Israel 50 Years On: Blessings and Challenges – The American Spectator

Some time during the course of Yom Kippur this last Monday, it sank in to me that it was fifty years ago exactly that I had been a student in Jerusalem.

I had been excited at being in Jerusalem for that holy day for the first time. I was up very early and I went out onto my dormitory’s balcony to immerse in the rich Yom Kippur silence as the day dawned over the normally-bustling city. It was about 6 a.m., a beautiful day.


Suddenly, shockingly, a military jet came roaring by at a low altitude, splitting the silence. I was shocked. It seemed stunningly inappropriate, as if a deliberate assault on the day. Then — silence. The calm returned, the quiet of the holy day resumed, and before long, people were walking to prayer all over the city. The strange shattering roar of the jet was lost from memory.

It was midafternoon, and the small synagogue in which I was praying in the Old City was taking a break of an hour or so before returning to the prayers that would take us into the night and the end of the fast. People talked quietly, having been fasting for twenty or more hours already and engaged in hours of prayer.

Just then the silence was shattered again. Air raid sirens across the city began their wail. People ran about in the streets. Apprehension grew, crystalized. Word came from without — it was war. Soon word came for reservists to report immediately to their units. 

Those of us who were not called looked about — what now? A well-known rabbi who was there stood and up and summoned we who had been left behind back to our duty. “Gentlemen, let’s return to prayer.” And so I finished the Yom Kippur prayers and then, together with another student, walked two miles back across a blacked-out Jerusalem to our dormitory.

Living in the middle of the war, we had little idea of what exactly was happening on the fronts, of the thousands who had fallen in a surprise attack that the government had known was coming but which it chose not to pre-empt in a strange bid for the world’s sympathy.

We students knew nothing of that, or how close both the Egyptian and Syrian armies were to breaking through the army’s lines and then sweeping across a defenseless country. We went each day to a different place to help, one day the city’s largest bakery, another to a home for children with severe physical challenges, another to one of the city’s two great hospitals. (READ MORE: The Yom Kippur War and the Righteous Richard Nixon)

A cease fire eventually came. We did not know then how close the U.S. and the Soviets had come to war, with Nixon raising the alert to the highest level to warn off Russia from military intervention on behalf of their now-stumbling Egyptian client. 

We have arrived at the brink of a peace long prayed for, of cousins living together and cooperating to mutual advantage in the peace that the God of us all has prayed for us to embrace.

Eventually, we found out. It was a chill winter in Israel, with many losses in that small country and a sad spirit. In America people lined up to buy gas, for Israel’s enemies had slapped an oil embargo on the country that did not let Israel fall. It was a gray time. Watergate, the Saigon embassy roof, stagflation, the Iran embassy hostages were all waiting in the wings.

It’s been fifty years since that Yom Kippur and the world has changed much. Israel has boomed incredibly and has become an economic and military First World power. The Arab world has found its way from lock-step hostility to Israel to a very different place. Saudi Arabia, for decades the source of Wahabi-inspired unremitting hostility to the Jewish state, seems ready and willing to embrace a warm peace. 

In that, they follow the lead of the United Arab Emirates and other Muslim states, who responded to a Trump-backed initiative and, given tacit Saudi approval, joined Israel in the Abraham Accords, the first advance in peace in the region in decades.

Not just a cold cease-fire, these accords gave early sign of establishing a momentum of peace, a dawning awareness that the greatest threat to all in the region is the Iran terror regime, and that the economic opportunities of a strong peace would lift all who had the courage to join in.

Not a hint of that was in the air in 1973. We have arrived at the brink of a peace long prayed for, of cousins living together and cooperating to mutual advantage in the peace that the God of us all has prayed for us to embrace. (READ MORE: Abraham Accords Set to Endure Despite Biden)

Not all is perfect. The men of crooked vision that Obama pushed to the fore are still present in places of power, striving to make peace hostage to the kleptocrat Palestinian Authority regime that puts terrorists on lifetime pensions, to the destroyers of democracy in Hamasified Gaza, and to the grand terror regime of the mullahs of Iran. The bumbling gerontocrat in the White House, seeing no money in it for his family enterprise like he had found in China and Ukraine, has seen fit to incentivize terror to the tune of $6 billion released to Iran’s coffers. 

And Israel at home is still dealing with the deep currents of constitutional change, seeking to find a better balance of power between its governmental branches in a way that commands the broad assent of a varied population. Such changes are difficult and provoke deep and necessary debate — as well as, inevitably, heated airing of real and deep differences.

So still we pray before God, seek to return to who God had in mind for us to be from the start. Then get back to work, thankful for the blessings realized so far, hopeful of the blessings to come, and mindful of the goodness of good work here and now, ever more deeply bound to our fellow human beings in this world as each one of us uniquely in the image of their Creator, meant to live in together in a wholeness and peace.

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