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Listening to an historic recording of a 1945 BBC broadcast of the broken souls at Bergen–Belsen concentration camp, I am reminded of 2,000 years of hopeful yearning by a people persecuted on all sides and throughout human history. In truth, these are “the chosen” to bring their faith to a world devoid of faith and without hope, a people who have shown mankind that hope, never ceasing, brings the promise.
The recording is made on a Friday, the fifth day of liberation. Over 50,000 lives are already lost at the Bergen-Belsen camp. But there are 10,000 more who in agony, bravely carry on, barely alive, still suffering inside the horrific confines of the camp. Some, too ill to recover, fall and die beside the living. And in the midst of this, a small group of Jewish prisoners meet with the newly arrived British army chaplain for a Jewish service. Sobbing with bitter joy, they begin to sing Hatikvah, The Hope. With an unyielding will and determination, they sing about the return to their ancient homeland. They are singing what will become Israel’s national anthem, a nation to be reborn, just three years later, in May of 1948.
At war’s end, Europe’s Jewish population is decimated. Estimates suggest that a mere 250,000 European Jewish refugees are left. Arab cooperation and collaboration with the Nazi final solution also means nearly 900,000 sufferers of state-sanctioned Muslim Arab persecution and terrorism will soldier on to keep their hope alive as countless thousands travel to the Promised Land under constant threat of danger and treachery.
The long exile is almost over. Despite centuries of ruling empires seeking to deprive and betray the Jewish nation’s rights to independence, the people of Israel are about to live in the triumphant realization of a centuries’ old dream wrapped in hope and found in a promise, the promise of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
However, as Zionism’s star rises, the Jewish population will only be allowed a fraction of the whole of their historic homeland, where they have little peace and even less security. Jewish anti-Semitism looms large in the hearts and minds of Arab Muslim nation-states, the first to realize statehood and who now surround and begrudge the re-establishment of Israel, a lone, Jewish state.
On-going assaults from the Muslim world stretch forth their ugly racism to all corners of the globe seeking to deny the re-born Israel a place at the table of nations. From Egypt, whose early history reflects one of the first empires to seek Jewish extinction, to her modern campaign of hate and violence, to all 21 Muslim Arab nations, they all sound the cry for Israel’s destruction. Through government controlled print and electronic media outlets, mosques and educational centers, they echo the 7th century command for Islamic jihad against the Jews. Even the once great Persian empire, today’s Iran, rallies the masses for another Jewish genocide and funds Hamas, Hezbollah, and numerous terrorist groups to terrorize the Israeli people. Despite this, the Jews continue to survive the horrors and miseries visited on them by the nations.
Yes, the Jews have held fast to two millennia of yearning and hoping to realize their future in their land of promise. And after 4,000 years of Jewish love and devotion, of history and presence in the land of Zion, this relatively small civilization has carved out for itself a great nation, deserving of the world’s admiration and gratitude.
The Jewish people have taught us what it is to keep hope and faith alive while enduring every possible adversity known to man. And most important, they introduced mankind to monotheism, to the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, it is the early Hebrews who recorded the divinely inspired Holy Scriptures giving us the Judeo-Christian values upon which Western civilization and law are rooted and fashioned.
Moreover, Jewish civilization brings with it outstanding advances in medicine, chemistry, physics, economics, literature, and philosophy. Truly, the human race continues to benefit from Jewish contributions and must always remain indebted to the nation of Israel. May the world begin to celebrate the many glories that will remain Israel’s alone — for all time and in every generation.
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Listen to this historic 1945 recording of Hatikvah, The Hope.
For a transliteration as well as an English translation of Hatikvah, please click here.