.’” Then I read to them Isaiah 41:8–15, showing them that in spite of our small size and lack of weapons, the Lord fought for us then, as he has done down through the millennia and right up to today.
Then, slowly, we came around to the subject of faith in God. They asked, “Why do you speak so much about the Bible?” I said, “It is impossible to speak about war without looking at the living facts in God’s Word about the great things the Lord has done for us. Take a good look at 1 Samuel 17 and you will see that without the Lord’s help, King David, who was only a child at the time, could not have gone against a beast like Goliath. But what did David say to him? ‘Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied’ (1 Sam. 17:45). It is the same with Israel today. We stand before our enemies, who are as numerous as a plague of locusts, not in our own strength. No, we are not heroes. If you do not say in your report that the Lord was on our side, you will be lying to yourselves and to everyone else.”
These young students, who before were far away from the Bible in their thinking, then asked if I would give them a Bible, and I was happy to do so. I pray that as they read it, the Lord will open their eyes to the truth and they will see Him as the great Defender of His Chosen People, Israel.
And so, 50 years have passed since I came to this land. And what has happened to me here? The Lord has protected and spared me through many battles, through difficulties on the job, through serious illness, and through innumerable dangers. He has given me a wonderful wife, four wonderful children, eleven wonderful grandchildren (and two more on the way), and has provided for all our needs through the years, as we have depended on Him. But, most important of all, He saved my soul. As I read that little black Bible given to me by a dear lady on a street in Jerusalem after the 1948 war, I confessed my sins before Him and accepted Him as my Messiah and Savior. Since then I have had the great privilege of being His servant here in His Holy Land. I have spoken to multitudes of people—people of all ages, nationalities, and religions. Some have accepted the Lord as their Messiah and Savior, some have not, and some are still undecided. I pray that He will give me many more years to serve him in this great battle for the souls of my brethren according to the flesh.