The chosen people

AS EASY AS ABC - Atty. Alex B. Cabrera - The Philippine Star

One of the things I looked forward to in our recent trip to the Holy Land a few months back was to understand the fate of the “chosen people”.

For as long as I can remember, when I hear about the Jews, I think of them as synonymous with the most persecuted race. All throughout mankind’s existence, they have been in numerous exoduses as they were stateless. They were either being enslaved, being driven out, or escaping from cruelty. The chosen ones they are called, so much so that the Red Sea parted for them while they were escaping the Egyptian army.

It took four decades of wandering in the harsh environment of the desert to find their promised land. And those who wandered away were persecuted in foreign lands. Wherever they were around the world, they would get expelled or discriminated against even in neighboring Arab territories, perhaps principally because of their passionate religious beliefs. They had no home to go to, because then, they did not have their own State.

Fast forward to the 1940s where the Jews suffered the greatest of all persecutions any human population can be subjected to – the Holocaust. With gas chambers, after food and water deprivation, as the preferred method of extermination – around six million Jews were mass murdered by the Nazis. They were not treated like animals; they were treated as a disease.

Pardon the summation that doesn’t do justice at all to what the Jews as a race have suffered, but I needed to lay premise to my mind-boggler question: Are they the chosen people?

Maybe they were indeed persecuted because they persecuted and crucified Jesus Christ. Or maybe on account of being chosen, they were also the most watched by the Creator, all of what they do, pre- and post-10 commandments. But this is where I summon how I resolve things that I don’t understand – by remembering the lesson from St. Francis the Assisi – that the ocean (or the vastness of God’s wisdom) cannot fit a hole dug in the sand (the size of a human brain). So how can we begin to rationalize? But I can't be faulted for still trying.

Right after World War II, the United Nations member countries, including the Philippines, recognized Israel as an independent state for the first time. And the Israeli government called on and incentivized all Jews around the world to come home. That would be a short-lived honeymoon though as in 1947, Israel was attacked by at least five Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. How Israel, then with a population of only 600,000, and whose soldiers included those still healing from the Holocaust ordeal they survived, managed to repel and defeat the millions from the military coalition of the Arab League, was nothing short of a miracle.

Soon after, they developed high-tech military equipment and weapons that made them untouchable by the surrounding Arab countries (they defeated Egypt in less than a week in the 1967 Six-Day War). The technology they develop for defense is also the same technology tweaked and used for medical purposes (like the camera placed on missile heads developed for endoscopy).

With the abundance of high-quality vegetables and fruits in Israel, you would think they are indeed the land of milk and honey. People forget they are a desert country, like most of the Arab countries. But they researched, studied, and learned how to grow plants and trees in the desert. They directed rain water to a chosen plane, and they used drip technology irrigation so water can go directly to the roots of the plants at just the right amount. They put their banana trees in greenhouses or covered them in protective plastic to regulate temperature, conserve precipitation, and hasten ripening. And unbelievably, they recycle about 90 percent of the water they use.

Their tech achievements, too many to mention, are used around the world, not to mention that Viber (Talmon Marco), Waze (Shabtai, Shinar, and Levine) and the breakthrough 8088 processor by Intel came from the minds of Israeli nationals.

Today, Israel has the most vibrant tech startup population in the world (next to Silicon Valley), is reputed to have one of the strongest airforce globally, and is noted to be the third most educated country in the world. Their love of country cannot be underestimated even as everyone of all genders are mandatorily required after high school to render three-year military service, then do as they desire after that. While devoutly religious, they respect diversity and modernity. Their economy, according to the IMF, ranks 20th (GDP per capita) in the world.

They invest a lot in high quality education and they have the most number of museums per capita in the world, as if to open the eyes of their people and remind them everyday,  “never again”. After all the generations of pain, Israelis are looking back to help themselves do the right thing, moving forward.

They are now showing, with their nine million population, that they are the chosen people. There is a lesson for us here, to all 110 million of us, 90 percent of whom are Catholics, in a tropical country where the seas are abundant and the soil’s so rich. For all our imperfections and everything we did wrong as a people, our blessings abound as if we are the chosen ones. But like the biblical Israelis, to be blessed like chosen, we must choose to be.

Have a very meaningful Christmas, everyone!

* * *

Alexander Cabrera is the chairman of Integrity Initiative Inc. a non-profit organization that promotes common ethical and acceptable integrity standards. He is also the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to [email protected]. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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