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On the flight home, I re-read some of the chapters of my father’s book, now that I felt familiar with some of the settings he had described. I came across the part where my grandfather, the much-loved Rabbi of Pressburg, had tried to pacify some of the passengers in the cattle wagon heading for Poland. He swore to them that everything would be all right: “I swear on my place in Olam Habah - the world to come - that we will survive this.” My father recorded his surprise that, even for such short-lived comfort to others, a Rabbi might swear falsely.

I now realise that my grandfather was right after all. ‘We’ - meaning the Jewish nation did survive. And boy, did we survive!

From the edge of genocide, we have come back to build our own state with the most feared army and air force in the world. Without oil, gas or any natural resources other than brains and determination we have built cities, highways, skyscrapers, airports and seaports. And with those brains we have a higher ratio of university degrees, and annually produce more patents and scientific papers per capita than any other country in the world. Even in these troubled times, Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds, right behind the US. And its $100 billion economy is larger than all its oil-rich neighbours combined. The world’s computers run on the chips we designed and are protected by the anti-virus systems our people have invented. We pioneered the cellular phone, voice mail and instant messaging. One in four prescriptions filled in the United States is for a medication made in Israel. Not least, we are a responsible nuclear power and have already launched our own satellites into space.

All this, in a 55-year old speck of a country sometimes 8 miles wide.

Anyone still not believe in God? Step outside.

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© Zalmi Unsdorfer 2003