Individual exceptions aside, as a nation Israel doesn’t give God the glory for its successful return to the land, its statehood, its development, the winning of its wars, its technological prowess and prosperity.
On a visit in 2017, after an Israel tour guide pointed out some impressive national monuments of various heroes of its independence and statehood, I asked him to show us Israel’s monument of thanksgiving to God for these things, and he admitted there is no such monument.
Israel’s founders gave little or no glory to God. Most were “secular Jews” who were either agnostics or atheists. David Ben-Gurion said, “The State of Israel exists SOLELY due to the people of Israel, and primarily, due to the army” (Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion: A Biography). Chaim Weizemann’s God was Science. Golda Meir said, “Trust YOURSELF.” Moshe Dayan said, “[O]ur foremost duty is to live up to the vision of OURSELVES”(Story of My Life, p. 621).
Israel has no national day of thanksgiving to God.
Judea Pearl, winner of the 2011 ACM Turing Award for contributions to artificial intelligence, has been campaigning to declare November 29 the Jewish Thanksgiving Day. This was the day in 1947 when the United Nations voted to partition “Palestine” into Jewish and Arab states. But Pearl’s Thanksgiving Day, even if adopted, would not be an occasion to thank God for Israel’s blessings. He proposes, instead, “a day where we give thanks to Lady History and to the many heroic players who stood behind the historic UN vote” (“November 29 - The Jewish Thanksgiving Day,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017).
This is typical of Jewish thinking today, but in reality, Israel owes everything to God.
Every step of Israel’s preservation, return, and subsequent success has been a cliffhanger that could easily have failed and, in fact, should have failed.
The Zionist Movement was opposed by large numbers of Jews. There was no consensus on whether to return or how to return or even where to return. The Zionists were opposed by the Marxist Jews on one side (the Bund) and by the religious Jews on the other side (the Agudat Israel), and they were opposed by “old establishment English Jewry, who were bitterly anti-Zionist ... [and] mounted a vigorous campaign to counter Zionist influences” (Leslie Stein, The Hope Fulfilled).
The Zionists themselves were fiercely divided. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist Zionism, likened the labor Zionist leaders (Ben-Gurion, Weizmann) to gypsy horse thieves who “pollute the air with the venom and cynicism of class hatred.”
As for the resettlement and development of the land in the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, it could be said that it happened as much in spite of the Jews as because of them. First, there was the bitter division among the Jews themselves. The Sephardi Jews (from the Mediterranean Basin and Arab countries) were divided from the Ashkenazi Jews (from central and eastern Europe). Most of the Ashkenazi lived on handouts from the “old country” and were opposed to the attempts of the Sephardis to work for a living and to educate their children beyond the Talmud. The Ashkenazi rabbis “fought tooth and nail” against these things. They excommunicated Eliezer Ben Yehuda for advocating that students in Jerusalem be taught crafts. The orthodox Jews (the Old Yishuv) were violently opposed to the new secular-minded settlers (the New Yishuv). They “utterly excoriated” those who wanted to make Hebrew the national language. The First Aliyah settlers mocked the Second Aliyah settlers and largely refused to help them (Stein, The Hope Fulfilled, Kindle loc. 1458).
Then there were the terrible conditions. The land had lain fallow for nearly two millennia and was called “the country that had died.” It was rock hard in most places and swampy in others, swarming with malarial mosquitoes. The hillsides had been denuded of trees and striped of soil. The Negev baked in fierce heat, and its soil was salty. Water was scarce. The settlers fought rocks, heat, salt, drought, locust invasions, malaria, and poverty. Disease was rampant and there was little proper medical treatment available.
David Ben-Gurion estimated that 90% of the settlers of the Second Aliyah did not stick it out. Humanly speaking, the whole thing could have collapsed at any time and not amounted to anything permanent.
Then there was the opposition of the Arabs, who resisted Jewish development from the beginning. When they did not kill and maim the settlers, they robbed them and destroyed their crops. Between 1886 and 1914, at the very beginning of the Aliyah (ascent or return), at least 13 settlements were attacked by Arab bands or neighbors, and this situation grew progressive worse with each passing decade.
The Ottoman Turks could have easily wiped out the Jews in Palestine like they did the Armenians, and it is a wonder that they didn’t.
The Germans could have taken control of Palestine as they designed during World War II and wiped out the Jewish settlers. Had the battle of El Alamein turned out differently, Hitler’s death squads would have invaded Palestine as Hitler had planned. (See “Hitler’s Plan to Exterminate Jews in Palestine” in the chapter “The Diaspora.”)
Israel could have and should have lost her War of Independence. It was a miracle from beginning to end. Again, there were great divisions among the Jews themselves. The animosity between the Haganah and the Irgun was so severe that it came to violence. The Haganah sank an Irgun ship, the Altalena, filled with desperately needed war materiel, and killed 16 Irgun fighters, fellow Jews. Within three weeks of the announcement of statehood, even while faced with deadly enemies on every side, the “Jews fell to fighting against one another with such uncompromising intensity that ... the country was on the brink of civil war” (Ehud Yonay, No Margin for Error, p. 38).
Everything from the raising of sufficient funds to the obtaining of war materiel was a cliff hanger. There was no guarantee that Golda Meir would raise tens of millions of dollars in a matter of weeks, or that Czechoslovakia would sell fighter planes to Israel when no other country would, or that the British would fail to find Israel’s bullet making factory at Ayalon, or that Israel would obtain its first four fighter planes just in the nick of time to save Tel Aviv from capture by Egyptian and Iraqi forces, or a thousand other “lucky breaks.”
Humanly speaking the Jews should not have won the battles for Mishmar HaEmek, Katamon, Safed, Degania, and many others, and they should not have won the war. Military experts gave them basically no chance. Colonel Ragnvald Rosher Lund, head of Norwegian military intelligence during World War II, said the Jewish position in Palestine was “worse than that of Norway in 1940” (Stein, The Hope Fulfilled, Kindle loc. 4147). British Field Marshall Montgomery assessed that the Jews could hold out for no more than three weeks against an invasion by surrounding Arab countries. Other British experts gave them only two weeks. Even the optimistic Ben-Gurion said, “The best we can tell you is that we have a 50/50 chance.”
There has been an effort on the part of some to “debunk” the idea that Israel’s victory in the War of Independence was “against all odds” and to label it a “myth,” but that is nonsense. Israel’s victory cannot be put down merely to Jewish ingenuity, audacity, courage, and determination, though there was plenty of that.
The winning of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War was so miraculous that even secularists were forced to acknowledge some sort of “supernatural” element. Speaking of the Six-Day War, the military correspondent for the secular newspaper Haaretz observed, “Even a non-religious person must admit this war was fought with help from heaven” (cited from “Miracles in the Six-Day War: Eyewitness Accounts,” Arutz Sheva, May 14, 2007).
Unending bickering and fierce factionalism has threatened the establishment of everything from Israel’s modern air force to programs such as the Gabriel missile system, the Iron Dome, and Talpoit. All of these programs were fiercely resisted by strong factions and almost never saw the light of day because of nearsighted, petty Jewish feuding.
I, for one, see the hand of God everywhere in Israel’s history, and the Bible instructs us that present events are setting the stage for the final chapters in Israel’s prophetic future, as described in hundreds of clear Scriptures, such as this:
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers” (Deuteronomy 30:1-9).
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