Helen Keller and Israel

Helen Keller is famous for overcoming and championing a new way forward for those who are blind and deaf, but did you know that she also left a legacy in Israel? Since she was a baby she lived without sight or hearing, and was unable to speak. But Helen Keller is the opitome of one who has seen and grasped, heard and understood, and communicated with greater force and effectiveness than most of her generation. And she used her metaphorical megaphone to speak up for the Jewish people.
In contrast to the sad message that God gave Isaiah in chapter 6 that Israel would be “seeing but not perceiving, hearing but not understanding”, and so would not turn and be saved, Helen Keller, who believed the Bible, broke out of her physical disabilities to support and bring comfort to God’s people.
Helen visited Israel shortly after it was founded, in order to promote rights for the disabled, and to be an encouragement to the newly-born state. There she met Golda Meir (pictured above), who was Israel’s Labour Minister at that time, and the friendship between the two continued through letters after she had returned to the United States.
She worked with the American Institute for the Blind for 44 years, and whilst in Israel teamed up with the Jewish Institute for the Blind, who presented her with a special silver-covered Jewish Bible when she visited them there.
Many of these facts, visits, letters are not well known to the public, but possibly one of the most powerful pieces in the Keller archive is a letter to the Student Body of Germany, written in 1933. The German universities had been burning books that contradicted their evil agenda, including a book that Helen herself had written on socialism and social justice, and hearing of it shortly afterwards, Helen’s anger and sharp words warned the Nazis;

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas….
Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here.
God sleepeth not, and He will visit His Judgment upon you.”[1]

Helen’s mentor, Anne Sullivan, was not only a remarkable woman of grit and love-driven determination in her quest to rescue Helen from her prison of isolation, but she also taught her pupil about Yeshua, and how our souls can ultimately be free.
Anne relays in her account of Helen’s education, that she “told her in simple language of the beautiful and helpful life of Jesus, and of His cruel death. The narrative affected her greatly when first she listened to it.”[2] Like most, Helen was perplexed by the suffering and evil in the world, but joined her mentor in doing all that she could, with all of her power, to bring goodness and light where there was darkness, and justice where there was evil. She was clearly confident in God’s judgement, as her letter to the Nazis shows, but also willing to play her part in doing what she could while she was on the earth to stand up for the oppressed.
As limited as Helen Keller was physically, she did not let it stop her. Neither did Anne Sullivan allow her poverty and abuse-filled past to overwhelm her. Both Anne and Helen are remarkable in what they achieved by patient endurance and determination, and a conviction that it was worth it.
What is God asking you to do today? Who can you speak out for, and who could you encourage? A letter, a visit, giving support and comfort are things that we can all do. Ask God what the two of you can do together, and don’t be discouraged by what seem to be impossible obstacles – our God is God of the impossible!
[1] The Jewish Daily Forward, 28 April 2010 (To read the article, click here)
[2] From the letters and reports of Anne Mansfield Sullivan (ca.1867-1936), edited by John Albert Macy

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