The other day, I sent an email to a friend in America, in which I raised the possibility that the days of the American Jewish Exile might well be drawing to their close.
“Yisrael”, read the short and abrupt response, “Stop drinking the kool aid!”
Whoah. I am old enough to remember clearly the event that spawned this phrase. In 1978, the “Reverend” Jim Jones and over 900 followers engaged in a mass murder/suicide in the jungles of Guyana, South America, most of them by drinking cyanide-laced kool aid.
On some level, I suppose, I AM ingesting a form of kool aid - all the time. Except that the kool aid that I’m breathing, 24/7, brings with it life rather than death.
You see: I live in the Land of Israel. In the 6th century, the Rabbis who compiled the encyclopedic legal treatise called the Babylonian Talmud, recorded the following observation:
“Said Rabbi Zeira: from this we learn that ‘Avira d’Eretz Yisrael machkim’ – the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise.” (Tractate “Baba Batra”, 158, b)
(Explains Rashi, the classical medieval commentator of the Talmud: Rabbi Zeira was saying “Since I made aliyah to the Land of Israel, I’ve made a concerted effort to lift myself out of my original thinking and arrive at the real truth of the matter.’”)
That’s me. So consider this my attempt at getting to the real truth of the matter, as I observe current events taking place back in the old country, the good ol’ U. S. of A., as Archie Bunker used to call it.
Two phenomena are capturing headlines in America today: a very uncertain and unpredictable race for president; and the alarming rise of the radically anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (‘BDS’) movement.
Up to now, the presidential race has been dominated by Donald Trump, a real-estate billionaire with absolutely no experience in national politics. His primary Republican opponent is Ted Cruz, a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian senator from the State of Texas. On the other, Democratic side of the aisle, we have former first lady Hillary Clinton, a powerful woman embroiled in a series of email scandals, and Bernie Sanders, a self-styled socialist Jew who recently appointed a vocally anti-Israel young woman as director of outreach to Jewish voters. Of course, predicting the election winner is only a guessing game at this point. Nevertheless it seems pretty clear that America is in for some big changes.
In parallel, and seemingly without connection, is the growing strength and viciousness of the BDS movement, primarily at institutions of higher education, across America. Two cases in point:
• Recently, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was invited to San Francisco State University to deliver a lecture on social and economic development in Jerusalem. For more than an hour, a mob of people in the lecture hall armed with bullhorns and signs shouted him down, screaming “Intifida, Intifida”, “Palestine will be free, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea!”, “Get the f--k off our campus – get the F--K OFF our campus!”. If it weren’t for the presence of a police officer and Barkat’s own private bodyguard, the lecture – which Barkat stopped after more than an hour of patiently trying to make his voice heard above the din – may well have ended in the physical assault of the Israeli politician.
• Last week, the University of Chicago Student Government passed a resolution recommending that the University administration withdraw all investments in “holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine”. (Note: there is no existing country called Palestine – what are its borders?)
These events, and others like them happening across the United States, go hand-in-hand with the denial of the right of the Jewish State of Israel to exist, and the demonization of JEWS all over the world.
Most people I talk to back in America are more than nervous – they are downright frightened for the future. What can we expect to see?
Could it be that all this instability connects to the shifting politics of how America, particularly on college and university campuses, sees its Jews? And: could it be that these two developments, the rising strength of BDS and the uncertain presidential election, are connected?
I know where I want to look. I’m going back to our most ancient sources: the Hebrew Prophets. What do THEY have to say about all this? Here’s a section from the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, who lived in Babylonia during and after the destruction of the first temple some 2,500 years ago:
And tell them:
“Thus said God the Lord:
‘Here – I am taking the Children of Israel
From among the nations to where they went;
And I will gather them from all around,
And I will bring them to their Land.
I will make them into one nation in the Land,
In the Mountains of Israel,
And there will be one king for all of them;
They will no longer be divided into two nations.
They will no longer be split
Into two kingdoms any longer.
They will no longer be defiled
With their idols and their disgusting things,
And all their transgressions;
And I will redeem them
From all their settlements in which they sinned;
And I will purify them,
And they will be a people for Me –
And I will be the God for them.
My servant David – will be king over them,
And there will be one shepherd for all of them;
And they will guard my laws, and do them.
They will live on the Land
That I gave to My servant, to Jacob,
In which their forefathers lived;
The will live on it –
And their children,
And their children’s children – FOREVER.
And my servant David will be president for them, forever.
I will make a covenant of peace for them,
An eternal covenant will be with them;
And I will give them over, and increase them,
And I will place my Sanctuary among them, forever.
My Divine Presence will be on them,
And I will be the Lord for them,
And they will be the People for me.
And the nations of the world will know
That I am HaShem
Who makes Israel holy –
Since my Sanctuary will be among them forever.’”
(The Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 37, Verses 15-28)
Here we have a graphically clear illustration of the final end game of the Jewish Nation. And this is but one of many of the prophetic representations of what is supposed to happen to the People of Israel, the Nation of the Jews.
This prophecy talks about ingathering the exiles to the Land of Israel. It describes the forgiving of the entire nation of its sins. It presents the advent of a restored form of government in the ancient, original Land of Israel. And it foretells the rebuilding of a great structure, a sanctuary within the nation.
Could the turmoil and instability in America caused by a confusing election and the rise of an anti-Jewish movement in our own times be part of the overall process described here by the ancient prophet?
I leave you with a question, rather than answers. We will just have to see.