Mother of Zion (oil on canvas)
Mother of Zion (oil on canvas)Randy/Yisroel Settenbrino

Miraculously, the Daughter of Zion has never been completely bereft of her children, remnants managed to survive the invasions and occupations of Babylon, Rome, Byzantium and Crusader attempted genocides. Despite these homicidal incursions, periodic waves of intergenerational returnees sustained Jewish presence in the land with love and devotion, living with meaning, and walking with purpose throughout the seasons of captivity.

During Ottoman and British rule, the Jew’s stiff-neckedness was made of purpose in bypassing administrative restrictions and reasserting their efforts to attain the two-millennial dream of a third commonwealth. The Ottomans were apathetic, the land desolate and arid, local populations consisted of traversing nomadic Bedouins and a scant number of serf farmers.

Mark Twain visited Israel 1867, in Innocents Abroad wrote “ A desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse a desolation we never saw a human being on the whole route hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

Jews channeled their centers of antiquity: Safed, Tiberia, Hebron, Schechem and Gaza and built a metropolis in Tel Aviv; in Jerusalem Jews outnumbered Muslims significantly. Ottoman interest arose as Jews came of age to inherit their deed to Zion. Ottomans attempted to marginalize Jews by offering Muslims free land. The shift in British occupation bore the same signature, suppressing Jews in favor of Muslims.

Regardless of shrewd maneuvers and restrictions, Jews managed to create momentum in numbers, they bought land from absentee land holders, drained swamps and fought off deadly malaria and watched in amazement as the land responded vigorously to their devoted efforts to revitalize and modernize the land. The immigration policy created a conglomeration of Muslims unifying to usurp Jewish achievements, and violently erect a claim to a land they could not have in their wildest dreams ever redeemed.

"The Arabs would have sat in the dark forever had not the Zionist engineers harnessed the Jordan river for electrification. Now they swarm into Palestine in seeking the light."
- Winston Churchill, 1922 "A Peace to End All Peace"

RFK Soils had to be washed of salt, day after day, year after year, before crops could be planted. One can see this work going on in lesser or more advanced stages wherever there are Jewish settlements in Palestine. They set up laboratories where world-famous scientists could study and analyze soils and crops and changed what was once arid desert into flourishing orange groves.

Unfortunately, the Jewish renaissance was hindered by occupier tactics swelling Muslim immigration. Muslims enjoyed stability, gleamed opportunities gained upward mobility and recompensed the Jews with contempt mayhem and murder.

RFK The fact that over 500,000 Arabs, in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. This is the only country in the Near and Middle East where an Arab middle class is in existence.

The British trended Muslim immigration, maliciously curtailing Jewish repatriation, even as they were shoved into ovens; their policy was No sanctuary for Jews, and they quickly locked the gates of Palestine and placed restrictions on land purchases, 87,500 acres to Muslims and only 4,250 for the Jews. The British intent on rescinding Jewish immigration to mollify the Arabs issued the White paper which restricted immigration for the five most crucial 5 years to Jewish survival at the beginning of the most perilous times for world Jewry.

Jews fleeing Hitler’s Europe were arrested and interned and held in harsh conditions in Cyprus. Jews who escaped and caught were given prison sentences, the camps did not officially close until February of 1949.

RFKThe British government, in its attitude towards the Jewish population in Palestine, has given ample credence to the suspicion that they are firmly against the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The British conceded to Muslim violence, riots and massacres and allowed foreign Arab armies infiltration.

RFK When I was in Tel Aviv the Jews informed the British government that six hundred Iraqi troops were going to cross into Palestine from Trans-Jordan by the Allenby Bridge on a certain date and requested the British to take appropriate action to prevent this passage. The troops crossed unmolested. It is impossible for the British to patrol the whole Palestinian border to prevent illegal crossings, but such flagrant violations should certainly have led to some sort of action. There were soldiers from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Trans-Jordan, many of them British-trained and equipped.

Five weeks ago, I saw several thousand non-Palestinian Arab troops in Palestine, including many of the famed British-trained and equipped Arab legionnaires of King Abdullah.

Despite world disaffection and malice, the Jews intended to triumph their survival and flourish in their homeland, they waged a successful paramilitary campaign against the British until they gained independence and then victoriously took on a multitude of ensuing Arab armies with the fierce bravery befitting Maccabean warriors.

In 1948 Robert Kennedy was in Israel and he wrote regarding the Jews he met “are different from any Jews I have ever known or seen.”

Daughter of Zion II (oil on canvas)
Daughter of Zion II (oil on canvas)Randy Settenbrino

By Robert Kennedy, Boston Post, June 4, 1948, The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people. It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect.

Providence or the Hand of G-d?

It is neither logical nor statistically possible for a nation to have a third commonwealth after 2000 years, and how could traumatized survivors of bloody pogroms and broken orphans from Hitler’s Europe arrive home and reconstitute into proud defenders of their ancestral homeland, standing with the courage of David to confront Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, as well as local Arab militia forces? Are these the empirical claims of the Torah? Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and they will fall from your sword.” Vayikra 26:8

Was the great sage of Vilna anticipating this moment when he sent three groups of his disciples and their families in the land in 1808 and 1812, and did he make them privy to the miracle that would unfold the beginning of redemption?

In 1812 the Vilna Gaonstudents in Jerusalem, wrote ‘Two days are ruled by compassion the 20th of the Omer 5 Iyar and the 42nd day of the Omer 27 Iyar. On the 5 Iyar 1948, the State of Israel was declared. On 27 Iyar 1967, Israeli paratroopers broke into the Old City of Jerusalem, liberating the city from the 19-year Jordanian occupation.

Are the current cries from the river to the sea the hand of G-d as well? Perhaps they are actually of benefit for diaspora Jews to let them know destiny is calling and the discomfort of masses seeking our marginalization and disenfranchisement is just a means to remind us we have been all around the globe, and there is no place like home.

In Israel we are not a minority dependent on the capricious good will of host nations. We have the means of self-defense, formidable armed forces, advanced medicine, prestigious institutions in both the spiritual and academic world, scientific farming, and choiciest of vineyards to be envied. Everyday life is filled with the wonder, sounds of children speaking Hebrew, walking in the footsteps of our heroes and holy ancestors, unabashedly embracing their Jewish identity.

Randy/Yisroel Settenbrino is the artist and developer of the Historic Blue Moon Hotel, The Sweet dreams Café and the Last Jewish Tenement Tours, His project was chosen by National Geographic as one of 150 in the Western Hemisphere. He writes on art, psychology, theology, and practical philosophy.He and his wife are also the proud parents of two IDF soldiers serving in Handasah Kravit.