If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people… His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.
Mark Twain “Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899
Since Mark Twain wrote the above, the Jewish population has declined to something like 0.2% of those on earth but the famous American author’s point has only become stronger. That nebulous dim puff of humanity, the Jews, continues to make a marvelous fight in the world. I’m guessing the “fight” aspect is even more meaningful now than Samuel Clemens could have imagined in 1899. The author of Tom Sawyer lived in an age when, despite its problems, an Adolf Hitler, a George Soros, a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the practice of ethnic cleansing could not have seemed real.
They seem unreal now—but we know better.
Yet the world continues to demand that the Jewish people put up a marvelous fight simply to survive. As my grandmother used to say with her classic European accent, “What’s new?”
I won’t detail Israel’s problems, enemies or threats here, nor will I attempt to make a case for her right to exist. If you are reading this you are well aware. If, additionally, you are one of those who hates Israel and “the Jews” without discernment, it’s unlikely that anything I might say would change your mind.
American friends visited us this weekend in Jerusalem (one took the picture above) and on the way to our apartment in Rechavia via the Old City, they found themselves at the Damascus Gate wading through a Muslim demonstration against the movie, Innocence of Muslims. (They actually found themselves in the picture to the left.) According to them the scene wasn’t nearly as calm, symbolic and peaceful as the linked article implies.
During their visit, on Erev Shabbat, we walked to the Western Wall. We found quite a scene. Beside the famous retaining wall above which once stood the Jewish temple (destroyed by Rome in 70 AD), orthodox Jews prayed alongside hundreds of other Jews and many visiting Christians.
A bit removed from that activity yet still under the shadows of Islam’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, tourists, visitors and locals milled about the plaza. Some prayed. Some talked. Mothers pushed baby carriages. Small children ran and hid and shouted and threw fits. Our friends seemed a bit surprised at the upbeat mood there given the widely reported tensions between Israel and “Palestine” and her existential threats from Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, rocket fire from Gaza, the Iranian nuclear program, the United States’ left-handed support and the double-dealing of the United Nations.
But I can explain the confusing good cheer.
On a tall pole in the plaza flew a large Israeli flag. Not far from that flag a group of IDF soldiers had gathered to sing—young, clear-eyed men and women, armed and in uniform, in a circle with their arms on each other’s shoulders. The words to their simple, traditional song were…
Am Yisrael Chai
Od Avinu Chai
(The people of Israel live
Our forefather still lives)
Am Yisrael Chai; the people of Israel live. Who would have guessed it 1000 years ago? How about in Mark Twain’s time? The survival of the Jewish people and the restoration of the Jewish state are miracles. The “marvelous fight” Twain mentioned continues and, according to God’s word and will, it shall be won.