Come with me on a journey, to a country which many people claim is an illegitimate, racist and apartheid state. A country which is said to treat its native Arab population like second class citizens while the Zionist invaders dominate them. But that is not my Israel, that is not the country I have come to know and love. Come with me and I will show you the real Israel the media does not want you to see. It’s time to dispel the myths and lies surrounding our tiny democratic Jewish state, surrounded by hostile neighbors who threaten us on a daily basis. Let me show you what life is really like in my “apartheid state.”
Israel is a 71-year-old, small but powerful, culturally rich and diverse, democratic Jewish State. We are the only independent Jewish nation in the whole world. We are the only real democratic country in the entire Middle East, and the only land to be redeemed by its original indigenous inhabitants in all of human history. That’s right, Arabs are not the only indigenous people of the Middle East, in case you didn’t know about the rest of us. We the people of the Middle East, from North Africa to the Levant and the Persian Gulf, are Arabs, Jews, Samaritans, Druze, Kurds, Yazidi, among others. We are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bahai, and many others. Today I would like to focus on the tiny fraction of the land which for some reason many people like to focus on, Israel, the original native homeland of the Jewish People.
For over 3,000 years Jews have lived in this land, from the stream of Egypt to the great river Euphrates. From the days of the patriarchs, Abraham, whom our rabbis call “the first Jew,” his son Isaac who was the first Jew to be born and raised in the land, then called Canaan, and his son Jacob who would be called Israel. Israel would go on to beget 12 sons, who would become the heads of the 12 tribes of the Children of Israel, also known as the Hebrews, and eventually would be known as the Jewish people. Under Joseph, whose name is still born by the ancient channels and silos of Egypt, the people of Israel grew into a mighty nation of peoples and lived in the Egyptian province of Goshen. Eventually, the Torah says a new pharaoh came to power, who did not Joseph, and enslaved the Israelites, fearing them to be too numerous and more powerful than the Egyptians. For 430 years, the Children of Israel languished in Egypt, entire generations being born and raised in the most brutal forms of slavery in the ancient world. According to our sacred texts, it was then that YHVH, may His Name be blessed, the Great I AM, El-Shaddai, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, called Moses and Aaron and sent them to Egypt. From there God would rain 10 devastating plagues upon Egypt, culminating with the Passover, for which pharaoh at last surrendered to God’s power and let His people go. After bringing our ancestors through the Red Sea, establishing the eternal Law for us at Mount Sinai, and faithfully leading us through the wilderness for 40 years, it was Joshua who finally crossed the Jordan river with the people and conquered the land of the Canaanites, distributing the land to Israel according to their tribes. After centuries of conflict with Canaanites, Philistines, Ammonites, Amalekites, Midianites, and others, the prophet Samuel anointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to be Israel’s first mortal king. King Saul with his son Prince Jonathan united the tribes, and valiantly defended his nation, but his reign would not end peacefully, after seeing Saul grow corrupt in his reign, Samuel, by the will of God, anointed a young shepherd who was destined to become Israel’s new king, and its most beloved. King David was known for his humility and strength, with a fierce love for God and his people, he not only defended Israel but subjugated her enemies all around, conquering more land from the stream of Egypt all the way to the great river Euphrates. All that land became known as David’s Empire, the sovereign Kingdom of Israel, with Jerusalem as its eternal capital, lovingly called “Zion” since that time. It was there that his son Solomon the Wise would build the first Temple in Jerusalem dedicated to the One God of Heaven and Earth.
After Solomon, the United Kingdom of Israel divided into two separate kingdoms, with ten tribes in the northern Kingdom of Israel – sometimes called Ephraim since it was the largest of its tribes, and two tribes in the southern Kingdom of Judah – also known as Judea since it was the largest of its tribes. In 722 BCE, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire, who subsequently exiled the people of Israel’s ten northern tribes and scattered them across the expanse of Assyria’s reach so as to discourage all thoughts of reclaiming their homeland. But the Assyrians could not conquer Judea, whose kingdom and Davidic dynasty would stand for another near century and a half, also some few members of the northern tribes escaped and would return to join their southern brethren of Judea. In 586 BCE, the Babylonian Empire came and conquered Judea, laying waste all its cities, taking her people captive, and destroying Jerusalem, including the Holy Temple. That night proved a disaster for the people of Judea, whose exiles became forever labeled by their captors as “Judeans” or simply “Yehudim (Jews).” That exile lasted for 70 years, before Cyrus the Great of Persia decreed freedom for the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself.
Under such leaders as Zerubabel, Ezra, and Nehemia, the Jews rebuilt Judea from scratch, and Judaism was brilliantly revived among the Jewish people. The new Jerusalem and second Temple stood for centuries, eventually falling captive to the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV of the Greco-Syrian Seleucid Empire. They decreed the abolition of all local religions and the enforced adoption of Greek imperial customs including the worship of Greek gods, Judaism was outlawed on pain of death. The Jews suffered, until Mattathias and Judah Maccabi arose and fought back, leading the Jews in a miraculous guerilla war, defeating the Greco Syrians and establishing the Jewish Hasmonean Kingdom which lasted over a century until the arrival of Pompei and the Roman Empire in 63 BCE. Judea fell to the Roman Empire, eventually appointing King Herod to rule as a proxy-king. It was during this time that Jesus of Nazareth arose and preached his message of redemption throughout Judea and northern Galilee and the rise of the first Christians. It is important to note that at this time, that Jewish and Christian influence were greatly impacting not only the Middle East, but the entire Mediterranean region as well, from the Iberian Peninsula to the farthest reaches of Media and Persia. Years later, the Jews became fed up with Roman oppression and rebelled, effectively expelling Roman forces from Judea circa 67 CE. But it was not long before a humiliated Rome returned with vengeance through Titus Vespasian. And so it was that in the year 70 CE, Jerusalem fell once again, and the second Holy Temple destroyed on the same day and month as the first time centuries earlier. Most of the Jews were taken captive as slaves and carried off into exile to Rome, and eventually scattered throughout the Roman Empire, while an imperial decree changed the name of the land from Judea to Palistinae, with the objective of further humiliating the Jews and discouraging hopes of return. Although a remnant minority of Jews always remained in Judea, the major population of Jews outside the Roman world shifted eastward to the communities of Babylon. This exile would last nearly 2000 years, and during this time Jews reorganized their faith into a major religion, though they were often viewed by others as a nuisance wandering people, traveling from country to country, persecuted by all, prospering in some places for some time, but eventually falling prey to the violent wrath of antisemitism. In all that time, our people never forgot their sacred homeland of Zion, and Jerusalem. In all our wanderings, wherever our descendants were living in the world, our prayers would turn toward the ancient land of Israel, praying every holiday and longing, for our people to return from exile and reclaim the land of Zion once more, for the Messiah to come and lead us into a new and unprecedented age of world peace. This was the original Zionist dream, since the time of David and Solomon, to this very day. For thousands of years, most nations forgot about our age-old dream, but through all the wars, crusades, inquisitions and pogroms, we Jews never let go of “Ha Tikvah – The Hope” to live in freedom in the land of Zion and Jerusalem. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that leaders like Leo Pinsker, Theodore Herzl, Israel Zangwill, Max Nordau, and Eliezer Ben Yehuda reignited the spark of the once dying flame of Zionism, now reborn into a national political movement which sought to bring the age old dream of Jewish self determination to life and turn what was once thought an impossible fantasy into a tangible reality. In August of 1897, the first Zionist Congress was convened in Basel, Switzerland – seeking to solve the crisis of global antisemitism, by reclaiming the Jewish Homeland. It was Israel Zangwill who then rewrote a passage of the Psalms, when he stated,
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept as we remembered Zion. By the rivers of Basel we resolved to weep no more.”
Theodore Herzl was the spearhead of the Zionist movement, having laid out his vision in his famous book, “The Jewish State.” Although Herzl died in 1904, his followers carried his light into the future, seeking to purchase the region of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire. But it would take decades of conflict, and two world wars before the dream could finally be realized. Herzl himself stated almost prophetically, that his generation would not do it, but perhaps 50 years after him. Although Jewish immigrants were arriving to the shores of the Holy Land since the late 15th century and growing in population, the Zionist vision caused hundreds more to escape antisemitism in their respective regions and seek a new life in Palestine. By the late 19th century, though still a minority in greater Palestine, Jews were the majority population of Jerusalem.
It wasn’t until the autumn season of 1917 at the height of World War I, then called the “War to End All Wars,” that the British Empire defeated the Ottoman Turks at the battle of Megiddo, claiming Jerusalem and all of Palestine under British territorial rule. It was at this time that the British Government issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which guaranteed the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. The political borders of Palestine reached from the Mediterranean coast, to the borders of Iraq and Syria. The British decided to partition Palestine into two states, the larger half east of the Jordan River would be the Palestinian Arab state, and the smaller half west of the Jordan River would be for Palestinian Jews to create their state. Although most of the Arab world rejected this two-state plan, the Jews accepted anything we could get.
Sadly, it would take more massacres of Jewish towns, villages and places of worship, the Second World War and the catastrophic horrors of the Holocaust, for the world to realize that the creation of a Jewish State was desperately needed. Against all odds, on May 14th, 1948, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and his cabinet seized the opportunity when British forces withdrew from Palestine and declared the establishment of the independent Jewish State in Palestine to be called, Israel. And so it was that after almost 2,000 years of exile, the Jews had come home, and as prophesied, reclaimed their sacred ancient homeland. Attacked on all sides by 5 Arab nations, Israel defended herself valiantly and achieved miraculous victory, as if divine providence was somehow guiding them. But Jordanian Arab forces captured Jerusalem at that time, expelled Jewish families from the holy city and destroyed their homes. It would be 19 years before Israel would be forced to defend itself once more in the Six Day War in the summer of 1967, capturing Sinai, Gaza, Judea-Samaria, the Golan Heights, and above all prizes, at long last liberated the old city of Jerusalem itself. For the first time in millennia, Jerusalem was in Jewish hands again. Since then Jews have made Aliyah (the act of Jews emigrating to Israel) from all over the world, joining our native brethren whose families had lived in the land since the days of the first and second Temples.
Now 71 years young, Israel has fought many wars, conducted countless clandestine operations, and mastered the art of counter-terrorism, advancing in technology, business, agriculture, and commerce; she is known today as “the start-up nation,” because she is home to so many different start-up businesses, innovative ideas, cutting edge medicine, and yes, Jews today make up the majority of Israel’s citizens. According to the latest demographic stats, Jews make up well over 70% of Israel’s population, over 6,700,000 people. About 44% of Jews in Israel describe themselves as secular, while less than 15% say they are religious in some way. Although the Israeli Government is secular, the mystic voices of rabbinic opinion have powerful influence in the land. Israel has a Parliamentary Democratic institution without a formal constitution, with a figure-head president and active prime ministers who mostly lead by forming coalition governments. The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, has 120 seats, filled by several different political parties, from the most secular left to the most religious right. Although the land has been ruled by a plethora of kingdoms and empires, it has only been the Jewish State which has protected the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities to worship freely in a land that is home and most holy to all of us. Under all other rules, at one time or another, one religious group barred some other group from entering or living freely in the region, while under Israeli rule, all faiths and religious views are welcomed to worship freely, so long as one does not impose its way upon another. In today’s Israel, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Bahai all worship the God of Abraham in their own ways in the same Holy Land. It is said that she is home to all the monotheistic faiths of the world, but historically, it was the Children of Israel, AKA the Jewish people who were the pioneers of faith and culture in this land and are today the oldest indigenous peoples of Judea and Israel, a land which bears their ancient names etched onto so many ancient coins, ancient ruins, pottery and other archaeological artifacts discovered there today. Israel is the homeland of the Jews; it is the dream of Zion brought back to life. She is our native motherland and our eternal home, and Jerusalem is our eternal united capital, here to stay. In Jerusalem, Jews gather at the Western Wall, which is the last remaining wall of the exterior platform which held the first and second Holy Temples, there we mourn for Jerusalem, just as our ancestors did in that same place before us, and pray for the Messiah to come, for the Temple to be rebuilt and for world peace through the love of God to cover the Earth as the waters cover the seas, until that day, we Jews are home, and we will not apologize for that, we are here to stay. “Am Israel Chai! The people of Israel live!”
For the last two millennia, the land of Israel has also been home to another great community, Christians. In about the year 30 CE, a young Jewish carpenter from Nazareth arose in prominence as he spread his message throughout Galilee and Judea, claiming to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, his followers called him Rabbi & Yeshua, but over the centuries the world came to know him as Jesus Christ. Christianity began in the first century of the common era as one of the many sects of Judaism at the time, and perhaps one of the most influential sects. Early Jewish followers of Jesus believed that he was the Messiah, the direct descendant of King David who was foretold to suffer and die for the sins of the people, and to be resurrected by God 3 days later. They believed that by believing the testimony of his disciples, one would accept the entirety of the Law, Prophets, and all the Sacred Writings as true and be saved for eternal life. Simon Peter and the Jerusalem Church believed their Gospel was meant for the descendants of Israel and converts only, but it was Saul of Tarsus, eventually named Paul, who revolutionized Christian thought and claimed that Jesus had sent him to proclaim the Gospel to the people of the nations. Christianity spread like wildfire, attracting the poor, the sick, the humble, and afflicted, offering them hope no matter who they were or where they came from.
Within a period of 300 years, a community which was once vehemently persecuted by both Jerusalem and Rome was now adopted by Emperor Constantine in the year 312 CE, and eventually made into the official religion of the state. In 325 CE, the Council of Nicaea convened, having collected Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts and translated these sacred texts into Latin, canonizing the first Holy Bible in Christian history. In the year 380, the Emperor Theodosius I declared Catholicism (A universal version of Christianity that embraced different sects according to specific guidelines) as the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Bishop of Rome was appointed as the Pope and became known as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The new Church became devoted to the idea of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and became increasingly devoted to the veneration of the Virgin Mary and other Saints. When the Roman Empire fell around the year 476 CE, the shock was felt in all corners of the region, dividing Christian interpretations further between eastern and western halves of the old Empire, in the year 1054 the Church became divided between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople (Modern day Istanbul).
Then came the Crusades, beginning in the year 1095, which sought to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Islamic Caliphate which began to arise in the 7th Century CE. The Crusades were not just one, but a series of long and bloody wars continuously fought between Christians and Muslims until the year 1230. For centuries, the Roman Popes like Urban II would stir masses of volunteers from European kingdoms with cries of “Deus vult (G-d wills it)!”and send them to fight for the Holy Land, claiming that doing so would automatically atone for their sins and win them eternal life in heaven. Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, birthplace of their religion, until the Seljuks captured Jerusalem and barred Christians from entering the Holy City. They subsequently turned their conquest objectives to Constantinople, from which Byzantine Emperor Alexius I sent a plea for help to Urban II in Rome, who in turn mustered all of Christendom to fight to reclaim Jerusalem for Christ and the Church. Muslim leaders such as Salah -al Din (1137-1193), of Kurdish – Sunni Muslim heritage, mustered the faithful all across Egypt and the Levant to fight and claim Al-Quds (Islamic name for Jerusalem) for Islam. And in between both armies were untold numbers of innocent Jews, Christians and Muslim civilians who suffered the deadly wrath of two waring faiths. Christian armies were eventually defeated, while Muslim forces retained control over the Levantine region of Syrian Palestine.
Over the centuries Christianity has been subject to many changes, from Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, to the first European pilgrims to America, to the births of modern American Christian denominations like Baptists, Methodists, and perhaps the most influential to date, the Evangelical Christian community, who themselves claim to be Christian Zionists and continues their unwavering support for Israel. These Christians often visit the Holy Land, and believe Israel plays a key role in what they call the final redemption and their belief in the return of Jesus to the Earth. Although for centuries the Church was known for its cruel persecution of Jews and other minorities, Evangelicals lead the way in rebuilding the ancient bridge which connected Jews and Christians, that bridge is Israel which is home to both our people.
Another major world religion which calls this land home, is Islam. About 25% of modern Israelis are Arabs, whether Christian, or Muslim, and it is believed that Muslims make up over 80% of the Arab Israeli population. Muslims have lived in the Holy Land since the year 637, when the Caliph Umar, one of Mohammad’s 4 Rashidun, “rightly guided sages” conquered Jerusalem. The word Islam means submission, but also contains the word salam or peace, which signifies the belief that peace comes by submission to the will of God. For Muslims, Allah is the holy name of God, and Mohammad is His prophet, the last of all the prophets sent by God to teach man kind about God’s message through the Qur’an (Recitation), the most holy book in Islam, which is believed to have been given to Mohammad through the angel Gabriel. According to the Qur’an, Mecca, in modern day Saudi Arabia, was chosen by Allah as the holiest place on Earth, the site of Kaaba, also known as the house of Abraham, and Muslims are to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life time if they are able, it is one of Islam’s five pillars. Second to Mecca, is Medina, where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammad was buried. The third holiest site in the world for Muslims, is Jerusalem, known as “Al-Quds” in Arabic, where it is believed that Mohammad ascended into heaven to receive the Qur’an from the angel. The Dome of the Rock is the iconic golden dome shrine which sits atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known in Arabic as “Haram al Sharif” (The Noble Sanctuary), over the very rock Muslims say attempted to follow Mohammad upon his ascent into heaven. A few yards south of the Dome is Al Aqsa Mosque. Islam teaches 5 principles which form the fundamental pillars of the religion: The first being the “Shahada” or declaration of faith in God and in Mohammad as his prophet, Salat – prayer is to be recited at five specific times every day, Zakat – charity is to be given to the poor, Sawm – to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslim community in Israel is vast and vibrant, believe it or not, many Muslim Israelis now voluntarily serve in the Israel Defense Forces, because they know that they too need to do their part in defending the country that is theirs as well, and that our conflict against terror is not a religious war, rather a war between radical political ideologies and the peaceful, beautiful people of Israel, many of whom are Arab Muslims.
Another great community which has lived in this land since Biblical times are the famed Samaritans. Their faith, which adheres to a variation of the Hebrew Torah, holds their sacred mountain Gerizim as the most holy place. You may be familiar with their community from several accounts in both the Old and New Testament, including Jesus’ personal dealings with the Samaritan people, especially the legendary parable of the “the Good Samaritan.” But that title doesn’t just refer to a kind person, but to an ethnic/religious community of peoples who also call this land home.
Today the Samaritans are Israel’s smallest community, of about 800 people split between Holon, a city south of modern Tel-Aviv and Kiryat Luza, a city located near modern Nablus in the Samaria – aka- West Bank. According to their tradition, they are the descendants of the Israelite tribes of Menashe and Ephraim, and they follow ancient Israelite beliefs and customs, without the later tradition of the Jewish sages. The Samaritan community has undergone a very rough history of religious and ethnic persecution. Many modern Samaritans are Muslims due to the forced conversions of their ancestors over the centuries. By the 17th Century, less than 140 Samaritans were thought to remain, but the population of Samaritans who hold faithful to their ancient traditions is growing once more. Some Samaritans fled Nablus during the intifadas, sadly being often caught in the middle of the conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. But some Jews, like myself, believe their people and our people are one and the same, perhaps separated by a few thousand years of history, but essentially belonging to the same Hebraic heritage.
Among the oldest Christian communities living in Israel, are the Armenian people. The earliest historic records show Armenian pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land in the 3rd Century CE. Since then their community has been subject to Byzantine, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk, Ottoman and British rule. Sadly, from 1915 to 1917, Armenians were subject to the most brutal genocide under the Ottoman Turks. Known today as the Armenian Genocide, the massacres claimed the lives of approximately 1,500,000 people. In 1948, Armenian residents of Israel received automatic citizenship status, while Armenians living in Jordanian occupied East Jerusalem received Jordanian citizenship. Eventually the liberation of Jerusalem by the Israel Defense Forces in 1967 granted Armenians of the Holy City resident status, although some have opted to become Israeli citizens. Today, the Armenians have their own quarter of the Old City, and are made up of two small communities. Over 10,000 Armenians live in modern Israel and make up one of Israel’s many richly diverse communities. While many Israelis have pushed for the Israeli Government to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, the current coalition under Benjamin Netanyahu has been controversially reluctant on the decision due to fear it will further harm the already fragile relations between Israel and the modern state of Turkey. Many Jews, including myself, believe to deny recognition of a fact of history, especially the murder of over one million innocent people, to be hypocritical seeing as 6 million of our own people were murdered under Nazi Germany only 75 years ago. Either way, modern Jews like myself would certainly love to see better treatment and warmer relations with our Armenian, seeing as we belong to the same human family, especially since Armenians also call Israel – home.
The Druze people of Israel go back to a time between the late 10th Century and early 11th Century during the reign of Caliph al-Hakkim bi’Amr’Allah, although their leaders claim they are direct descendants, whether genetically or spiritually, of the prophet Jethro, the Biblical father-in law of the prophet Moses. For Druze, Jethro is considered the religious father of their community, and pilgrimages to Jethro’s tomb near Tiberias, in Northern Israel, are common. At the end of the 10th century, some Ismaili theologians began to believe that al-Hakim was divine, a view that was promptly condemned by the Fatimid Caliphate and considered heresy under Islamic traditions. Eventually, centuries of conflict and persecution forced the Druze people, named for their following one of their martyred teachers Mohammad al-Darazi, to resettle to the regions of the Levant, mostly located in modern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Although modern Druze communities refer to themselves as “Muwadhidun” which means “unitarians,” centuries of persecution led to the decision of Druze religious leaders to begin to practice secrecy, keeping the details of their modern religion a closely guarded secret not even the average Druze person can know unless he is a member of their elite religious sect. According to their tradition, you are only considered a Druze if both your parents were Druze, and outsiders cannot convert to their religion. Although they are a small and exclusive community, they are known for their fierce loyalty to the governments under which they live. Israeli Druze are considered one of Israel’s most loyal non-Jewish communities, so much so that they assisted Israel in their war of Independence and are one of three non-Jewish communities to be drafted into the Israeli army just like Jewish Israelis. Other non-Jewish communities, such as Arab Muslims and Christians, do not have to serve, but some Israeli Arabs do serve voluntarily. About 143,000 Druze live in the Jewish State, and form a very strong part of modern Israeli culture. They bear a strict code of honor and are known to be very trustworthy. They too call Israel their home.
The Circassian people are an indigenous people of the Caucuses, originating from Circassia on the Northeast shores of the Black Sea. Mostly Muslim, they were heavily persecuted by the Christian Orthodox Russian Empire, the Circassian community experiencing their own genocide at the hands of the Russian Czars who massacred over 400,000 Circassians and displaced another 497,000 from their native land. Eventually, over the years, the Ottoman Empire settled them in the regions of Palestine around the year 1880, where their communities remain loyal Israelis till this day. They are also among non-Jewish Israelis who serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and about 1,000 Circassians live in Israel today. The Circassian people speak Hebrew, Arabic, and their native Circassian language. Their vibrant dances are very popular in Israel even among non-Circassians. They host an annual festival in their village of Reyhaniye and Kfar Kama in Northern Israel around August and are often very open to sharing their culture with visitors.
The Bahai religion is perhaps among the youngest, but probably one of the most beautiful. Their religion originates from the Persian culture of Iran and grew out of Shiite Islam. They began in 1844, when an Iranian man known as The Bab, who prophesied that a messenger from God would soon arrive, who would be the latest in the line of prophets such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. The Bab preached, and was sadly executed for, an idea known as “progressive revelation,” which seemingly contradicted a central Islamic tenant that Mohammad was the last of the prophets. A small religious community, they follow the teachings of their prophet Bahai Ullah, who they believe is the prophet the Bab spoke of. Bahai followers believe that every religion of the world was a step in God’s master plan in the revelation of a universal religion, essentially, every religion and culture has a place in the world to come. The Bahai community were heavily persecuted by the strict Islamic culture of their time and region, their leader repeatedly forced into exile until relocating to the city of Acre and eventually building one of the most beautiful temples and gardens in the world, atop the high slopes of modern Haifa, Israel. Today the Bahai are among the many religious minorities protected by the Israeli Government, and their temple is a very popular destination for visitors to Israel from all over the world. It can be said that the Bahai found a safe-haven and home in Israel as well.
Countless other cultures and expressions from around our planet call this land their home on Earth, including the LGBTQ community, who claim beautiful Tel-Aviv as one of their world capitals. Israel is the Jewish State because for the first time in human history, an indigenous people has reclaimed its original homeland, but it is also home to countless other communities who enjoy peace, freedom and equal rights under Israeli sovereignty. We have promised the world to safeguard and protect all who depend on us for protection and support from the brutal persecutions and hostilities of those who wish to impose their way on others. Jews know more than anyone, that no human soul should ever impose their religion or way of thinking onto others, but respect and accept, so long as those beliefs do no harm to others. Jerusalem is the prime example of coexistence and a landmark illustration of what the world could be one day. Upon entering the Holy City, you can hear the Hebrew music, the Church bells, the Islamic call to prayer, all mingled together to form one amazing sound, that is the sound of my city, the sound of Yerushalayim, the City of Peace. Is it always peaceful? No, we are not perfect and deal with plenty of issues, but Israel ensures the world, that Jerusalem, like the rest of the Holy Land, will never again prohibit anyone from entering their sacred places, from praying in the form they feel most compelled. Is there discrimination in Israel? Sadly yes there is some, as in every region of the world, but it is not the policy of the Israeli government to discriminate against anyone. And the few instances that occur are condemned by most Israelis, but these are details many media outlets refuse to share, instead painting David as Goliath, and Goliath as David with the goal of undermining and delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the global community. But last time I checked, David was the king of Israel, and like David, the modern state of Israel, though tiny compared to all her Arab neighbors, has fought valiantly to maintain her right to simply exist, as our national anthem says, “to live in freedom in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.” This is the Israel I know and love; this is the country I also call my home. This is my “apartheid state.”
There was once a man who dreamed, and his dream is now a reality. But our work is far from over.