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Or rather, fill it. Gather as many as possible of the dedicated Jews and Zionists dispersed throughout the world, and settle them in settlements in the disputed areas of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank/Judea and Samaria in order to strengthen the power of the Israeli State. That’s the plan of native New Yorker Michael Freund, the millionaire founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization that locates ‘lost Jews ‘and hidden Jewish communities, assisting them to return to their ‘roots’ in the ‘Holy Land’.
Former Deputy Director of Communications and Policy Planning under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Freund was at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport on Monday to greet the arrival of 53 passengers, the first of over thousands expected from the Bnei Menashe community from northeastern India, linking up with family members who have already settled in Israel. They are said to be descendants of the 10 tribes who lived in the kingdom of Israel in Biblical times and who were dispersed, according to the Bible, after the invasion of the Assyrians in 721 BC.
When the Bnei Menashe were recognized by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as a lost tribe in 2005, he insisted they undergo conversion to be accepted as Jews, sending a rabbinical team to India that converted 218 Bnei Menashe before Indian authorities stepped in and stopped it.
“The members of this tribe have never forgotten where they came from and we are excited to be able to help them come back,” said Freund, whose Shavei Israel Hebrew Centers have been working with the community in India to prepare them for life in Israel, teaching them Ashkenazi customs and Hebrew. Shavei Israel is also working on the return of ‘lost Jews’ in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil and Poland. Not all Israelis welcome the converts, however, some suspecting that they are simply fleeing poverty in their own countries.
Where to put them all? No problem. Permission has just been given by the Israeli government for 1,500 apartment units to be built in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, for instance, which straddles the Arab-inhabited neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Shuafat to its north and east. Despite criticism by some world leaders, and pleas from Ban Ki Moon to “refrain from continuing on this dangerous path,” there are also plans to build thousands of other housing units in Jerusalem, which will effectively divide the West Bank in two.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build there. A united Jerusalem reflects a wide national consensus.”
“By doing so, we can ensure that this precious land remains ours forever more,” said Freund. “Groups like the Bnei Menashe constitute a wide demographic and spiritual reserve, for being used, by Israel and the Jewish people. There are now over 300,000 Jews living in the parts of Jerusalem that were liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, and that number is set to soar in the years to come. There can be no turning back the clock or hitting the rewind button here, so the world should just accept reality. Jerusalem is now truly indivisible. And, I might add: thus it shall remain, forever and until the end of time.”
“After waiting for thousands of years, our dream came true,” said one of the new arrivals from India, who arrived with her husband and 8-month-old daughter. “We are now in our land.”
Our land? The ignorance of the poor woman! And the mad arrogance of those who claim to be ‘The Chosen People’, given the land by God, superior to all, and especially their Palestinian neighbours, who have lived there longer than they have! And let us not forget the original inhabitants of the country, the Canaanites, who were annihilated, wiped out by the invading Jews, drunk on the idea of their “Promised Land”.
I believe they’re still waiting for a Messiah, a leader anointed by God who will rule the united tribes of Israel and herald an age of global peace. Why didn’t Jesus get the job?
“Treat other people as you would like to be treated,” was his simple message. Is that advice too difficult to put into practice? The alternative of the message is practiced by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, and the cruel treatment they suffer is similar to that practiced by Christians against the Jews during their long exile. In many ways Zionists are identical to Nazis.
Let’s start again. Let’s throw out all religions and accept the fact that all the people of the world are brothers and sisters who share one loving God. Or even if you’re an atheist, that you support the universal law, the Gold Rule,–
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like them to do to you.”
If that were the rule in Israel, then Jerusalem might be truly called ‘golden’. Until then it will remain an abomination.
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org