I had a most peculiar dream and what a dream it was! By pure serendipity, my thoughts were directed into Eastern Europe to a piece of land at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. It is the northern part of the old German province of East Prussia, which Stalin annexed at the end of World War II. Its seaport is ice-free and became the home base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Its name is now Kaliningrad and its territory borders on only two neighbors, Lithuania in the north and Poland to the south.
A little to the west is the Polish port of Gdansk, which you may have heard about. Initially, the Kaliningrad Territory was contiguous with the Soviet Union, because Lithuania was then part of the USSR as well. However, since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—have been independent, thus separating the Kaliningrad enclave from the Russian Federation by some 300 miles.
The consequences were disastrous. The land lost its economic linkages, its military installations were largely decommissioned, and what industries it had could not compete on the world market. The downward spiral was characterized by all the maladies you can think of. There was unemployment, indigence, untended farmland, hunger, pollution of the rivers and drinking water, malnutrition, alcoholism exceeding even that plaguing Russia itself, AIDS epidemics, incredible feats of corruption, political and business leaders working in unison with criminals, the activities of the Russian Mafia, drug trade and abuse, illegitimate arms trade, and administrative and business incompetence. The Europeans call the area “the devil’s kitchen” or “the Black Hole.”
Oh yes, my dream: A sudden image flashed through my mind, fleeting and unreal. Can you imagine, I thought, how wonderful, prosperous, productive, and healthy this area would be if, in 1948, the State of Israel had been created, not in the Holy Land but here, at the Baltic Sea? How different would the fate of the Israelis have been, how peaceful would be their land, how much hostility would have been avoided in the Middle East, how unencumbered the Palestinians and how relieved the Europeans would be, and yes, how different would the world be today?
The dream came back day after day. I saw the two maps next to each other and, lo and behold, the Baltic land was much, much larger than the current Israel, if you disregard the huge Negev Desert. Caught in the irrationality of the dreamworld, I was advised by happy Israelis that they had not been here since 1948 but rather came just recently to establish a new state. That absurd statement almost woke me up but didn’t. They would not need an army, they said, because there was nobody against whom they had to defend the land. The numerous Russian Jews among them provided a perfect avenue in promoting commerce with Russia. And that was not all, for they predicted that their Baltic seaport would soon turn into a Baltic Hong Kong as a maritime outlet for its endless hinterland extending all the way to Siberia.
There were images passing through my bedazzled mind of young men and women who had never been in the military. “What for?” they said. It was unreal to see them so unconcerned and easygoing, going fishing in one of the Masurian Lakes next door, having dinner in Gdansk, or taking a boat ride to enjoy a weekend in Stockholm. Weird, I thought, how in the world did they acquire this land? I guess that woke me up and got me wondering.
Don’t ask me where this recurrent dream originated. Perhaps I had a deep desire for the Jews to have a homeland, which was peaceful and normal. Time and again, the dream came back. I saw all of us, who are friends of Israel, get together and buy that territory from the Russians, for a few trillion Euros, payable over fifty years. I saw several Gulf States offer contributions, if that would hasten the process. I saw the indigent Kaliningrad folks depart for Russia, there to resettle, pocketing financial rewards to a tune they could have never imagined. I saw the reconstruction of the new land with new roads, homes, and industries. I saw eager foreign investments coming into this promising land. I saw prosperity and a bonanza for developers. I saw all of the Palestinians going out of their minds in immense joy. I saw the whole world take a deep breath of relief and pitching in to help the project along. I saw Iran abandoning its nuclear ambitions and Egypt and Saudi Arabia reducing their armed forces. And there were Islamic terrorists who … well, that’s when I woke up.
My disappointment was immense. I was crest-fallen, having returned to reality. You must accept my apologies for telling you about such an absurd experience. It was just too beautiful to keep it a secret. I know everybody is convinced that peace and mutual understanding in the Middle East is just around the corner. Nobody would question that a hundred years from now there will be two happy neighbors in the Holy Land, one accepting the other and the jihad folks having vanished in the long forgotten past. So why would any Israeli even think of leaving for the Baltic? Why would they trade their land for a better one? They are happy where they are.
True, I don’t share that opinion, but don’t mind my pessimism. I expect the defensive separation wall to become permanent. I fear belligerence will never cease. I worry about the Israeli Arabs to outnumber the Israeli Jews and to do that during the lifetime of today’s children. That would indeed be ominous. Yes, I am truly concerned about the future of the Jews’ homeland. So please forgive me. Not many will agree with such melancholic predictions. But boy, what a lovely dream it was!
H. Peter Nennhaus is a retired surgeon and Illinois resident. He was raised in Berlin and became a U.S. citizen in 1961. His various interests include the study of the history of the 20th century, the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism. Peter is the author Quo Vadis, Israel? available at Amazon.com and at Outskirts Press.