It has been demonstrated that the body of the bumblebee is too heavy to be sustained by its wings. From an aerodynamic standpoint the bumblebee shouldn’t fly; yet it does.In many ways the bumblebee is a metaphor for the state of Israel. If one were to apply rational criteria, Israel’s existence would be in jeopardy.
The Israeli economy is a tribute to discredited socialist ideas. Despite the progress made under Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s high taxes are a classic manifestation of income redistribution that has its origins in the kibbutz.
High taxes, onerous regulations and a sclerotic and well-ensconced bureaucracy have led to capital flight. When free market principles are explained to a typical Israeli he is likely to say they are interesting, even compelling, but “not for us.” In fact, on a recent trip a guide told me that government-operated transit systems are always more efficient than private ones. This from a fellow who says he admires capitalism.
Israeli popular culture has been thoroughly Americanized, and in the process the Zionist ideal has lost some of its influence. The history of the nation is not taught as an exercise in promoting patriotism. Revisionists of various stripes have come to dominate every level of education.
When young military recruits recently were asked about the Altalena episode that occurred during the period when the nation was being established, they didn’t have the foggiest idea of the history. In this sense young Israelis are like Americans who haven’t any idea of their national past.
While Israeli Arabs have been granted full citizenship and all the privileges that accompany citizenship, their resentment is palpable. Moreover, despite differences of opinion about the demographic future of this minority, it is growing at a rate considerably faster than that of the Jewish majority.
The overarching concern, of course, is security.Israel is a slice of land bordered by hostile states eager to see its elimination. Despite all the rhetoric about peace from Oslo to the “road map,” the Palestinians and the Arab states are largely of the mindset that Israel should be removed from the Middle East map. Even when former prime minister Ehud Barak gave Arafat almost everything he purportedly wanted, Arafat still said no. War was in his blood and Israeli destruction in his heart.
For many Israelis this state of perpetual war, of daily bloodletting, is dispiriting. Some have left the country, others have withdrawn emotionally, and still others have turned against their own homeland. So far this is a mere population trickle, but its effect should not be underestimated on those who are committed to the struggle.
As is often the case in societies exposed to global intellectual opinion, cynicism about national aspirations is encouraged. Israeli universities are heavily populated by scholars with disdain for their government. Their criticism of Israeli policies appears to be correlated to the many benefits university life confers.
Nation Of Miracles
Israel has more than its fair share of problems. In fact, there is probably not a Western nation that faces the life-and-death issues Israel is obliged to confront each day. That said, there is another side to the story.
A nineteen year old serving in the Givat Brigade composed mainly of Ethiopians and Russians was asked by his grandfather what it was like to serve with people who are so different. “Different?” he asked incredulously. “We are all the same: Israelis fighting to secure a future for our nation.”
On one occasion I traveled to the checkpoint at the Gaza Strip, one of the most dangerous places in Israel. I walked over to a personnel carrier and spoke with an Ethiopian soldier who explained that it was reconfigured with periscopes so that the crew would not be exposed to enemy fire. The young man was twenty-one years old and had already served three years at this hazardous border.
He explained that when he was one year old his uncle had brought him to Israel. They had to travel more than a thousand miles, mostly by foot, before they reached an airport in the Sudan. His parents finally migrated to Israel when he was three.
Two years ago this young man’s father died in an automobile accident. Since he was the sole provider for the family, the young soldier was told he could leave the military and return to his family. “I will return home for a short time to help my mother,” he said, “but then I must return to my other family here at Gaza.”
On several occasions this young Ethiopian thwarted terrorist attacks on the base. Once he came to the aid of several companions trapped in a firefight. So obsessed was he with firing his weapons at the intruders that he did not see a grenade thrown in front of him. Fortunately his major did see it and threw the young man aside, saving his life. He keeps the fragments from that grenade as a good luck charm.
“I would die for Israel if I had to,” he told me. “This is my home. I love my country and I love my military unit.” He is an impressive young man, but hardly unusual in the Israeli military. If Americans had the opportunity to observe what transpires daily at the Gaza checkpoint, opinion about the Israeli stance toward the Palestinians might change. Rather than oppressors, the Israeli military is composed of protectors. It is the nation’s first line of defense against those at war against the Jewish state.
With all of the economic woe, self-loathing and cynicism, Israel is a nation inspired by spiritual salvation. It is often said that in Israel a plea to God is a local call. In Israel, miracles occur each day.
One might well conclude that with all the problems the nation faces it would sink into the Dead Sea. Yet Israel soars. It manifestly resists the entropy from within and the dangers from without. It is a nation of bumblebees.
I cannot forget that young Ethiopian soldier – a true Israeli who spoke to me in halting English. He is proud, courageous, honorable and patriotic. It is certainly not an exaggeration to say the future of Israel rests in his hands. He is clearly up to the challenge. He would say he was lucky to be in Israel; I would say Israel is lucky to have him in its military.
When the diplomats consider future borders for this magical place that defies rationality, they should consider as well that undermining Israel at the negotiating table is de facto undermining God’s will. How else can one explain Israel’s creation and its survival? A world without this nation or with a diminished version of it is a world without human aspiration. Israel flies because of her spirit; it is a living testament to providential will.