UPDATE Mar 19: A useful analogy of Vietnam in 1975 to Israel today can be read here, entitled, “The End of Purposeful Ambiguity”. It’s long, but sometimes a bit of reading is worthwhile…. If nothing else, read the first paragraphs, and the last.
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Twenty years ago, sometime in 1995, I heard through a friend that a tour group was being organized to visit Israel.
It sounded interesting; I went to an introductory meeting, paid the deposit, and on January 5-16, 1996, well over 30 of us, from several midwest states, spent an unforgettable nine days taking “A Musical and Scripture Study Tour Through the Land of the Bible”. Our leaders were a popular Catholic theologian, a Lutheran minister whose Dad had been artist for Billy Graham Ministries, and one of the three premiere composers of contemporary Christian music. Among the tour group were perhaps 20 choir members from assorted church choirs around the U.S.
The group I had been lucky enough to find out about, and now tag along with, was extraordinarily talented, as I learned each time the choir sang in any of the holy places we visited.
Our tour was also, I learned early on, primarily put together by the leader who I would now call a “Zionist Christian”. Page four of the 93 page program booklet we carried with us throughout the tour was clear enough: “In 1964, before there were any occupied territories, the Arab states created the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for the specific purpose of destroying the Jewish state. The PLO leadership declared themselves to be “the sole representatives” of Palestinian Arabs, and their terrorism intimidated Arab moderates by killing all who dared challenge their authority….” The statement was doubtlessly carefully written and reviewed before printing.
There is nothing like certainty to make one’s case. They’re bad, we’re good….
We were under the guidance of good friends in Israel. Everything was spectacular.
But this was no ordinary tour. It came right after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli at a Peace Rally in Israel (Nov. 4, 1995). We visited Rabin’s grave when we arrived in Jerusalem. We left for home just days before the election of Yasir Arafat as PLO President (January 20, 1996). Indeed, our group was allowed to visit the famous Mosque of the Golden Dome on the site of the original Temple. I recall no tense times during our visit.
In mid-1996 Binjamin Netanyahu barely won his first election; I don’t recall his name being mentioned during our tour.
Some years later came the Separation Barrier (aka Wall of Separation).
And now we have had the 2015 election in Israel.
Of all the memorable things from the travel to Israel, I remember Saturday morning, January 13, 1996.
That morning we attended Shabbat Services at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.
The Rabbi who spoke that morning certainly knew in general who we were, guests at that service, and quite soon launched into a very passionate oration about power politics in Israel. It seemed pretty clearly directed at us.
Of course, all I have is vivid memory, but in essence this is what he said: the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel had devised a strategy for taking and keeping control of the political stucture in Israel. It was very simple. Encourage large ultra-orthodox families, and ultimately the population game would be won.
The Reform Jews, who typically had smaller families, and who provide lots of support to Israel from particularly the United States, would ultimately be, at least in a power sense, on the sidelines.
The Rabbi was obviously very angry about this developing reality which has, of course, played out: more people, more power.
So, why the “victory” in parentheses in the title?
Such strategies as described above are always temporary. The Palestinians have a growing population as well, and they are Israelis, though, it seems, they are second class.
Sooner or later the truth will out.
The Reform Jews in the United States need to come to grips with their own cause in the matter which is an increasingly dangerous Israel. Self-defense can backfire….
A FOOTNOTE: Ehud Olmert, then Mayor of Jerusalem and the person who signed our certificate of Pilgrimage in the Year of King David, himself was a significant power actor in Israel.
from Jeff P:
Extremists continue to proliferate on all sides and this will not help.
Israel started out as a secular idea… the first Zionists were completely secular, even the 1947-1948 wars and starting of Israel was Secular, and is probably why there was such strong USA support by Jews here. (Of course the empty land they wanted and took over, much like the empty land of America after 1492, was of course inhabited quite nicely by others).
It was not till after the 1967 Yom Kippur war when the Arab world realized how Israel was the major military power in the region and the Palestinians truly became a cause celebre. And it was at that time that religious Zionism came to the forefront.
I am reading Karen Armstrong’s “Fields of Blood”… highly recommended.