Friday, May 05, 2006

Krauthammer Asks: Never Again?

Charles Krauthammer writes, "When something happens for the first time in 1,871 years, it is worth noting." That "something" is the fact that, in 2006, for the first time since Roman Emperor Hadrian brutally suppressed the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 C.E., more Jews live in the Land of Israel than anywhere else in the world.

On the 58th anniversary of Israel's independence, the Jewish poeple have so many reasons to be grateful to God. Beyond its mere survival, itself a miracle given its enemies, Israel has created a modern properous democracy, with a standard of living equivalent to the United States and Western Europe. It did so not by limiting immigration to educated, financially strong elites, but by taking in millions of impoverished and poorly educated immigrants from the Arab world and Ethiopia. To compare the standard of living that those immigrants and their descendents enjoy today to that of the countries from where they came is, shall we say, a revelation.

The State of Israel has a booming economy. It is a leader in advanced technology, science and medicine. The Zionist movement brought about the renaissance of Hebrew as a spoken language, the first time that a so-called "dead language"has been so resurrected.

However, as Mr. Krauthammer points out, all of this has come with a price, or a risk. The majority of Jews now live in a tiny geographical area, making the Jewish people extremely vulnerable to those who would like to finish the job that Adolf Hitler began. And Hitler has worthy successors in the leaders of Iran. While most attention focuses on Iranian President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Krauthammer points out that the supposedly moderate former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani once noted that "the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam." Finally, Mr. Krauthammer cites a recent statement by the remarkably prescient Bernard Lewis [Fouad Ajami: Tribute to Bernard Lewis, Hedgehog Blog, May 1, 2006] that for the first time he feels that it is 1938 again. As the 90-year old Professor Lewis personally remembers, but those of us who are younger need to be reminded, in Mr. Krauthammer's words, "in the face of the gathering storm — a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the West, and most determinedly of the Jews — the world did nothing."

Brother Hedgehog Lowell regularly notes that this is not a religious blog, and I do not mean to turn it into one, but to temper the pessimism inherent in Mr. Krauthammer's column, let me say that I do not believe that the Holy One, Praised Be He, fulfilled the Biblical prophecies regarding the rebirth of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles and the restoration of the Jewish people to their home, only to allow Iranian or Arab Islamo-fascists to complete Hitler's project of genocide.

The Talmud, in the tractate called Makot, recounts how, following the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, four Jewish sages, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Akiva were walking towards Jerusalem. When they reached Mt. Scopus (from which it is possible to see the Temple Mount), they tore their clothing to demonstrate their mourning at seeing the ruins of the Holy Temple. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox running out of the area where the Holy of Holies had been. Three of the sages began to cry, while Rabbi Akiva laughed." "They said to him, 'Why are you laughing?' "

"He responded, 'Why are you crying?' "

" 'If from the place about which it is written, 'And the stranger who enters there, shall die,' we see a fox coming out, should we not cry?' "

" 'For that very reason, I am laughing. Isaiah the Prophet said, 'I will bring two reliable witnesses regarding my People, Uriah the Priest (the prophet Michah) and Zechariah ben Yevarech'yahu. '(Isaiah 8:2) Now what do Uriah and Zechariah have to do with each other? Uriah prophesied in the time of the First Temple, and Zechariah in the time of the Second Temple! But the verse in Isaiah makes Zechariah's prophecy dependent on Uriah's.' "
" 'In Uriah's case, it is written, 'Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed under like a field.' (Michah 3:12) In the case of Zechariah, we find, 'Yet again, elderly men and elderly women will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, (and each will have a staff in his or her hand from great age. And the streets of the city will be full of children, playing in her streets.' - extension of quote) (Zechariah 8:4-(5)) Until I saw the fulfillment of Uriah's prophecy, I had some doubt as to whether Zechariah's prophecy would come true. Now that I have seen Uriah's prophecy fulfilled in full detail, I know that Zechariah's prophecy will also be fulfilled.' "

"Hearing that, Rabbi Akiva's colleagues said to him, 'Akiva, you have comforted us. Akiva, you have comforted us.' "

I am profoundly humbled and grateful to God that I have merited seeing Zechariah's prophecy fulfilled in my lifetime. Elderly Jewish men and women do sit in the streets of Jerusalem and Jewish children play in her streets. Elderly Arabs and Arab children may join them in peace. I fervently pray that I may also merit seeing the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Happy 58th Independence Day, Israel.


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