Fun With Cause-and-Effect: Gaza Border Protests

A satire.

 

The Israeli soldiers took up positions near the Gaza fence. Over 100 men in total, they crouched behind a large berm obscuring the view of their target. They talked.

We never should have left Gaza in 2005,” said Corporal No-Name Israeli.

I know,” said Private Faceless Ashkenazi, “but now we can finally rectify the mistake.

They were called to attention by their commander and fifty conversations dropped in a moment.

My dear brothers, we will now begin a multi-week attack on the border that was set up dividing our homeland,” the stocky 26-year-old Zionist commander began. “Our mission is to obliterate the fence that marks the beginning of Jew-free land. Every Friday over the course of several weeks, we will come to various spots along the Gaza border and begin to dismantle the fence. We will use a variety of means as the situation demands, but be prepared to use the full array of armaments that you carry.”

The Israeli soldiers were delighted. They shot off their guns in the air and passed candies among each other as though they had just killed a terrorist.

Begin!” the commander called.

And just like that, 120 soldiers climbed the dune and began to fire upon the Gaza border fence.

The Reaction in Gaza

The Hamas Friday bingo game was just getting exciting. The sweet-faced Ismail Haniyeh, was calling out the numbers for the crowd of 2,000 peace-loving refugees. “I – 48,” he called into the microphone in the large UNRWA-funded mosque. “I – 48. ‘I’ as in ‘Inshallah’ and ’48’ as in the year marking our Nakba.

Suddenly the crackle of gunfire pierced their quiet Friday ritual.

The Israelis!” someone cried. “The Israelis are attacking the border. They are trying to reclaim Gaza!

The head of the popular social service organization knew he needed to take charge. Haniyeh pulled the microphone to his mouth. “People! Hamas does not want there to be any violence. We must take measured approaches to the Israeli attacks. Everyone, go to your home and remove the tires from your vehicles and meet me near the border fence with as many tires as you can muster!

Within 30 minutes, tens of thousands of simple, kind, gentle Palestinians were at the border of their coastal enclave in a desperate attempt to save their border fence. Members from the global press and United Nations brought tires too.

As they watched their dear fence slowly crumble from the Israeli gunfire, Yahwa Sinwar, another Hamas leader known for his warm outreach to Israelis shouted in a megaphone: “People of Gaza! Protect our fence! Set fire to your tires and roll them towards the fence to obscure the vision of the Israeli snipers. Protect our Gaza! Protect our independence!

The Gazans were caught off guard. No one had told them to bring matches. Each turned to the right and left for a light.

The UNRWA officials at the rally came to the rescue. They put down the dozens of Molotov cocktails that they were holding and lit up everyone’s tires.

The smoke screen began.

A picture taken on March 30, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border from the Gaza strip./ AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The Israelis were alarmed. They were not expecting a protest from the Gazans. The Palestinians had always been peaceful and content with their situation, whether good or bad. But now they were harming the operation by shielding the fence.

The Israeli commander instructed his soldiers to put down their guns. “Throw your grenades towards the fence!” he yelled. “Ideally, as indiscriminately as possible.

The blasts and booms sent fear into the Gazans’ hearts. The dirt and debris flew everywhere. This was no longer simply a matter of the border fence being destroyed, but the laundry on the lines near the fence was becoming filthy.

Haniyeh ordered the people forward towards the fence. Everyone grabbed the sheets and slingshots that were lying on the ground and began to fling the rocks and debris off in the direction of the Israelis to get them to stop their attack on the fence. Even the press and senior leadership of UNRWA began to throw their Molotov cocktails towards the Israelis in an attempt to reestablish the status quo of peace and civility.

After a few hours, each side returned home, knowing that they would repeat the same dance each Friday until Israel’s Independence Day, when Israelis both celebrate their country’s birth and mourn the truncated nature of their sovereignty in the Jewish Promised Land.

As always, the smoke screen would continue.


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Silwan Circulars, Christmas 2014

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The “Great Myth of Return”

The Palestinian Arabs are engaged in a “protest” at the Gaza border with Israel to draw attention to their “Right of Return” to land in Israel. Pro-Palestinian organizations like Al Jazeera (Qatar) and Press TV (Iran) have produced videos related to the Arabs’ rights. The use of animation and live interviews however do nothing to educate people with actual facts, and how the claim of a Palestinian “Great March of Return” is a sham.

Global International Law

The United Nations developed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights that underscored the basic human rights that all people in the world possess. The UDHR states clearly in Article 13 that:

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the
borders of each State.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to
return to his country.”

Note that the relevant clause is that a person is entitled to leave his COUNTRY and then return to that country. For Jews, that means that the remaining survivors of the 850,000 people that were kicked out of Arab countries including Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Morocco have the basic human right to return to that country, should they so desire. However, the Stateless Arabs of Palestine (SAPs) have no such right, as Palestine was never a country but an administered region from 1924 to 1948.

The principle of returning to a house, land or town is not based on universal standards, but found in a niche resolution to address the SAPs several decades ago.

Specialized Resolution for Palestinian Arabs also Fail

On December 11, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 194 in the middle of Israel’s War of Independence. Article 11 stated:

“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;”

This is the clause that the Palestinian narrative continues to call out, but it fails in many regards:

  • There are fewer than 30,000 “refugees” from 1948 are alive today. The millions of descendants that claim a right to return have no such claim as they are not refugees;
  • The actions of the Palestinians have clearly shown that they have no desire to “live at peace with their neighbors,” as evidenced by the many wars and terrorism waged against Israel, the election of a Holocaust denier to the presidency that pays people to kill Israeli Jews, and the election of the terrorist group Hamas to a majority of the Palestinian parliament

Further consider that the same UNGA Res 194 made other statements that the Palestinian Authority rejects, such as Articles 7 and 8:

“detailed proposals for a permanent international regime for the territory of Jerusalem…”

“Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu’fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control;”

The Palestinians are seeking to turn eastern Jerusalem into its own capital, not a permanent UN town. The PA claims that it already has control of part of this Corpus Separatum – Bethlehem – which they took over in December 1995. Are the Palestinians going to abandon Bethlehem and scheme for eastern Jerusalem, or will they just cherry-pick from UN 194 to validate an invasion of Israel?


The UN’s Corpus Separatum from UN Resolution 181

One could possibly argue that around 30,000 SAPs over 70 years old who are interested in moving to Israel and living in peace should be allowed to do so, but the Friday protests at the Gaza border are full of young people. These people have no legal rights to move to Israel and their actions at the border constitute a threat of invasion and must be addressed on such basis. And if the PA acting president Mahmoud Abbas wants to quote UN Resolution 181 (which the entire Arab world rejected in 1947) and UN Resolution 194, he should be prepared to relinquish Bethlehem and dreams of eastern Jerusalem.

Palestinian Arabs’ “Great March of Return” is nothing more than the “Great MYTH of Return.”


Related First.One.Through articles:

Corpus Separatum Ended Forever in 1995

Stabbing the Palestinian “Right of Return”

Time to Dissolve Key Principles of the “Inalienable Rights of Palestinians”

Removing the Next Issue – The Return of 20,000 Palestinian Arabs

Losing Rights

Delivery of the Fictional Palestinian Keys

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I call BS: You Never Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

The United States officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017. Several countries have made a variety of arguments as to why they have not – and will not – similarly recognize Israel’s capital city.

Some countries note that Israel’s action on July 30, 1980 in which it declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel,” was declared illegal by the United Nations Security Council.

Did countries recognize Jerusalem the day before on July 29, 1980? No.

Some countries say that they have not recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because the “acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible,” so they cannot recognize the eastern half of Jerusalem that was held by Jordan before the Six Day War of June 5 – June 10, 1967.

Did countries recognize the western portion of Jerusalem before the war on June 4, 1967? No.

How is it that so few countries EVER officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, going back to the end of the war of independence? There was no controversy related to eastern Jerusalem during those 18 years until the Jordanians attacked Israel in June 1967, and lost the territory that they had illegally annexed.

Let’s be candid. The issue surrounding Jerusalem has always been about money, in particular, the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Arab world’s enormous oil wealth. Today, it continues to be trade, albeit it is much less important to the global economies than it was decades ago.

The excuse about the eastern half of Jerusalem which includes Muslim holy sites is a fig leaf covering the world’s lust for Arab money, from 1948 until today.


A view of the Old City of Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus
(photo: First.One.Through)

And the fig leaf is porous.

Countries already recognize the western half of Jerusalem as being an integral part of Israel. Further, many world leaders (including US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush) came to Israel’s capital and addressed the parliament in Jerusalem. They recognized Jerusalem both as part of Israel and de facto as its capital.

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2008 spoke at the Israeli Knesset. So when Merkel now states that “the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution,” she unashamedly plays out the farce. Germany DOES recognize the western part of Jerusalem as part of Israel and as its functioning capital, but does not want to do it in an “official” capacity as it believes that withholding such recognition might enrich Germany through better relations and economic trading with the dozens of Arab and Muslim countries, and minimize the terrorism in Germany from Islamic extremists. As that seems a bit cold, Merkel put forward the red herring of seeking peace, as if recognizing reality somehow harms peace.

Let’s be clear: most of the world recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital already. The farce of countries not “officially” recognizing Jerusalem is positioned as a prod that pushes Israel towards a peace agreement. But it is nothing of the sort. It is a calculated trade-off between the dignity of the citizens of Israel on one hand, against the commercial self-interest of trading with Arab countries on the other. It is therefore appropriate for Israel to rethink its own trading policies with countries which have no qualms in humiliating it on the global stage.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

The Arguments over Jerusalem

Religious Countries Respond to Israel’s Jerusalem

Both Israel and Jerusalem are Beyond Recognition for Muslim Nations

The New York Times Inverts the History of Jerusalem

The Invisible Flag in Judo and Jerusalem

The Custodianship of a Child and Jerusalem

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Battle for Jerusalem

“East Jerusalem” – the 0.5% Molehill

Jerusalem, and a review of the sad state of divided capitals in the world

The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity

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I am a Zionist. A Deep Zionist. An Amazed Zionist. A Loud Zionist.

I am a Zionist through and through, on level after level.


The Israeli flag at the Western Wall
(photo: First.One.Through)

I am a Zionist because I believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their homeland.

I am a deep Zionist because I know that no other religion has a connection to land like Jews. Only the Jews believe that God gave them a small parcel of land for an inheritance. The Jewish religion is the only religion that has distinct laws that can only be kept while in the Jewish holy land. The Jews invented the very notion of “holy land,” and have prayed facing Jerusalem for thousands of years.


A sign in Israel about the biblical commandment of Shmita
(photo: First.One.Through)

I am an amazed Zionist because I marvel at what the Jewish people have been able to do in just a few decades: to absorb millions of immigrants; to fend off hostile neighbors; to develop a thriving democracy; to lead the world in science and technology; and in efforts to forge a new era of peace, forgave a nation (Germany) that tried to eradicate them, and handed over their holiest location (the Jewish Temple Mount) to a hostile people that had banned Jews from even visiting the site.

I am an aggressive Zionist because I have internalized the history of Jews in their holy land. I have seen the Arab and Muslim world reject the very existence of the Jewish State and war against it repeatedly. I have read the polls that the Palestinians are the most anti-Semitic people in the world, that voted for the Hamas terrorist group to a majority of their parliament with the most vile anti-Semitic charter ever written, and that elected a Holocaust denier as a president that pays people to murder Israeli Jews and then celebrate their “accomplishments.”

I am a loud Zionist because I see how many people ignore and distort reality. How the United Nations can pass resolutions that ignore the 4000-year history of Jews in Israel, how universities and organizations apply unique and double standards for Israel and call out to boycott and strangle the only Jewish country.

I am a real world Zionist. I understand that Israel – like every country in the world – is not perfect. But I accept its imperfections and try to help it make improvements by working WITH the country, not against it.

I am an optimistic Zionist. I believe that countries and companies from around the world will be drawn to Israel’s intellectual capital, strong economy and stable currency that are built on the rule of established laws. The virtuous cycle of investment and trade will lead to stronger and stronger political relations and widespread peace.

I am an eternal Zionist. I have been one since before I was born and will remain one long after I’m gone.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Arguments over Jerusalem

Israel: Security in a Small Country

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God is a Zionist (music by Joan Osbourne)

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Israel’s Soldiers Also Earn the Honors

Since Israel’s independence in 1948, Israel has won 12 Nobel Prizes, an incredible total for such a small country. When considering that over those 70 years the country had to fight numerous wars, absorb millions of immigrants and develop an economy, the total is even more remarkable.

Even when backing out Nobel Prizes awarded for peace, which is the most dubious category as it is more aspirational and political than the other categories, Israel has still won 9 prizes. That puts the country as a top five winner of Nobel Prizes per capita.

Rank Country Nobel Prizes since 1948  2017 Population (m)  Nobels per Capita Non-Peace Prizes  Nobels per Capita
1 Sweden 19                  9.90                  1.92 18                  1.82
2 Switzerland 15                  8.37                  1.79 15                  1.79
3 Norway 8                  5.23                  1.53 8                  1.53
4 United Kingdom 93                65.64                  1.42 86                  1.31
5 Israel 12                  8.55                  1.40 9                  1.05
6 Austria 9                  8.75                  1.03 8                  0.91
7 Ireland 6                  4.77                  1.26 4                  0.84
8 Hungary 8                  9.82                  0.81 8                  0.81
9 Germany 60                82.67                  0.73 58                  0.70
10 Denmark 4                  5.73                  0.70 4                  0.70

The country also proves itself to be a leader in the commercial application of science and technology. Israel ranks as number 8 regarding patent filings per capita.

Rank Country  2016 patent filings  2017 Population (m)  Filings per capita
1 Switzerland            47,000                   8.37               5,614
2 South Korea         233,786                 51.25               4,562
3 Japan         456,467               127.00               3,594
4 Sweden            23,453                   9.90               2,368
5 Netherlands            39,058                 17.02               2,295
6 Germany         177,073                 82.67               2,142
7 Denmark            11,727                   5.73               2,046
8 Israel            15,108                   8.55               1,768
9 United States         521,802               325.70               1,602
10 Austria            13,869                   8.75               1,586

Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation to the science awards and Nobel prizes in science to the educational level of the population. Israel ranks #2 in terms of the percent of the population with a tertiary education.

Rank Country  % Population with Tertiary education
1 Canada 51%
2 Israel 46%
3 Japan 45%
4 United States 42%
5 New Zealand 41%
6 South Korea 40%
7 United Kingdom 38%
8 Finland 38%
9 Australia 38%
10 Ireland 37%

The statistics above are simple numerical facts. Various organizations use these numbers and others to provide their views of the “qualitative” nature of the country by different measures.

For example, The Heritage Foundation produced its 2018 freedom ranking of 180 countries. It used measures such as the rule of law, property rights and openness of its markets to score each country. Israel ranked #31, ahead of some of the countries listed in the statistical tables above such as Austria #32 and Hungary #55, but behind the others. The Economist had a similar ranking, placing Israel as tied for #30. This is likely due to Israel’s hostile neighbors, many of which do not recognize its right to exist and are at an official state of war, which compromises some of Israel’s freedoms. This dynamic is in contrast to the other countries on the list, that have not fought four wars and multi-year mass riots since the turn of the century.

However, it is interesting to note that several of the countries that lead in science do not just lead in education, but have a mandatory military draft like Israel, including: Denmark; South Korea; Norway and Switzerland. The book Start-up Nation, attributes much of Israel’s economic success to the training a person gets in the army. Those skills are not limited to technical training, but also leadership and a sense of communal belonging. Perhaps countries like Denmark and Switzerland have similarly benefited from military training.

But none of those other countries have faced the missiles, gunfire, bombings, the wars and riots that Israel has had to endure. Switzerland continues to reduce the size of its army and holds a vote every few years to abolish conscription. It views the army as a holdover of a different time. Yet Israelis know that enemies that seek the country’s destruction are just miles away. Today.


Israeli soldiers at Har Herzl in Jerusalem

And so it is perhaps appropriate to pause on Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembering the fallen Israeli soldiers, to recall not just their sacrifice, but to honor them with a helek, a portion of every Nobel Prize, every doctorate, every award won and every IPO completed by each Israeli since the country’s founding. Every soldier has earned a part of it too.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

A Flower in Terra Barbarus

Israel’s Peers and Neighbors

The Color Coded Lexicon of Israel’s Bigotry: It’s not Just PinkWashing

Israel: Security in a Small Country

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When Hate Returns

Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembering the Holocaust, is often a time for people to think about antisemitism generally, and not just the massacre of Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their abettors.

Many books have been written about the history of antisemitism, one of the best being “A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism” by Phyllis Goldstein. She tracks the nature of antisemitism at different points in history and in different lands. In her diagnosis, the root causes are often unique to that particular time and place.

I would like to consider when hate returns to a particular country under a different guise, such as historic antisemitism manifesting itself as anti-Zionism today. There are many examples, but this review will focus on the United Kingdom 1290/1929 and 1713/1939.

Banning Jews from England 1290
Banning Jews from Hebron 1929

1290 England: The origin of the “blood libel,” that Jews sought and and killed Christian children, began in England in the twelfth century. It its original incarnation, the accusation was that Jews killed the Christian, much as they had killed Jesus. Over time, the claims continued that the Jews used the child’s blood on Passover to make matzah and for the four cups of wine at the seder. Whether the people’s attacks on England’s Jews led to the edict of expulsion in 1290 is a source of debate, but the fact that King Edward I forced all Jews to leave the country and quickly seized their belongings and cancelled all debts that they were owed may indicate a financial motivation as well.

1922 Jordan & 1929 Hebron: The British assumed the mandate of Palestine in 1922 and quickly separated the land east of the Jordan River for the Hashemite Kingdom to win local friends, as they tried to do in other Arab lands including Iraq. They promptly ignored key components of the Palestine Mandate which clearly spelled out that no individual could be excluded from the land because of his religion, by allowing the Arabs to ban all Jews from the region. Just a few years later, in response to Arab riots in which they slaughtered several dozen Jews in the ancient Jewish city of Hebron, the British “evacuated” the remaining Jews from the city and moved them to Jerusalem, presumably to protect the Jews from future attacks. Jordan would remain Jew-free to this day, while Hebron would only be Jew-free until 1967, after the Jordanian Arabs attacked Israel and lost the west bank of the Jordan River to Israel, including Hebron.

The British leadership followed the antisemitism of the British people to expel the Jews of England in the 13th century, and would follow the antisemitism of the Arab people to expel the Jews from various parts of the Middle East during the 20th century.

Tolerating Antisemitism in Gibraltar in 1713
Tolerating Antisemitism in Palestine in 1939

1713 Gibraltar: Beginning in 1290, England would not allow any Jews to live openly in its lands for over 360 years. It was only in 1656 under Oliver Cromwell that Jews were allowed to return (presumably under the guise of trying to convert them to Christianity). But despite this new indication of tolerance of coexistence, the British would also tolerate antisemitism.

After a series of battles between England and Spain, the English won the rock of Gibraltar from the Spanish. In the Treaty of Utrecht, as the Spanish handed the island to the British, it demanded that England continue to ban the presence of Jews and Moors (Muslims), as the Spanish were still heavily influenced by the Inquisition run by the Catholic Church. The British agreed, even though they did not enforce it aggressively. (The ban is technically still part of the law governing Gibraltar, even though 2% of the island is Jewish).

1939 Palestine: The Arabs in Palestine were in the midst of multi-year riots that had begun in 1936 to stop the flow of Jews into Palestine because of international law that the British facilitate the immigration of Jews. In 1939, as the Holocaust descended on the Jews of Europe, the British agreed with the Arabs that no more than 75,000 Jews would be admitted into Palestine over the next five years in an edict known as the White Paper. The document would seal the fate of over 100,000 European Jews who became trapped in Europe.

History echoed itself. While the British had finally begun to accept Jews in England in 1656, less than 60 years later they accepted the Spanish demands that non-Christians be barred from lands that they were taking over. Over 250 years later, the British would take on the Mandate of Palestine in 1922, and then be part of an agreement that they would block Jews to satisfy the demands of the local Arab population.


Arabs riot in Palestine 1936

Britain’s leadership had historically followed the urging of its antisemitic populace (in 1290) and the Catholic Church (in 1713) to ban Jews, and did the same in the 20th century in Palestine at the urging of the Arabs in the Middle East.

From the Middle Ages through the Inquisition, Europe believed itself to be a Christian continent and expelled the Jews and repulsed the Muslim invasion. In the 20th century, many European nations have adopted a similar narrative that the Middle East is a purely Arab land and should be left to the Muslims. The European Christians and Middle East Arabs have ignored the desires and right of Jews to their own place in their homeland.

The British are currently debating whether their political parties – the liberal Labour Party in particular – are antisemitic or merely anti-Zionist. The correct question is whether they are outwardly antisemitic or simply tolerate antisemitism.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Long History of Dictating Where Jews Can Live Continues

No Disappearing in the Land of the Blind

Palestinian Jews and a Judenrein Palestine

The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

My Terrorism

Save the Children

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Taking the Active Steps Towards Salvation

For many people, the favorite part of the Passover prayers is the Torah reading on the seventh day of the holiday.

The song “Az Yashir,” (the Song of the Sea), is a celebratory hymn that the Jews sang after they crossed through the Reed Sea safely and watched the Egyptian army drown. It is recited from the Torah in a unique melody compared to every other reading during the year, and it is the only time that the entire congregation stands for Torah-reading, other than the recitation of the Ten Commandments and the conclusion of each of the five books.

Just as the Haggadah that was read on the first night of Passover directs us to “show himself as if he had left Egypt,” everyone in the synagogue does not simply sit and listen to the words of the Torah, but takes an active step of standing while they listen to the song.

וּבְכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, חַיָּב אָדָם לְהַרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם, שֶׁלֹּא אֶת אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בִּלְבָד גָּאַל, אֵלָא אַף אוֹתָנוּ גָּאַל–שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וְאוֹתָנוּ, הוֹצִיא מִשָּׁם–לְמַעַן, הָבִיא אֹתָנוּ, לָתֶת לָנוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ” (דברים ו,כג. In every generation, a person is obligated to show himself as if he had left Egypt:  for He did not redeem only our ancestors, but even us as well, as it is written “And He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:23).

The participation of standing for the song is communal today, just as the song was sung by the entire congregation over 3,000 years ago.

א  אָז יָשִׁיר-מֹשֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת, לַיהוָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ,  {ר}  לֵאמֹר:  {ס}  אָשִׁירָה לַיהוָה כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה,  {ס}  סוּס  {ר}  וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם.  {ס} Exodus 15:1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spoke, saying: I will sing unto the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.

The fact that the Jews were appreciative for their salvation is understandable, but also shocking that such emotion appears during this Song of the Sea for the first time in the bible. Throughout the story of the ten plagues and leaving Egypt, all the way until the shores of the Reed Sea, the Jews mostly complained to Moses; they certainly did not say ‘thank you’ to him nor exalt God.

11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11-12)

The constant actions of Moses during the story were in contrast to the persistent inaction of the Children of Israel. The Jews were content to stay where they were, to have all of their basic needs taken care of for them, whether food to eat or graves in which to be buried. The Jews were as much physical slaves to the Egyptians as they were to their own complacency. They had accepted their misery, and angry that Moses had the temerity to break the status quo.


The Crossing of the Red Sea
by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

I will suggest here that the Song by the Sea was the third and pivotal step in the Jewish people taking action to break the weight of inertia and achieving salvation; not just freedom beyond the borders of Egypt, but of the slave mentality as well.

The First Steps: The Tenth Plague

The streak was on.

Nine times in a row, God had brought a plague onto the Egyptian people. In chapter after chapter, the bible recounts how God inflicted pain on land and sea, on animals and fields, yet all of the while, the Jews were in a protective bubble. They were not impacted by the plagues nor asked to participate in any way.

But at the announcement of the final tenth plague, the bible tells us that it was time for the Jewish people to take action.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה ע֣וֹד נֶ֤גַע אֶחָד֙ אָבִ֤יא עַל־פַּרְעֹה֙ וְעַל־מִצְרַ֔יִם אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֕ן יְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִזֶּ֑ה כְּשַׁ֨לְּח֔וֹ כָּלָ֕ה גָּרֵ֛שׁ יְגָרֵ֥שׁ אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִזֶּֽה׃ דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ וַיִּתֵּ֧ן יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־חֵ֥ן הָעָ֖ם בְּעֵינֵ֣י מִצְרָ֑יִם גַּ֣ם ׀ הָאִ֣ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֗ה גָּד֤וֹל מְאֹד֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּעֵינֵ֥י עַבְדֵֽי־פַרְעֹ֖ה וּבְעֵינֵ֥י הָעָֽם׃

And the LORD said to Moses, “I will bring but one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; after that he shall let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you out of here one and all.  Tell the people to borrow, each man from his neighbor and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold.” The LORD disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people. Moreover, Moses himself was much esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people. (Exodus 11:1-3)

If God was able to do everything on behalf of the Jewish people, why did He want them to take the jewels of the Egyptians? He could have just given the Jews riches or transferred the wealth to the Jews.

God knew that the Jews had a complacent mindset after hundreds of years of slavery. He needed them to break free of that inertia and confront their oppressors. To do that, He commanded the Jewish people to stand up and take back the wages and goods that had been taken from them while they worked as slaves for so long. Step 1: confront the oppressor.

Yet the single step would not be enough to earn redemption nor break the psychology of slavery, so God commanded the Jews to take additional action.

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat itAnd they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord‘s passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. (Exodus 12: 3-14)

God commanded the Jews to do something out-of-the-ordinary. Each family was to take a lamb into their houses for three days, and then slaughter it and paint its blood onto the outside doorposts of the house while they devoured the roasted meat throughout the night. Quite a bizarre farewell to Egypt.

Some biblical commentators believed that sheep were sacred to the Egyptians and that slaughtering them and painting their blood onto the outside of the house and eating them was a detestable offense to the Egyptians. If so, this action would be a continuation of the first step above: confront your enemy first by taking physical goods (jewels), and then by destroying their spiritual world (sacred sheep).

But the text reads differently. The bible writes that the blood is for God to see (“when I see the blood”), not the Egyptians. The blood on the doorways is therefore not designed as an insult to the Egyptians, but an act of affirmation that the Jews believed in God, and that God will protect them. For nine plagues God protected the Jews without their active participation, but for the final plague, the Jews needed to participate in their salvation. Step 2: show your belief.

The Next Step: Entering the Sea

The communal belief was short lived. As described above, the Jews quickly reverted to their old habits as they verbally attacked Moses for bringing them out of Egypt to face death at the hands of the Egyptian army at the shore of the Reed Sea.

And Moses similarly fell into the old trap of assuming that God would do everything for His people and called out:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶל־הָעָם֮ אַל־תִּירָאוּ֒ הִֽתְיַצְב֗וּ וּרְאוּ֙ אֶת־יְשׁוּעַ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם כִּ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר רְאִיתֶ֤ם אֶת־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ הַיּ֔וֹם לֹ֥א תֹסִ֛יפוּ לִרְאֹתָ֥ם ע֖וֹד עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

יְהוָ֖ה יִלָּחֵ֣ם לָכֶ֑ם וְאַתֶּ֖ם תַּחֲרִישֽׁוּן׃

But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the LORD will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Moses tried to allay the fear of the Jews and told them to sit back and watch God save them. But God was not pleased with the words of Moses.

The drama of the story is heightened, as the Torah reading takes a pause just after Moses makes his declaration. When the Torah reader takes up the reading again at the next aliyah, we imagine that the dramatic splitting of the sea is about to happen. But it doesn’t.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מַה־תִּצְעַ֖ק אֵלָ֑י דַּבֵּ֥ר אֶל־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וְיִסָּֽעוּ׃

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. (Exodus 14:15)

God surprisingly questions Moses proclamation and instead calls for the Jewish people to literally take the next steps forward in another act of redemption.

The Midrash says that the Jewish people were frightened and reluctant to march ahead. But a prince from the tribe of Judah, Nachshon ben Aminadav stepped into the sea undeterred, and the waters finally split and saved him from drowning (Sotah 37a).

Nachshon’s actions can be viewed as a continuation of the important second step: show your belief, as an individual. Do not be lulled into the prevalent community attitude of letting the leaders or someone else take action. Do not sit and wait, as even a solitary person’s actions, coupled with a leader’s (Moses) prayers to realize God’s vision, can help redeem everyone.

Rabbi Aaron Kampf of Manchester, England balances the notion of individual action versus the will of God. In recounting the story of Queen Esther, Rabbi Kampf notes that Esther’s uncle charged her to speak up on behalf of the Jewish people to the king.

יג  וַיֹּאמֶר מָרְדֳּכַי, לְהָשִׁיב אֶל-אֶסְתֵּר:  אַל-תְּדַמִּי בְנַפְשֵׁךְ, לְהִמָּלֵט בֵּית-הַמֶּלֶךְ מִכָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים. Megillat Esther Chapter 4: 13 Then Mordecai bade them to return answer unto Esther: ‘Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
יד  כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת–רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ–אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?’

The speech that Mordecai gave to Esther was not a pep talk of “you can do it; we’re all counting on you!” but one of humility. God has a plan, and you can either play or part or disappear into history because salvation will come from somewhere else.

An individual’s action will become successful or unsuccessful based on the will of God. A person should not be so self-centered as to believe that they alone can change the world. But as Rabbi Tarfon says in Pirkei Avot 2:16:

לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה

You are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to avoid it.

A person must be involved and take actions in partnership with God.

The Final Step: Gratitude

The Jews were finally free of the physical and mental slavery when they sang “Az Yashir” on the other side of the sea. They had confronted their enemies and showed their belief in God. They witnessed their Egyptian masters completely defeated.

However, one more step was required to become free: the expression of gratitude.

The actions that the Jewish people had taken in their salvation were all commanded by God: take the jewels; slaughter the lamb; paint the doorposts; move forward; etc. In many ways, the Jews had traded masters: the Egyptian taskmaster for God.

But on the safe dry ground they understood that the calls of complaints to their leader Moses were empty. Those were not steps forward but merely instinctive reactions, animalistic. Now, they decided for themselves to thank God.

Noble peace prize winner Elie Wiesel believed deeply in the action of expressing gratitude. He believed that gratitude was the ultimate expression of humanity:

“Gratitude is a word that I cherish.
Gratitude is what defines the humanity of the human being.
No one is as capable of expressing gratitude as one who has escaped the kingdom of night.”

And as the Children of Israel and Moses sang in unison about their gratitude to God, the transformation of a people was realized. They no longer were physically or mentally constrained by the will of Egyptian masters, broken of free will like cattle. They were on their way to participate actively in the teachings of their God and the God of their fathers.

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik wrote: “While not all are loved by God in the same way, we are all held accountable for our actions, and are rewarded for a life well lived.” (Azure No. 19, “God’s Beloved: A Defense of Choseness“)’ Our ability to confront the wrongs, to demonstrate our faith and to be thankful for God’s gifts are key ingredients to the story of Passover and how we live our lives.


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The Palestinian State I Oppose

It is remarkable – if not scary – to hear many world leaders call out their support for a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Arab conflict. There are already 22 Arab countries.
I do not fault ignorant people who want to see the stateless Arab people from Palestine (SAPs) to have self-determination. However, I am appalled that knowledgeable politicians would call to create a state for these people today, due to the current dangerous and vile reality of Palestinian society:
In addition to these deep flaws of the Palestinian people and leadership today, the suggested contours of a two-state solution are completely unacceptable:
  • a suggestion that Israel give up its capital city and the holiest city to Jews to the people described above, who had banned Jews from the city while they controlled it for 18 years from 1949 to 1967
  • a preposterous notion that Israel should invite millions of the SAPs into Israel, just because their relatives were internally-displaced people decades ago while they waited for their Arab brothers to destroy Israel
Who could possibly support the creation of a new state with such dynamics?
Anti-Semites. Jew haters. People that seek the destruction of Israel.
I will not support Palestinian dignity that is predicated on denying Israeli and Jewish dignity, nor will I support a “viable” Palestinian state that undermines the viability of Israel.
I completely oppose the creation of such a Palestinian state ANYWHERE in the world, let alone adjacent to the only Jewish state, and in the Jewish holy land.

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