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Chapter XI • Homeland Security

Sweet Success • The Albert Sweet Story

Chapter XI • Homeland Security


Prior to 1948, Al had been embarrassed by his Jewish heritage. But after the War of Independence, that all changed. The Jews had succeeded in establishing their own state. They had successfully fought off enemy invaders from all sides and had obtained their independence. In Al’s mind, they were now winners. And now, Al himself was a winner. He had succeeded at the American dream. He had money, a home, and a family. Maybe it was time to visit the homeland of his people… to see where it all began… and to give thanks.

It was Christmas 1970. I wanted to take my family to Israel. At first, Diane was afraid to go since it was just after the War. I had been a subscriber to National Geographic Magazine and they had done a story about the Old City, which was now occupied by Palestinians. I really wanted to see it, and Diane and the kids agreed. The first night we got there, we checked into the King David Hotel, which was the nicest and oldest hotel in Israel, high up on the side of a hill.

We talked to our guide and he asked where we wanted to go. I wanted to see the Old City, because that’s where it all started 3,000 years ago. Since I was a runner, I told him I wanted to run through the Old City. He said he couldn’t guarantee my safety and therefore I wouldn’t be able to do it. Well, I don’t hear the word “no” too good.

So I got up very early the next morning, like around 4:30am, put on my running shoes, and ran down the side of the hill. I crossed over a little plateau and headed through the Jaffa Gate – the entrance to the Old City. There were lots of tiny shops that were shuttered closed. I got about half way through the city and I was making pretty good time. Then I began hearing “creek, creek, creek.” It was the sound of shutters opening. The city was beginning to wake up, and I started getting more and more anxious. What were these people going to think seeing this crazy American running through their streets? It was time to head back to the hotel.

I reached a gate, but it was the wrong one. I’d been running for half an hour and somehow managed to get completely turned around. So I had to go all the way back. By the time I got to the hill where the hotel was, I was really tired. But I made it up the hill, into the hotel, and inside our room. My wife and kids were still asleep. Fantastic! I quietly snuck into bed and went to sleep, and no one was the wiser. That was a terrific experience.

Next on the agenda for the Sweet family was a tour of the Technion. Founded in 1912, the Technion was the first university to be built in Israel. It has served as home to some of the greatest minds in the world, including a few notable Nobel Prize winners. Shortly after it’s opening, Albert Einstein paid a visit to the campus and subsequently agreed to serve as the President of the Technion Society. Today, the Technion offers degrees in science, engineering, architecture, bio-science, and education, and leads the world in many cutting edge bio-medical and defense technology advances – thereby aiding Israel’s ongoing quest to protect itself against its neighboring enemies, while also helping mankind through innovation.

So we got up and had breakfast. Noni, our guide, showed up and asked where we wanted to go. He started talking about different places, and then mentioned the Technion.

This is the facility where Israel has developed many of its high tech military innovations. Their invention of a unique anti-ballistic missile, for example, has protected them for years from Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations who continue to fire rockets into their country. It’s my considered opinion that if there were no Technion, there would be no Israel.

So we went to the Technion, and were blown away by the experience of meeting the people and visiting the facility. My son Ron really seemed to enjoy it. At one point, he wandered off on his own and ended up talking with the students and professors about the types of weaponry they had developed.

In the days following their arrival back in California, the Sweet family continued to be impacted by their trip to Israel. However, none were more affected than young Ron, who was particularly moved by what he had learned while visiting the Technion.

My son’s bar mitzvah was coming up on March 15th, which was his birthday. He told his mother that he wanted to change the invitations to his bar mitzvah, and she asked him why. He said it was because he wanted all of his bar mitzvah money and gifts donated to the Technion. I still glow when I think about that. He knew I was a giving person, but he was only turning thirteen. His total donation turned out to be more than $2,000.

Ever since then, I started really getting involved with the Technion. It was the first real philanthropic cause I began giving money to on a regular basis. Through the years, I’ve learned more about what they really are. The professors at the Technion earn about a third of what a professor at MIT makes. They’re there because of they have the freedom to do the type of research they enjoy.

For years, historians have tried to decipher the reasons behind the Arab-Israeli conflict that continues to plague the Middle East. Some have concluded that it is a relatively recent phenomenon involving the immigration of European Jews, which began during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Others say it’s possible to trace the conflict’s origin back thousands of years to the story of the sons of Abraham, and the hatred between half brothers Isaac and Ishmael, which is chronicled in the 16th chapter of the book of Genesis from the Torah and the Bible.

Regardless of the root cause however, no one can deny Israel’s miraculous success in its endeavors to defend itself against its enemies amidst overwhelming odds. Some might point to Israel’s vast military superiority as the reason behind their success, while others attribute it to God’s protection over His people. Perhaps it’s a little of both?

Israel is known as ‘The People of The Book’. They have a great educational system for its population and an economy that’s incredibly good. Their capabilities with high tech warfare and equipment have enabled them to fend off multiple enemies simultaneously. A large portion of its population, both male and female, serves in its armed forces. The women serve two years in the Israeli Defense Force and the men serve three. And they periodically go back for more training. So virtually the whole population serves in the military.

I don’t think there’s an air force worth anything in any of the surrounding countries. There’s simply no comparison. Most of Israel’s enemies have huge segments of their populations that are illiterate, their countries don’t have any industry to speak of, and they must get their weaponry from other places such as Russia.

But a lot of these wars do go back thousands of years. I understand too that it starts with jealousy. Nobody likes a rich uncle, especially when you yourself have a poor economy.

The Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, one of the largest hospitals in the area, was founded by the Women’s Zionist Organization in America, and has the distinction of treating anyone in the area regardless of their cultural or religious heritage. In 2005, Hadassah was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in acknowledgment of its equal treatment of all patients.

Israel has one of the largest and most comprehensive hospitals in the region, and the Palestinians that live in close proximity have access to the hospital without charge. I would think that would make you friends, but apparently it doesn’t. It’s just their cultures. They can’t trust each other. Brothers don’t trust brothers; nephews don’t trust uncles.

There’s also a lot of resentment because Israel got back some land in the last war. Israel can prove this was land that they settled hundreds of years ago, but the Palestinians who were there at the time of the war resent it. Israel has given back quite a bit of that land already, but they can’t give back any more. I mean, it’s a small country. You can drive from one side of Israel to the other in two or three hours.

Most of its neighbors would like to have Jerusalem, which is an important city for everybody. But Israel can prove that it had Jerusalem thousands of years before these other countries even existed.