Norman Podhoretz, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor the US government can bestow) in 2004, received one of the most prestigious ones in Israel on May 24, when he was given the “Guardian of Zion” Award from Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies.
The "Guardian of Zion" Award has been conferred 11 times to extraordinary recipients, producing extraordinary lectures at the award ceremony, including those of Ruth Wisse (2003) ("Israel’s Answer to the Zionist Dream”); Charles Krauthammer (2002) (“He Tarries: Jewish Messianism and the Oslo Peace”), and William Safire (2005) (“Jerusalem, Job and Justice”), among others.
In the ceremony at the King David Hotel, Podhoretz delivered the Distinguished Rennert Lecture entitled "Jerusalem: The Scandal of Particularity." COMMENTARY has posted the text of his address and it is worth reading in its entirety, as this brief excerpt from the middle demonstrates:
All the great powers and principalities of antiquity -- the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans -- all the powers which at one time or another conquered the Land of Israel and then outlawed the religious practices of its Jewish inhabitants, or executed some and banished others -- all of these powers, each and every one, have crumbled to dust.
Having outlasted all these mighty empires by creating ways of surviving statelessness, the Jews then remained alive as an identifiable people for another two thousand years: in spite of persecution by Christians and Muslims; in spite of forced conversions on pain of death; in spite of the murderous rampages that periodically broke out against them; and in spite of wholesale expulsions from countries like Spain and France and England in which they had temporarily been granted refuge.
In another of these European countries, and in our very own time, there even arose a tyrant who set out to achieve what he called a “final solution” of “the Jewish problem.” His technique was much more direct than any that had been employed before. He simply murdered as many individual embodiments of that “problem” as his forces could reach, which turned out to be a full third of the 18 million of them who were still around by the early decades of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, in yet another country, yet another tyrant was doing his best to make it impossible for the more than 3 million Jews still residing in his domains to practice their religion or maintain any other ties to their ancient traditions. And we know that only his death in 1953 prevented him from adopting even more extreme measures to push the still “unsolved” Jewish problem closer to its final solution.
Yet all this, too, failed, and the Jews, though much diminished in numbers and grievously wounded in spirit, were once more still here as an identifiable people, while Hitler and Stalin and the empires they had built crumbled into the same ignominious dust as the long line of their predecessors.
And so, I make bold to predict, will it be with the Persians of today and their Arab allies who, even while denying that there was a Holocaust during World War II, threaten to enact another one by wiping Israel off the map during our present war, the one I insist on calling World War IV.
Podhoretz concluded with an even bolder prediction about Israel and Jerusalem. But it is necessary to read the beginning and the end of the address to appreciate it.