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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 8, 2008 / 2 Iyar 5768

Israel is irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg



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Is there any way to explain the Jewish State's successes without including the religious-mystical element?


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Image:
In 2008, a beautiful vineyard grows directly across from a home in Alon Shevut. Now, Alon Shevut is an Israeli "settlement" on the West Bank. "Settlements," we are incessantly told by media and politicians, are evil, not least because they occupy Arab land.

Problem: the vineyard, not more than 20 feet from the front door of the Jewish homeowner, is owned by Arabs, not Jews. It is Arab land, while the settler's home is on Jewish land, legally purchased by JNF. Cheek by jowl, Jewish "settlers" and Palestinian Arabs live in peace.

Image:
In the 1930s, Nazis were planning the Holocaust. Jews in Palestine had no oil, no independence, no American economic aid. From 1936 to 1939, Arabs in Palestine waged what really was the first intifada. And what were the Jews in Palestine doing? Among other things, bringing new technology to the Tenuva milk production plant founded in 1926 for the fledgling Jewish community in the Middle East.

Image:
In 2008, entering an El Al plane on the way to Israel for the last days of Passover, I am greeted by a large sign, "This entire plane has been made kosher for Passover!"

Between these three images rest rock bottom truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its myths.

Myth #1:
The reason why Palestinians go nowhere economically is because of Israel, specifically, Israeli roadblocks and restrictions. Israel could allow for a more contiguous Palestinian community, but doesn't. Israel is gobbling up Palestinian land. Israel closes her borders to Palestinians seeking work in Israel. Israel controls Palestinian electricity and fuel supplies. Or so it is said. And because of all this, the onus for Palestinian economic backwardness rests on Israel.

Something is wrong with this picture. Something far deeper than the security considerations — for example, Israeli border closures after Palestinian terrorists attacks.

There are prior considerations. Most fundamental of all is the consideration that the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine began at the same starting line.

Enter the city of Gedera, Israel, today. This small city in the middle of Israel is not particularly imposing. But it is a city: parks, automobiles, near full employment, a mixed economy, cafes, shops, manufacturers — and freedom. The sign at the entrance to the city reads, "Gedera, 1884."

What was in Gedera in 1884?

Barren land. Incredibly hot weather. A burning sun. And . . . nothing. No homes, no farms, no employment, nothing civilized even by the standards of 1884. There were no continguous Arab communities, either. But communities, very small ones, were built there, one Jew at a time.

From the same starting line: a land that was virtually unpopulated.

The Jews possessed no material advantage over resident Arabs. Jews founded Gedera in 1884 with no running water, no modern sewage, not to mention, no prior expertise or even experience in either farming or city planning. But piece by little piece, Jews focused on technology, on building, on growing — on a new farming implement, a new milk factory, a new water system, a new electric plant.

Enter Rehovot, another small city in the middle of Israel, now home of the Weizmann Institute of Science, near Gedera. The sign at the entrance to the city reads, "Rehovot, 1890."

Same story. Same starting line.

And the same political dynamic, which, for the Arabs, was not a contest. Not: Who could build the best, or the fastest? Nor was the political dynamic a cooperative effort. Rather, it was a conflict.

The Jews returned to the land of Israel with the intent of building a Jewish society, and the local Arabs responded on two levels, the popular and the political-ideological.

On the popular level, many Jews and Arabs got along. They lived cheek by jowl, just as in Gush Etzion today. At worst they ignored each other. At best they interacted affirmatively, learning from each other how to survive on a difficult, barren land.

On the political-ideological level, however, Arab leaders waged war. Their purpose was not to build a better Arab society, but to make sure that the Jews failed at their effort to do so. Arab leaders instigated violence and opposition.

Before there was a State of Israel, a government of Israel or a military in Israel, there was Palestinian Arab opposition to Jews on even tiny patches of land, such as Gedera and Rehovot, in the land of Israel. A century before there was massive American aid to the Jewish corporate community in Palestine, Jews needed weapons to survive Arab attacks. When there were no separate roads for Jews and Arabs on the West Bank — let alone the automobile itself! — the Jews who returned to Palestine from Europe needed to guard against dangerous journeys in horse-pulled buggies.

This, then, is the first myth: the attribution of Palestinian failure to Jewish success. No, from the beginning, the Palestinian political purpose was not to succeed. Rather, it was to make certain that the Jews did not succeed. From Gedera in 1884 to Hamas in 2008, nothing fundamental has changed.

What is the purpose of Hamas? To rebuild Gaza? No, to make certain that Jews do not succeed.

The Jewish purpose has been affirmative, and it has succeeded. The Arab purpose has been negative, and it has not succeeded.

The first myth says that the Jews were "imperialists," beginning with a material advantage. In fact, the starting line was the same.

Myth #2:
The solution to the Palestinian economic failure is material.

If only there were peace, if only Israel shared her technology, if only the Palestinian leadership were not corrupt, if only more Arab oil wealth was shared with the Palestinians, if only the Palestinians enjoyed political independence, if only . . . if only . . . Palestinian society would flourish.

No doubt, if even one of these dreams came true, Palestinian life would improve. But, on the fundamental level, a fully functioning and successful modern Palestinian state is not destined to happen.

For, in a certain sense, the Jews and the Palestinians did not begin at the same starting line.

The same material starting line — yes, that was the same for the Jews and the Arabs in the vicinity of Gedera or Rehovot in 1884 and 1890, respectively.

Each side had next to nothing. One side mostly built, the other side mostly did not. Yes, that is true.

But this is not just any land. This is the Holy Land. What made it holy was G-d. When Jews followed G-d's will, they flourished. When they did not, they suffered grievously from several exiles from the land.

Call this mystical, or irrational, or rightist, or unprovable, or destructive, call it what you want, but, in fact, there are measurable ways to test this hypothesis.

There was never a biblical promise that the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people, would make the United States of America flourish. Or China. Or Europe. Or anywhere, except for Israel.

It is not that non-Jews cannot flourish in Israel and it is not that biblically based Jewish values prohibit or discourage the residence of non-Jews in the land of Israel.

But there is a biblical promise that the land, as a society, would flourish only with massive Jewish residence on and Jewish political control of the land.

Is it mere coincidence that, since 1884, against unimaginable economic, political and military obstacles, a Jewish society and then a Jewish state have flourished in the land of Israel?

Is there any way to explain this without including the religious-mystical element?

This is not to say that the Zionist movement began as a religious one, or that Israel could not fail. If Israel does not live up to biblical values of holiness and justice, it could indeed suffer. This is at the biblical root of the entire Jewish enterprise. But a Jewish failure is not equivalent to the success of another people on this land. For some 18 centuries various peoples controlled this land and made nothing of it. Miraculously, in the past 130 years, the land has flourished under the Jews.

An accident? An accretion of political favors? A scaffolding reducible to Marxist or other economic explanations?

The biblical Prophets, I believe, have the best of the material explanations: It's not just that Israel was promised to the Jews. It's that Israel's success was promised to the Jews. The "promised land" is not just a Divine real estate transaction; it's a seedbed that many can work, but only one people can transfigure.

If you prefer to explain modern Israel another way, you will need to contradict the evidence of the senses, not just for the past 130 years of success, but for the prior 1,800 years of failure.

This, then, is the second myth: Israel is not a holy land, not a promised land, not the land of the Covenant. In fact, there is no other way to explain its current state.

As Israel is about to celebrate her 60th anniversary, there may well be room for skepticism. We need only mention Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah (to name a few of the enemies). We need only mention the festering terrorism, the radical Islam that rejoices in death, the continuing demographic race with the Arabs, the presence of some one-half million Israeli citizens who are not Jews (and not Arabs), the spectacular growth of poverty in Israel. Yes, there is room for skepticism and concern. Even deeper, will Jews in Israel live up to the demands of the Torah for justice and holiness?

Still deeper, however, is the underlying affirmative purpose of contemporary Israel — not to destroy someone else, but to build itself.

This reflects the eternal promise of Israel — to become a home for the entire Jewish people, who alone can make it flourish.

And when they do, there shall be fewer scenes more idyllic, more peaceful and, indeed, more messianic than a Jewish home opposite an Arab vineyard whose crop the owner shares with his Jewish neighbors.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is Executive Editor of the Intermountain Jewish News. Let him know what you think by clicking here.




© 2008, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg