The Long Road to the Promised Land:
Quo Vadis, Israel
“Hatikva.” “The Hope.” Israel’s national anthem. It was sung across the world in celebrations of the Jewish homeland’s 62nd Independence Day in May.
“So long as there is deep in the heart
A Jewish soul,
And to the East
The eye looks toward Zion,
Our hope has not been lost,
The hope of 2000 years
To be a free people
In our country,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, soon to become prime minister, and other leaders of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, gathered in the city of Tel Aviv and declared the establishment of the state of Israel. It was the fulfillment of the hope of a people exiled 2000 earlier by the Romans and scattered throughout the Roman Empire.
Exile and return to what they called the Holy Land has been an ongoing process of Jewish history. The Assyrians and Babylonians exiled what were then the Israelites and Judeans. “On the rivers of Babylon we sat and cried when we recalled the land of Zion,” laments the narrator in a chapter in the Bible. The Persians, who conquered the Babylonians, allowed the Judeans to return to their home. The 10 tribes which made up the Israelites were lost forever.
Centuries later, the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, vanquished the Middle East, and the Jewish land became a Greek province. The Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphanus, helped spread Greek culture and customs, and prohibited the Jews from practicing their religion. He defiled the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The Judeans rebelled and defeated the Greeks, regaining their independence and freedom of religion. It was during that period that Jesus of Nazareth was born.
But freedom was not to be for long. The Romans defeated the Greeks, Judea became a part of their empire, and eventually was destroyed, as was the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Only its western wall remains, which for many years was called the Wailing Wall.
With the establishment of Israel, Jerusalem, the capital of Biblical days, from where kings David and Solomon ruled, once more became the seat of government. Zion, a mountain outside Jerusalem and a symbol of independence and return to the homeland, was the focus of a new republic.
Israel’s future today is severely threatened. Decades of alternate war and negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs have been fruitless. At this point there is no direct contact between the two sides. Only two Arab states, Jordan and Egypt, have accepted Israel’s existence. Syria is an ally of Iran, whose head of government has promised to “wipe Israel off the map.” The efforts of the West to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs so far have failed.
Israel, with its own nuclear arsenal, would not be able to destroy Iran’s numerous underground laboratories. Trying to do so would be an act of desperation, with only partial success. The U.S., Israel’s longtime ally, is tied up in two wars. The West seems unlikely to go beyond useless sanctions.
Israelis have been emigrating for years in search of better opportunities or to join family members. More than a quarter of a million reportedly live in Los Angeles and surroundings. Many live in New York and other cities and towns. In West Hartford, CT., for example, some 100 Israeli families reportedly reside.
Will Israel survive? Or will it be decimated by another holocaust?
Quo Vadis, Israel?
Gunter David and his parents fled Germany, their native country, as soon as Adolph Hitler rose to power. They settled in Tel Aviv, in what was then Palestine, where Gunter grew up. He subsequently moved to the U.S., where he worked on major newspapers for 25 years. The Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize. He has returned to Israel numerous times, as a newsman and to visit family and friends, and covered the Yom Kippur War in 1973. His second career was as a family therapist and addiction counselor. Dalia, his wife of 60 years, is also from Israel.