Triumphant in Travail
When in January, 1949, all fighting ended in the War of Independence, the small, ill-armed Jewish militia had developed into a seasoned fighting force supported by armor and fighter planes. Not only had the Jews survived, but they had increased their territory by six hundred miles. The final armistice gained them 21 percent more land than they had originally been given in the U.N. partition. They had been triumphant in their travail, and the world took notice.
Following the birth of the nation, the first official act of the State of Israel had been to set aside the white paper quotas, opening the doors of immigration to Jews everywhere. In the eighteen months following that action, 340,000 Jews arrived in their homeland. They poured in even during the war, and by June 30, 1953, the population had doubled. By the end of fifteen months following statehood, fifty-two displaced-persons’ camps in Europe had been closed and all the inhabitants sent to Israel.
The prophesied return to Palestine of the children of Israel was happening. Isaiah had written: “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5,6).
And from all directions they came.
They came from the east. The largest group arriving from the east came from Iraq, the ancient land of Babylon. At the time of the War of Independence, 135,000 Jews lived in Iraq. After the war, when they were allowed to return to Israel, they were required to leave all their wealth behind. It is estimated that they left assets worth five million dollars. Speaking of that exodus, Dr. Weizmann said, “Now we see the end of the Babylonian captivity.”
They came from the west. Jews arrived from the west more slowly than from other directions because the largest group of Jews there had settled in the United States. Being comfortable in America, they were not eager to leave. However, the financial resources of American Jews allowed them to invest heavily in founding the national home.
There are nearly 6 million Jews in the United States, a number that exceeds the population of Israel (5 million). Their success here may have been the blessing of God for the very purpose of enabling them to give financial support to those settling in the State of Israel.
They came from the north. From Hitler’s camps and the displaced-persons camps they came. From all the nations of Europe they came. Having learned the lesson of the holocaust, they came to Israel. They came home.
They came from the south. They came from Yemen and other lands south of Israel. The story of the Yemenite Jews and their return is a tale in itself.
Considering themselves exiles in Yemen, the Jews eagerly received the word that the State of Israel had been established and that a new David was in power (David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel).
Gathering up what possessions they could carry, great numbers of them started the journey to Israel. When their countrymen in Israel heard of it, an airlift was organized. Converted bombers were prepared to bring the Yemenite Jews home. In his book, Israel, the Key to Prophecy, William L. Hull described the scene:
Large planes, converted bombers, were flown to Aden. They contained only benches running lengthwise in the plane and thus enabling up to 130 of the small undersized sized Yemenite Jews to be loaded into one plane. It was all new to the Yemenites. They were a primitive people and entirely unacquainted with machinery or modern scientific development. Only a handful of all the Jews in Yemen had ever seen a plane before or even an automobile. With considerable trepidation, the crew prepared for the first flight from Aden. What would be the reaction of these primitive people? Thousands were to be transported. The first flight would indicate what might be expected.
Slowly men, women, and children made their way up the steps, took their places on the benches, sitting cross-legged, and waited in wonder. The crew was wondering, too. The roar of the motors, the movement of the plane, the sudden lifting from the ground, any of these could cause a stampede in the plane. A rush to the door, a crowding of all to one side or an attack upon the crew might wreck the plane. But nothing did happen. Everyone sat quietly, open-mouthed, breathless. Then the plane moved off and was airborne. Soon it was flying smoothly with its strange human cargo. The Yemenites just smiled and explained that God has promised that “they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Here were the eagle’s wings provided to bring them back to Zion. Surely it was time for the Messiah to come. Maybe He awaited them in Israel!
All together 48,000 Jews were flown to Israel from Yemen.
The Jews, a people noted for their business ability, made a total investment in the State of Israel. They came burning their bridges behind them. Sometimes they were required to leave the labor of a lifetime to start anew as pioneers in a new land.
And yet this land was not new! Something within had called them back to the land of their fathers. At last the Jews were coming home.
But are they home to stay? We will cover this in our next newsletter.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE