Both Dr. Young and Ms. Elliot wish to portray in concise form the meaning of Israel as understood by them. Dr. Young does so from the vantage point of personal witness, since he has been living in Jerusalem for many years, while Ms. Elliot’s eye-witness experience amounts to a mere few days. This difference, apart from many others, clearly shows.
I should like to add two vital points to Young’s forceful presentation: The Jewish belief in the Messiah is intricately bound to the return to the ancestral land. This belief is as central to Judaism as the Sabbath. The second point concerns the return itself, which Young states was produced by a combination of biblical promises and the treatment by non-Jews and which then resulted in the modern Jewish immigration into the Turkish province of Southern Syria (Palestine). This is not the full story. It could convey the impression that Jews did not begin to move back home until some eighty years ago. In fact, small groups of Jews, sometimes even individuals, did set out, time and again, generation after generation, on the arduous and risky journey to “Eretz Israel,” the land of their forebears. Some of them made it and they then joined other Jews who were living there already.
Now to Elliot. Zionism is as old as the Jewish dispersion. The idea certainly did not start eighty years ago—the organized movement did. The 1947 partition was not “an act committed by powerful nations,” but a recommendation by the United Nations General Assembly, by majority vote, most of whose members were, and are, small, often poor, and certainly powerless nations. The inhabitants of the country were consulted, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, not once but on numerous occasions, by British Inquiry Commissions, by the Anglo-American Committee, and by a special UN Commission. What led to war, in 1948 and since, was the basic Arab aspiration to have the whole country, or else. That “the Jews wanted above all else” Jerusalem is sheer nonsense. What they wanted was a concrete chance to rebuild their national life in the land of their ancestors. It was an extremely painful decision at the time to accept this chance and challenge in partitioned Palestine and without Jerusalem. But accept this they did. That things turned out differently, and that Jerusalem is now Israel’s capital, as of old, is due to the intermittent Arab warfare and Israel’s ability to repulse the attackers.—MICHAEL PRAGAI, advisor on Church Relations in North America, Consulate General of Israel, New York, New York.
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