For me, as an Israeli, the country’s most impressive achievement as it approaches its 70th birthday is that modern Israel has not only survived attacks by its many Arab and Muslim enemies but has also prospered in roughly the same location and site of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
In 70 A.D., the 1,000-year-old Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital with the Second Temple at its center was invaded, conquered, and destroyed by the Roman Empire. Now, the new modern Jewish state is celebrating 70 years of existence while the Roman Empire as well as many other conquerors of the land of Israel during the last 3,000 years have disappeared. If past history is an indicator of future events, the Jewish state will outlast its modern enemies who rose during the last century to destroy it and become even more powerful than one could possibly imagine.
For over 3,000 years, the land of Israel has come under the rule and conquests of many empires such as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliphates, Crusaders, Mamluk, Ottoman, and British but it is only the Jews who have continuously inhabited the area, and the only ones whom have ever established an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem.
When waves of Jewish immigrants escaping anti-Semitism in Europe came at the end of the 19th century to the land of Israel the land was mostly empty, barren, desolate, and uninhabitable. When my mother emigrated to the land of Israel, under British rule in 1936, she came in the midst of waves of violence and massacres committed by local Arabs against the local Jews who had been working over 50 years to flourish the land by drying the swamps, planting trees, building hospitals, roads, factories, and universities. In November 1947, the entire Arab world joined the local Arabs in rejecting the UN Partition plan while the Jews accepted the plan, which created an Arab State alongside a Jewish State in the area west of the Jordan River. While the Jews, including my parents, were rejoicing and dancing in the streets, the Arab World was contemplating the destruction of the new nation.
On May 15, 1948, the Arab assault on Israel began hours after David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, declared Israel’s establishment one day after the British armies left. Five Arab armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon invaded the new state from all sides along the entire border, with artillery, armored battalions and fighter bombers, while the Local Arabs were fighting in the interior of the country. One Egyptian fighter bomber which reached and bombed Tel Aviv killed my father’s 15-year-old brother. My father, alongside his other brother, was involved in the fighting against the local Arabs in Jaffa which came under Israeli control. Israeli was able to defeat the combined armies but the Jordanian army was able to conquer the West Bank and East Jerusalem including the Old City and all the Jewish holy sites. 6,000 Israelis which constituted 1 percent of the entire Jewish Community died in the war.
When I was born in 1959, Jerusalem was a divided city and Jews were not allowed by the Jordanians to visit or pray at their holy sites.
Prior to 1967, as a child, I used to visit my grandfather who lived on Mamilla Street in Western Jerusalem, very close to the no-man zone outside the Jaffa Gate in the Old City. It is hard to believe that from May 27, 1948, through June 7, 1967, Mamilla was Israel’s frontline and the border of Israel with Jordan. The western three quarters of Mamilla were held by Israel and the eastern quarter became a no-man’s land of barbed wire and concrete barricades between the Israeli and Jordanian lines. At the time, Jordanian snipers stood on the top of the Old City walls and tried to shoot any Israeli who was in West Jerusalem down below. As a four- to seven-year-old kid, I used to crawl out of my grandfather’s house to avoid being randomly shot by snipers only for being Jewish and then had to run quickly to avoid being shot at.
On June 5, 1967, Israel was forced into a war against the combined armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and the Six-Day War began. Miraculously, the Israeli Army defeated the combined Arab armies, conquering the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall from the Jordanians. After 2,000 years, we were again free to pray in a united Jerusalem.
I was 8 when I visited the Old City for the first time, praying for the first time at the Western Wall and climbing to the Temple Mount where the two Jewish Temples stood.
On October 6, 1973, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a coordinated fourth war against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when many of Israel’s soldiers were away from their posts observing the Day of Atonement by fasting. Taking the IDF by surprise, they made many territorial advances deep into the Sinai and Golan Heights inflicting heavy casualties. It took few days until the Israeli Army was able to mobilize its soldiers and counterattack and recapture the lost territory. I was 14 at the time and just starting high school when all men in the neighborhood including my 3 brothers were called to join the fight. My new gym high school teacher that I had known for only a month was killed in that war.
Since then Israel has never been attacked by Arab states but has been repeatedly attacked by Arab terror groups such as Hezbollah from Lebanon and Hamas from Gaza using missiles and rockets as well as by the PLO in the West Bank using such tactics as suicide bombers, knives and car-ramming, which have taken the lives of thousands of Israeli civilians. In a country of 6.5 million Jews, 23,646 Israeli soldiers have fallen and 3,117 victims of terrorist attacks have died. In memory of the fallen, places of entertainment in Israel are shut down for 24 hours and radio and tv stations air documentaries about the fallen soldiers and terror victims. More than 1.5 million Israelis are expected to visit Israel’s 52 military and other cemeteries throughout Memorial Day while sirens will wail twice across Israel as cars and residents stand still.
As Israel is celebrating its 70 birthday, the bad news is that it still resides in the most dangerous and unstable neighborhood in the world facing many enemies who wish to destroy it. The Arab public still hates the Jewish State even though its leadership are reconciling itself to its existence, fearing Iran even more. The Arab armies’ threat has been succeeded by the Iranian aspiration for regional domination and its axis of evil such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Shiite-controlled Syria and Iraq and its Shiite militias. Moreover, Israel is facing Sunni Islamist jihadists and the Palestinians who have returned to attack Israel by themselves and through the BDS movement and the UN.
The good news is that Israel maintains its military superiority and economic prosperity in the Middle East and its ability to deter its enemies, with its willingness and capability to independently take aggressive and deadly actions, even at the risk of escalation.
The ugly news is that there is a very high probability that Iran, its proxies, and the Arab world will try to possess and be willing to use chemical and nuclear weapons against Israel and the Western World.
In the short term, Israel’s hope is that the Trump administration will abolish the Iran nuclear deal, re-impose suffocating sanctions against Iran and if necessary be willing militarily to work with Israel to cut the threat. Hopefully in the next 70 years, future American Presidents will keep and enhance the beautiful friendship and alliance between America and Israel. Happy 70th Birthday, Israel!
Shoula Romano-Horing is an attorney, law professor, opinion columnist, radio talk show host, and a national public speaker. Born and raised in Israel, she has lived in the United States since 1980. Since 1993, she has written Op-Ed columns in many American and Israeli news outlets about Israel and the Middle East and the strategic threats to Israel and the U.S. For ten years, Shoula was the host of a weekly radio talk show called “Oh Jerusalem,” where she discussed, with guests from all over the world, issues concerning Israel and the Middle East. Her blog is www.shoularomanohoring.com. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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