The Miracle Called Israel

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CBNNews.com - Sixty years ago, May 14, 1948, the modern State of Israel was born. The circumstances of Israel's re-birth were anything but average. In fact, some say Israel's renaissance -- after 2,000 years -- was nothing short of miraculous.

In a country the size of New Jersey, this thriving democracy, with its 7.3 million citizens, is a world leader in medicine, technology and agriculture, with a military that ranks among the finest.

Tiny Israel has given the world the cell phone, computer processors and voice mail. Israelis have made the barren desert bloom, reforested large portions of the country, and have made the nation a leading exporter of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The State of Israel

The story of the modern State of Israel officially began that fateful day in May when the nation's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, declared the country's independence from a small building in Tel Aviv.

Just a few hours later, the United States, under President Harry Truman, became the first country to recognize nascent nation.

Israeli historian Michael Oren believes that Truman's faith gave him the power to defy his advisors' strong objections and support Israeli statehood.

In his latest book, Power, Faith and Fantasy, Oren says Truman, who committed lengthy passages of scripture to memory, had a biblical perspective on the Jewish homeland.

"He knew the map of Palestine better than he knew the map of his neighboring county in Missouri," Oren told CBN News. "When he was a senator, he was a member of American Christian Committee for Palestine, an evangelical, pro-Zionist organization," he said.

Because of his biblical perspective, President Truman must have understood when the newly born State of Israel immediately opened its doors to thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust. These emaciated, homeless victims of man's inhumanity to man had lost most of their family and everything they owned.

A Homeland of Their Own

Yet hope arose in their hearts when Israel, the nation miraculously born in a day, offered them a homeland of their own.

"In the whole history of the world, no people, no country, has ever gone out of existence for anything like 2,000 years and then been reborn," author Brock Thoene told CBN News. "So it is correct to say that it is a miracle. But that is a dramatic understatement because the rebirth of Israel is a whole series of miracles," he said.

And Thoene wasn't exaggerating. Just to survive, Israel would need a whole lot of miracles.

The day after statehood was declared, Arab armies from surrounding nations attacked from all sides. Trained by the British and much better armed than the Israelis, the Arabs vowed to push the Jews into the sea, a reality that transformed many of the new Jewish refugees into instant soldiers.

"Many of them got off the docks, had weapons thrust into their hands and were told, 'Welcome to Israel. You are now fighting for her survival. And by the way, yours is kind of on the line, too,'" Thoene said.

At the tank museum in Latrun, located about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, visitors can see the actual tanks and trucks, now decorated with wreaths, which were used in the 1948 Battle of Latrun. This was the key battle that broke the siege of Jerusalem and helped Israel survive its first war as a modern nation.

The fight for Jerusalem was intense. And although the Jewish residents of Jerusalem's Old City were forced to leave their homes, their bravery and fortitude helped Israel survive the early days of the war.

Historical novelist Bodie Thoene, Brock's wife, has thoroughly researched the battle for the Old City.

"They hung on with those 200 defenders and that particular battlefront distracted the Arabs from all other battles and enabled -- in the two weeks that the Old City held out -- the rest of Israel, the brand new baby State of Israel, to arm itself," Thoene said.

The Fight for Nationhood

In its 60 years, Israel fought three more wars on its own soil and two in Lebanon. And today's radical Islamists share the same goal as Israel's Arab foes in 1948 -- to push the Jews into the sea and reclaim the land for Allah.

Historian Paul Johnson believes supernatural timing played a critical role in Israel's creation, called the 'nakba' by many Arabs.

"The truth is, in asking for a national home, the Jews were about 10 to 15 years ahead of the Arabs" Johnson said. "If they'd been running neck and neck, they'd never have gotten it, in my opinion," he said.

"So they stepped through a window of history that suddenly opened briefly into nationhood, and it is one of the miracles of history that this happened, he said.

CBN News Reporter Chris Mitchell contributed to this article.

*Original broadcast May 14, 2008.

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