Israel: A 3000 Year Heritage

Israel: A 3000 Year Heritage

~By: Mrs Jessica Chingneilam

Abraham left Ur thousands of years ago and came to Israel to find God, the Bible tells us. The same Bible, that has help build and shape the western civilization, as we know it. His son, Isaac was the father of Jacob, who was also known as Israel or ‘the one who wrestled with God’. Jacob had a daughter and twelve sons who were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. After a sojourning in Egypt, Moses brought back the children Israel to the Promised Land. The Judges, such as Deborah, ran the affairs of the ancient Israel society. Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, became the first king of Israel. King David, anointed by the prophet Samuel, consolidated the Kingdom of Israel and made Jerusalem his capital, after ruling Israel from Hebron for seven years. Israel, a thin sliver of land located at the point where Asia, Europe and Africa meets, has seen numerous peoples, kingdoms and empires cross through its land. Starting with the Babylonians, the Greeks came, as did the Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks and the British. Israel has seen them all come and go. The Syrian-Greeks defeated the kingdom of Israel and sent its people into the first exile. A little later the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and the first Temple and took away the people of Judah into exile. The Persians defeated the Babylonians and allowed the exile to return to Israel and build its second temple. The Romans burnt Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple and that offset the diaspora which continued until the foundation of modern Israel. Following the defeat of the Axis powers in WW1, Palestine, as Israel was then known, was ceded by the Ottoman Empire to the British. Israel got its independence from Britain, following a mandate by the U.N. in 1948. The Arabs refused to accept the U.N. partition plan and declared war against the nascent State of Israel, promising “to drive the Jews into the sea”. The combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and an expeditionary contingent of the Iraqi army, supported, virtually, by all Arab countries, set out to invade Israel. The combined Arab army was, against all odds, defeated soundly. Successive attempts by the Arabs to destroy Israel, in the Six Day War, 1967, Yom Kippur War, 1974, has only resulted in Israel expand its territory many times over. Peace with Egypt came in 1979 at Camp David, but at a cost of ceding the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the 1967 Six Day War. Peace, unfortunately, has eluded the region mainly due to Arab recalcitrance and incitement by its leaders. Israel, in 2006, as a gesture of peace withdrew its army and settlements from Gaza. Instead of using the aid money which comes from the U.N, the European Union, the U.S. etc for development, Hamas, the ruling regime, has invested that money to buy and manufacture rockets to fire on Israel. The last election held in the Gaza was in 2007. Since then, Hamas has clung to power. While, Prime Minister Abbas, of the Palestinian Authority is in his 10th year of the stipulated five year term. The Palestinian Authority awards convicted or “martyred” terrorists who murder Israeli/Jews, a stipend.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is a typical Nation-State modeled on the European concept of a nation. Israel has a robust and a dynamic economy. It has been dubbed as a “start-up nation” for its innovative high-tech industries. It is a member of the prestigious O.E.C.D. (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). Israel’s per capita income stands at $ 37, 206.00 as per data from the World Bank. It ranks as 24th highest income in the world, higher than even South Korea, which stands at number 28 with $ 27, 971.00. Besides high-tech, agriculture and defense also form a bulk of Israel’s exports. India, in recent years, has started buying hi-tech products and agricultural technologies. And it is set to become one of India’s biggest military suppliers. Israel is, by any standards, an affluent country. But then, there is a price for such affluence, it is also a very expensive country to live in. For example, a single head of pineapple costs 60 shekels, which is an equivalent of Rs.1020.00 at current exchange rates. Similarly, at an Indian variety store, which I frequent, every piece of samosa/singhara sets me back by 5.00 shekels or Rs. 85.00. Despite of being a developed country the GDP still manages an annual growth rate in the neighbourhood of 3%, which is nothing short of exceptional. Nothing describes Israel better than “He who does not work, neither shall he eat”. People have a very well developed sense of work culture. Every person finds it incumbent upon himself to seek a profession he loves and thus be, gainfully employed. Dignity of labour is meticulously followed in letter and in spirit. People are respected irrespective of their work or status. It is not uncommon to see a floor-cleaner shouting at his manager, if he steps into the office which he just cleaned and the floor has not dried yet. There is no consequence for the cleaner and the manager respects the cleaner’s effort.

There are people from a lot of different countries who have come to Israel and made it their home. My neighbourhood has a lot of Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union, as well as Moroccans and Bene Israel from what used to be known as Bombay. The synagogue that we go to is an Indian one. My daughter goes to a school which is in the neighbourhood within a walking distance. Unlike, back in India where people travel distances, sometimes really vast, in the name of getting a good education. The schools are regulated and funded by the government in its entirety. There is a degree of uniformity. Private schools are almost unheard of, here. In general, Israelis are straight forward, which could be construed as being rude but are, inexplicably, well intentioned. One needs to just get acculturated. Since the early 90s, our communities of Eimis and Mizos have been coming. We, now, number a little above 3000 souls. They have settled all over the country and have been received, by their respective towns, very warmly. Assistance in various forms comes from the government to help new immigrants settle into their new surroundings, housing, jobs, and schools for the children etc. The Israelis, on their part, have been very kind and helpful in this regards, sometimes going out of their way. They themselves or their parents or grandparents were once in the same situation, so they feel it is only natural for them to empathise their new neighbours. There is a town in southern Israel called Sderot which is very close to Gaza. Every time there is an escalation in situation the town gets more than its share rocket attacks. Off course, Iron dome has been very effective staving off rockets attacks, but that hasn’t stopped some residents from moving out of Sderot, further away from the rocket range. The trend has just been the opposite for the Eimis. They are moving into Sderot in throves inspired by Zionism. Unafraid, they claim that if the government gives them permission and arms, they could quieten the Gaza front.

All of us have grown up in a Judeo-Christian culture with the Bible, an inspiration and an indispensible reading. That has made my living in Israel more meaningful. I am able to relate to incidents and geographical locations intimately. When I see Mt. Carmel, I remember Prophet Elijah sparring with the Ba’al priest, and similarly, when I pass by Megiddo (Armageddon was named after this site) I remember Daniel’s prophecy for the ends of days. One of my favourite hangouts in Tel Aviv is the Jaffa port. Cool sea breeze, lovely views, and restaurants serving great food. Whenever I go there, besides the obvious attractions, I remember Jonah who was swallowed by the whale! It is no exaggeration that someone said every stone in Israel has a thousand stories to tell. Lots of friends, some family, lovely weather what more could I ask? I am home.