This Is Not Difficult | Steve Berman

The story of the Bible is the story of the Jews, and the Holy Land. This is not a difficult concept.

Most of the Old Testament centers around God’s chosen people getting to the Holy Land, governing it, following God’s commandments, falling away, losing the kingdom, and an ultimate return to the land. The New Testament takes place largely in the same land, with excursions to Egypt, Syria, modern-day Turkey, and Rome.

The facts that (a) Jews, being a very small population of the world, (b) the Holy Land, having very little in the way of natural resources, (c) both of these have been the focus of inordinate attention in much of western history, and (d) Jews, as a people, are unusually gifted in many ways, as well as hated, all indicate that there’s something special about the Jews and their relationship with the Holy Land.

Whether you think it’s special or not, facts are facts. There are no more Jebusites. There are no more Philistines, or Assyrians. There are still Greeks, Romans (Italians, such as they are), Persians, Egyptians, and Arabs. There are also Jews, but not as the result of some enduring conquering leader, or even an unbroken cultural control of a homeland. The Jews’ homeland is a place that has largely been unattainable for the better part of two millennia.

Yet the Jews have persisted through those ages, despite a diaspora that saw them expelled from Judea (and the place renamed Palestine to erase any connection they had to it), Spain, England, France, and Russia. They were persecuted in Spain (the Inquisition was primarily to root out Jews who faked their conversion to Catholicism), England, and of course, Poland, Russia, and Germany.

They were blamed for their own success as a motivator for others to hate them. They were poisonously denounced by Martin Luther, who tried to befriend and understand the Jews for the sake of sharing the Gospel with them, only to be rebuffed and embittered by their stubbornness. They were robbed, left destitute, lied about in the most horrible blood libels, only to rise again through consistent devotion to wisdom, learning, God, and each other.

And of course, they were nearly exterminated by the depraved Nazi regime, assisted by anti-Semites all over Europe, and those who weren’t particular anti-Semitic but not caring enough to take action. A number of anti-Semites were in America, joined by a larger number of those who didn’t care, and kept Jews from immigrating while the Holocaust raged.

Before the beginning of the 20th century, Jews began to be drawn back to the Holy Land. Either you believe there is a spiritual dimension to this calling (I do, and the Bible is fairly clear on the prophetic notion of that calling), or you don’t believe it at all, but regardless, it was there. There was a concurrent resurgence of desire to make Hebrew a living language, apart from the language of the Torah and the Jewish holy books. I won’t get into the history of early zionists, but there’s plenty of reading you can do on the subject.

Jews began to purchase land in what is now Israel, and was then called the Holy Land. It was a sparsely-populated, malaria-infested swamp, surrounded by a desert, run through by a single river that had no outflow (the Jordan still ends at the Dead Sea). Mark Twain wrote about it in his travelogue “The Innocents Abroad”:

Stirring scenes like these occur in this valley no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent—not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles, hereabouts, and not see ten human beings.

To this region one of the prophecies is applied:

“I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and I will draw out a sword after you; and your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.”

No man can stand here by deserted Ain Mellahah and say the prophecy has not been fulfilled.

But Jews began to return to that swamp in earnest, working the land, draining the swamp, and beginning agriculture. The Bedouins paid them no mind, and the Arabs who had title to the lands gladly sold the worthless real estate to Jews.

In the early 20th century, the Arabs realized that Jews were not buying worthless land, but were transforming it into something else. And the Arabs began matching Jewish immigration. About that time, World War I happened. The Ottoman Empire, which had been ruling the Holy Land for the better part of a thousand years, collapsed. The western powers divided up the spoils, with “Palestine” going to the British, who didn’t really want it, but took on the responsibility, since T.E. Lawrence (“Laurence of Arabia”) had such a strong relationship with the Bedouins and the Arabs.

Such was the background of the Balfour Declaration, in which England declared that the Jews needed a homeland, and that the Holy Land uniquely filled the requirement. Made in the heat of World War I, when the British took possession (“mandate”) of Palestine, it became the lightning rod of controversy, through the inter-war years, World War II, and right up to the day the British struck the Union Jack from Palestine in 1948.

The Arab League was determined that Jews would not, could not, return to the Holy Land and have it for themselves.

If you are going to blame anyone for “giving land to the Jews,” blame the British, and of course, us Americans, for winning World War I and conquering the Ottomans.

If, you as some detestable people who used to write for CNN believe, the “world needs another Hitler,” you could side with the Mufti of Jerusalem, who, during World War II, was an active fan and supporter of the Nazi Führer. Many of the cultural artifacts of the Nazi military survive to this day, in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Americans did play a role in post-World War II disposition of the Jews. After the war, Europe was devastated and starving. Over a half-million Jews were still sitting in the same concentration camps from which they were “liberated” by Allied troops. (Some who were “liberated” by Soviets suffered a different fate.) I used quotes around “liberated” because there wasn’t a whole lot of value to the word—they were walking skeletons who competed for scarce resources with the Poles, Germans, Czechs, and Russians where they were held in the same camps as when the troops found them.

What to do with the Jews of Europe was a burning question after World War II. The British enforced strict numerical limits of how many could emigrate to Palestine, always matched one-for-one by Arabs, who were at this point paying Egyptians and Jordanians to move to the land. The U.N., always a hive of diplomatic commissions, created a Special Commission on Palestine to look at resources and how many Jews could the land support?

The commission concluded that there was no possible way for a half million Jews to survive on the agriculture of Palestine. But there also was nowhere else for the Jews to go—they could literally not go back to the countries they were rounded up from (many were from behind what would become the Iron Curtain, for one thing). So Jews—American Jews—took it upon themselves to smuggle, arm, and help Europe’s refugee Jews get to the Holy Land, with the goal being the vision of the Balfour Declaration: a homeland.

The U.N. eventually, two years after World War II ended, with hundreds of thousands of refugee Jews on the verge of starvation in camps, proposed Resolution 181, to partition Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. Arab diplomats unanimously walked out of the general session and would not support partition. Their position has been consistent (until recently) that there must be no Jewish homeland in the Holy Land.

But Jews kept moving in, and arming themselves for protection. The Irgun and the Haganah were Jewish militant groups, not unlike some of the Palestinian groups today. The Irgun were terrorists, and plagued the British rulers and Arab residents. But beyond the militants were a committed group of zionists who wanted to work with the U.N., and with Arab neighbors to achieve a peaceful partition. The Arabs would not have it.

On May 14, 1948, the British ended their mandate, and the newly created flag of Israel was raised over Tel Aviv. Immediately, President Harry Truman, against the advice and will of his own State Department, recognized “de facto” the State of Israel. Within hours, the Soviet Union followed suit. Then five Arab armies attacked, to destroy the fledgling nation.

The war was two years long, and very bloody. The Arabs overestimated their own military odds and prowess, and greatly underestimated the weapons, training, and will of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel. At that time, Israelis kept the land they took, as victors tend to do with conquered lands, especially when the previous residents have been told to flees until after the war, when the Jews would no longer live in the land and it would be given to those Arabs (many of whom gladly took Jewish money to sell land at exorbitant prices to Jews before World War II).

The situation has been at a loggerheads for over 70 years. The Arab nations which had at one time paid immigrants to live in Palestine, would not repatriate their own citizens. These people, without a home, languished in refugee camps. Now their great grandchildren still languish. Israel throws up its hands, having had no real “partner for peace” among the Palestinians. Every one of their leaders rises with the sole intention of overthrowing Israel, not partnering with it.

How can Israel, weary from the effort, be expected to keep making the “first move” when these demagogues act in bad faith over and over again? I don’t know, because I have not lived it. Israelis have lived it.

This isn’t difficult. It’s complicated, yes, because there’s years and years of failure, to the point where failure is expected now. But it’s not difficult. Nobody “gave” the land of Israel to the Jews. The Jews were drawn to it, overcame tremendous difficulties, in the land itself, and over those who made it their business to prevent the Jews from living in the land, and now vigorously defend their investment of blood, sweat, tears and treasure.

The Bible speaks of a time when Israel will be the home of the Jews again. It also speaks of wars, and rumors of wars. It speaks that there will be no peace in the land until the Messiah comes (or as Christians believe, returns). Whether you believe Biblical prophecy or not, it seems to be playing out fairly accurately.

Whatever grievances the Palestinians have, they should not blame their own history on the Jews. Everything that has happened to the Palestinians has been the result of a reaction to the Jews. The Jews do something, and the world reacts. The Jews have a nation, and much of the world opposes it. The Jews prosper, and people call for another Hitler. The Jews survive, and people blame the Jews for inciting the very hatred they have to suffer. If that’s not the definition of “chosen” by God to be an example to the world, in keeping with the Biblical principles of sin, sacrifice, atonement, redemption, and justification, then no example exists.

Say whatever you want about the government of Israel, how it treats the Palestinians. But think about this: No culture, no people, no group, who has ever made it their mission to oppose the Jews, has ever succeeded. You might even think that it’s folly to try. Yet the world keeps trying. To me, that’s the definition of the devil’s mission, to oppose God, knowing it’s futile, but with the sole goal of taking as many of His children into defeat as possible, to further offend the Lord.

It’s not difficult, if you read the Bible. The Biblical view is that Jew hatred is demonic. It endures because the Jews endure. The Jews endure because God has chosen them to endure. Until the age comes to its end, this is going to be the norm, with spasms of war, hate, peace and betrayal, all while the larger tapestry of each person’s salvation is worked out, one soul at a time.

Think about that, and it’s not difficult at all.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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