Mark Twain, Bechukotai and Yom Yerushalayim by Rabbi Josh Flug
Director of Torah Research, Center for Jewish Future of Yeshiva University
In 1867, Mark Twain traveled through the Land of Israel and had the following observation: "Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. I would like much to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem, Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee - but even then these spots would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a limitless desolation." (Innocents Abroad Chapter 57)
Accordingto Ramban, the inability of any nation to develop the Land of Israel, agriculturally or economically, is the silver lining of the tochachah that we read in Parashas Bechukosai. Ramban writes (Vayikra 26:16):
ואלה דברים יבטיחו בגאולה העתידה ... וכן מה שאמר בכאן ושממו עליה אויביכם, היא בשורה טובה מבשרת בכל הגליות שאין ארצנו מקבלת את אויבינו, וגם זו ראיה גדולה והבטחה לנו, כי לא תמצא בכל הישוב ארץ אשר היא טובה ורחבה ואשר היתה נושבת מעולם והיא חרבה כמוה, כי מאז יצאנו ממנה לא קבלה אומה ולשון וכולם משתדלים להושיבה ואין לאל ידם.
In its early years, the State of Israel started to develop the
National Water Carrier, a complex water system that brought water from the Galil to all across the country, to places as far south as Be'er Sheva. The National Water Carrier was a critical factor in the growth of Israel as a whole and largely responsible for its reputation for being able to make the desert bloom. In contrast to Twain's observation, less than a century later, we saw a living proof to Ramban's comments that it is only through the Jewish people that the Land of Israel will thrive.
Those who have read Yehuda Avner's "The Prime Ministers" are familiar with the Syrian threat to the National Water Carrier, and how it led to the Six Day War. In 1964, Syria started to dig tributaries in the Northern part of the Jordan River, with the goal of diverting its waters away from Israel. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who previously spearheaded the National Water Carrier and could name every pipe in the system, not only took this as the ultimate threat to Israel's existence, but also as a personal affront. Eshkol considered it an act of war and this weighed on the decision to go to war with Syria. When Israel captured the Golan Heights in the Six Day War, it not only gained a strategic location militarily, it also gained an important water resource.
While Yom Yerushalayim is the celebration of the reunification of Yerushalayim, it is also the day we choose to commemorate the miracles of the Six Day War. It is a day to give hakaras hatov to Hashem, not only for Yerushalayim, but for the military security that we attained during that war, that gave the Land of Israel defensible borders and allows it to thrive.
Tickets are now available for the 49th Anniversary Raffle.
Ticket are $100 each, and only 200 tickets will be sold.
There are $8000 in cash prizes. Grand prize is $5000.
Second prize is $1000 with 8 additional prizes of $250 each.
The raffle drawing will be held on June 24th 2018 @ 2:00 PM at the Raffle Cocktail Party at the shul. The Raffle is the shul's major fund raiser for the year, and everyone's participation in this event will assure its success.
For tickets please call Irwin Lifshey at 845-797-0063 or the shul office.