My Mideast Punchlines: a people that dwells alone…..

MPs have voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel.

The House of Commons backed the move “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution” – although less than half of MPs took part in the vote.

The result, 274 to 12, is symbolic but could have international implications.

Small Fist

This move is the latest slap in the face for those of us fighting Israel’s cause. Nevertheless, it once again had me asking myself why we are so alone. I began to do a little research, and I found that it goes all the way back to biblical times. If you care to read the Book of Numbers, chapters 22 to 24, in which the Bible records how, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel embarked on their Exodus from Egypt, and just a few months before entering the Promised Land, the heathen prophet Balaam was bribed by the Moabite King Balak to curse the advancing Israelites and thereby devastate them before they could devastate him. However, Balaam foretells with remarkable prescience the future destiny of the Jewish people, predicting, “… This is a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir once remarked how lonely she invariably felt when attending a session at the United Nations. “We have no family there,” she said. “Israel is entirely alone there. But why should that be?”
Another former premier, Menachem Begin, also asked the same rhetorical question. “Is it because we are the only country in the world that is Jewish? Is it because we are the one country in the world whose language is Hebrew? But why are there no other Jewish states? Why are there no other Hebrew speaking states, just as there are multiple Christian states, Muslim states, Hindu states, Buddhist states, English-speaking, Arabic-speaking, French-speaking, Chinese-speaking states? In short, why have we no sovereign kith and kin anywhere in the world? In the United Nations, everybody is grouped into regional blocs, each bloc bound by a common geography, religion, history, culture, and language. They vote with one another in solidarity. But no other country in the world shares our unique narrative. Geographically, we are located in Asia, but the Asian bloc won’t have us. Our Arab neighbours see to that. Indeed, they want to destroy us. So, geographically, we really belong nowhere. And since membership in the Security Council is in accordance with regional blocs, we have no realistic chance of being elected to it. The one blood type, the one kindred bond we have with anybody at all in the world, is with our own fellow Jews in the Diaspora, and everywhere they are a minority and nowhere do they enjoy any form of national cultural autonomy.”
Classic commentators have suggested that the meaning of “dwelling alone,” as cited by the heathen prophet Balaam, really meant voluntarily setting oneself apart. In other words, the Jewish nation, distinguished itself from other peoples by virtue of its distinctive religious and moral laws, and by the fact that it had then been chosen by God as the instrument of a divine purpose within the family of nations.
Another commentator mused that in modern society, the Jewish people were unique in personifying a seamless blend of peoplehood and religion, born out of the two seminal events that forged the Jewish national personality: the Exodus from Egypt, when Jews entered history as a people, and the giving of the Torah at Sinai, when Jews entered history as a nation-faith. A Jew, therefore, was a synergy of both – Exodus and Sinai. He could not be the one without the other, though many throughout the centuries had tried to keep them apart. Whether one was a believer or a sceptic, this subtle nation-faith individuality was indivisible. And since this was what distinguished the Jewish people from all other peoples, they would always, uniquely, “dwell alone.”
Still another commentator provocatively remarked that whichever way one interpreted Balaam’s prophecy, it stamped the Jewish people as an eternally abnormal nation within the family of nations – and that this flew in the face of the classic Zionist creed, which expounded that Zionism’s aim was to normalise the Jewish people, so that it could become a nation like all other nations. This theory held that the consequence of this would be that anti-Semitism would wither and die. Well, we all know that it hasn’t withered and died. On the contrary, the very existence of the Jewish state is today a cause for rampant anti-Semitic prejudice. I’m afraid that nothing can put an end to anti-Semitism. The oldest hatred is endemic in all but Hindu, Buddhist and Shinto societies. Other peoples are multi-religious; other religions are multinational. But we Jews are one and the same. We are both the religion and the nation. It all began with the father of our nation, Abraham of Ur of the Chaldees, who, at the age of seventy-five, deduced the eternal truth of the One God (that is, if you are a monotheist, and not an atheist like me). I believe that the Bible is simply a piece of extraordinary literature, but I can understand those who believe that there can be no separation between nation and faith, which means that there can be no total separation between religion and state in the Jewish state. I tend to believe that a ‘people that dwells alone ‘ is the natural concept of the Jewish people. That is why this one phrase still describes the totality of the extraordinary phenomenon of Israel’s revival. If one asks how the in-gathering of the exiles, which no one could have imagined in his wildest dreams, came about, or how the state of Israel could enjoy such severe security challenges, or how it has built up such a flourishing economy, or how the unity of the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora has been preserved, one must come back to the primary idea that this is ‘the people that dwells alone.’
As Begin once said, “cease dwelling alone and we cease to exist. What a conundrum!”

What a conundrum, indeed.


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