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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Teaneck’

How’s Beit Shemesh

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

It was a hot sunny day in Ramat Beit Shemesh. I, Yonah Rossman had just gone two the local grocery to buy some simple things amongst them a large amount of seltzer making my bags rather heavy. The grocery store is situated at the top a big hill as like many other communities in Israel it is built on a hilltop. As such my walk down to the bottom of the hill was going to be a rather annoying one particularly painful for my fingers. But what can I do? I have to get my things to the bottom of the hill. I could tremp I thought, but surely no one would want me to come in their car with all my bags of much needed water, and after all it was not so far down. So I started to walk and my fingers started to numb. It was quite painful. I continued walking a whole of thirty seconds though, and behold there it was a car, or should I say minivan. I looked at it, it looked at me, and behold it was driven by a person, a woman who lived in the community. Want a ride? She asked. Do I? I did. I hopped in the front seat buckled up with several bags at my side. A minute later she pulled up by the curb and let me off. It was only my second day or so In the Ramat Beit Shemesh community when I realized where it was to that I really had arrived.

It wasn’t the first act of kindness I had seen or experienced and it certainly was not the last. The fact that people stopped to pick up Yeshiva students or others to take them to where they needed to go I realized was a given in the minds of residents in Ramat Beit Shemesh and it happens all the time. Why not help someone in need? On one such occasion I hitched a ride to “Big” the large supermarket in Beit Shemesh. A friend of mine happened to have bough a pair of headphones but his parents sent him a pair right after. He wanted to return them at the electronic store. Unfortunately to his disappointment once they were opened they were un-returnable. They were expensive to. We were ready to leave the store in disappointment when a man looked at him, asked him about his situation and genuinely felt his frustration. So he bought them off of my friend even though he clearly did not need headphones, this however I do not think my friend realized. The man was a stranger but to us, but to him a Jew walking by who was even slightly not happy was not a stranger at all.

It was not only in cars and in supermarkets of people of the Beit Shemesh area that I got to witness what great people I was amongst it was also in their houses. I was walking one day and a woman came out of her house with her little child and asked me and my friends if we could help her with something. We happily agreed. What was it she wanted? Well, there was a huge spider or so she thought crawling around her kitchen; she wanted us to catch it and kindly remove it from the house. We tried. We really did. We wrestled it with a broom. But it appeared more like a scorpion and got away to under the oven. We had failed our mission. So the woman thanked us for her efforts and decided to wait for her husband to come home and save her. That however was not how I learned what kind of community Iwas in, although she did offer us to come by whenever we wanted. It was through the countless invites to different houses for shabbos meals. On Rosh Hashana I ate at four different peoples houses who were all very welcoming – and made great food. I actually found out that one of the people who I ate at used to be my siblings teacher in the US, and many who live here, in Beit Shemesh not only speak English but also come from the same place that I lived and went to school, Monsey and Teaneck and other familiar places.

On one particularly showing occasion I was walking on one of the streets maybe 45 minutes before Shabbos. I saw in front of me a gathering in the middle of the street. As I got closer and tried to figure out what the buzz was all about. I heard little snippets of people’s conversations until I realized what was going on. A child with some sort of mental issue went missing and random strangers were being given assignments to find him. Once I realized the situation I took down the phone number of the man in charge and went to gathered some guys to find him. People of all different walks of Judaism, knowing the risk of a missing child unified for his safety. Minutes later he was in his parents hands.

Sometimes it takes sorrow, pain, or fear to unite a community. The sorrow after the loss of a leader like at the levaya of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the pain of loss, or the terrible fear of a missing child. Sometimes people are not united when these things lack. Sometimes that is true, but not always. This I learned in this last experience I share with you. Simchat Torah, 5771 – my first of the three regalim in Israel. Not everything was as it ussually is in the states but some things were – slight variations of the tfilla, and other such things. There was however one difference, it was in Israel – one of gods great gifts to the Jewish people. We davened, Shma Shmoneh esraei and then we started hakafot. During the hakafot though, we didn’t just sing and dance as a Yeshiva or as a minyan, that just wasn’t enough. We left the building onto the street (obviously being emty of cars as you rarely see one on Shabbos in Ramat Beit Shemesh) and then we went back inside. Not into our minyan but one near by. We joined another minyan and danced with them, for a while hand in hand with there children on our shoulders. The next day we joined hakafot with a different shul and celebrated the torah with the community around us. It was an experience of achdut you get in few places.

It’s not just the achdut or the reality of Simcha that can be fealt here, in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The Torah here is real. I don’t mean just in the post high school Yeshiva students and Daf Yomi shiurim for those who work. The little children really know Torah. They know Tanach they. They recite Mishnayot beal Peh. Most of all though, they Live Torah.

Now anyone who is reading this surely has read many things in the media about Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh. One may even think after reading the news I am talking about a different Beit Shemesh than the one in the media. Well I have to admit that is partially true as I live in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alephand most of the tension does not happen here, most of the tension does not happen in most of the places at all. Am I lying to you? Can it be that Beit Shemesh is a great place? Yes. It can be and it is. I stand at the bus stop and I see people live there life. People get on people get off. I have yet to see someone spit on another. Does that mean it doesn’t happen? No, certainly not. Does that mean that there arn’t issues? Not at all. But every place has issues. Monsey, Teaneck, Yerushalayim, Kansas, and even Canada. No place is perfect, and issues need to be dealt with. I am not evaluating the issues at hand, its not for me to do. But I am saying that Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh is not a chaotic pandemonium – at least not most of it. So this is why when I was standing on line a the central bus station in Yerushalayim this past week when someone asked me “How’s Beit Shemesh these day? I told him: “It’s great – mostly, it has problems like everywhere even so its doing great.”


Acquiescing To Our Enemies’ Lies

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Newt Gingrich recently stunned the political and diplomatic establishments, the professional peaceniks and the entire Arab world by terming the Palestinians “an invented” people, presumably with a history fabricated solely to counter and then eradicate the Jewish national idea.

He was right, of course. Interestingly, few if any of his most rabid critics in the Arab world and in the anti-Israel media even challenged his thesis. They focused on the prudence and propriety of the statement, on the ever-shifting balance between the Old Newt and the New Newt, and the prospects of “peace” in the Middle East given this startling and audacious admission.

But of course Newt was right, if impolitic. It wasn’t that long ago when then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir made such an assertion herself. In a statement to The Sunday Times (June 15, 1969), she said: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…. It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” All Newt did was state a bald-faced truth that has been obscured for too long.

That is not to say that there have not been Arabs living in what they called Palestine for generations. There have been Arabs living in the land of Israel for quite a while, just like there have been Jews living in Israel – in an unbroken chain of residence – since antiquity. But the Arabs of Israel never had a national identity, and never sought statehood or independence until the Jews returned en masse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Previous Jewish residents were forced to live without any national rights and subservient to the Muslim, Christian, Turkish – the latter for 400 years until 1917 – and finally British rulers.) It is Palestinian “nationalism” and “peoplehood” that were contrived by Jew-haters and anti-Zionists.

Thus, it is well known that the early 20-century Arabs of the land of Israel called themselves “Southern Syrians” and derided the early Jewish settlers as “Palestinians.” (How’s that for marketing?) Those same Arabs rejected the UN state proffered to them in 1947, and then “neglected” to seek statehood from 1948-1967 when Judea, Samaria and Gaza were controlled by fellow Arabs.

In other words, the “Palestinian people” and “Palestinian nationalism” were both inconsequential formulations that only exist to undermine and disqualify the Jewish state of Israel. To underscore the point, had there been no “Israel” created in 1948, the territory of “Palestine” would have been distributed to a variety of Arab entities to the north and east, themselves creations of the international community. But an “Arab Palestine,” as an independent state, would have been on no one’s radar, as it was not until the 1970s.

Jews have lived in Israel since time immemorial (the title of Joan Peters’s famous work), and even after the destruction of the Second Temple and the great exile, Jews remained. Jews remained in the 2nd-4th centuries to write the Jerusalem Talmud, draft the permanent calendar and even entertain, for a time in the fourth century, the building of another Temple with permission from Julian the Apostate; in the 5th-6th centuries to cling to the land amid the Byzantine and Christian persecutions; in the 6th-11th centuries to survive the Muslim invasion – returning to Yerushalayim with permission from the Emperor Omar and observing the founding of the only town founded by Arabs in the land of Israel during their entire sojourn – Ramle; suffering the torments of the Crusaders in the 12th century; enduring the Muslim reconquest in the 12-15th centuries in which the land saw a constant stream of Jewish visitors and/or residents, including Rambam, Ramban, R. Yechiel of Paris, and many others; the 16th century that witnessed the flourishing of Jewish life – the composition – in Israel! – of the Shulchan Aruch and the rise of the giants of Kabbalah; the 17-18th centuries during which both Sephrdic and Ashkenazic Jews bolstered existing communities throughout the land of Israel and founded new ones, and the 19th century, when the Zionist movement in a variety of forms took root.

Is there a similar “Palestinian” history ? Of course not. Throughout the ages Jews persevered in the land and prayed for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty. It is absurd to even suggest there is a competing Palestinian narrative that bears any substance or validity. Choose any century in the past 2,000 years, and try to name a “Palestinian” of any sort. That is why the Arab apologists have been forced to assert that “Jesus was a Palestinian” (Yasir Arafat, apparently unaware that Jesus was a Jew). That is why the official Palestinian line of the last decade, emanating first from Arafat, is that there is “no Jewish Temple, no Jewish nationalism and no Jewish connection to the land.” The hat burns on the thief’s head. They have no indigenous connection to the land of Israel, and only arrived in large numbers after Jewish settlement began and to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Jewish settlement.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

The Presidential Racing Form

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The strongest attribute of any of the Republican candidates for president is that he or she is not named Barack Obama.

Obama’s unpopularity is such that reelection is hard to fathom, or stomach, but stranger things have been known to happen (like his election in the first place). His advantage lies in a built-in 40 percent of the vote – consisting of blacks, committed liberals, union members, and recipients of public handouts – though the unionists may have been turned off by the president’s decision to delay the Keystone oil pipeline that would have weaned the U.S. off Arab oil and provided tens of thousands of jobs to Americans. Oil’s well that ends well, he must assume.

The fear among Republicans is that no one candidate has gripped the imagination of the public or galvanized the support of barely a quarter of the electorate, much less half plus one. That foreboding sense – born of several snap conclusions – is misplaced.

No person seems presidential until he or she actually becomes president and some not even then. In November 2007, no one could have looked at Barack Obama and seen a “president.” Such a perception was laughable in the extreme. One can never compare a person who carries the trappings of high office with either civilians or lower level politicians. The entourage is different, the mode of travel, the absence of a presidential seal, the obvious presence of the Secret Service, the capacity to actually do things (or pretend to do things; see Obama’s speeches about student loan waivers), and, mostly, the necessity to talk only of the future, which is always speculative.

People tend to grow into the office, not just in the office, and so almost any of the candidates could easily fit the bill and be perceived as presidential one year into his or her term.

Consequently, the head-to-head polls are not as meaningful at this early stage, when sane voters have not yet coalesced around one candidate and therefore – as a display of partisanship – construe Obama as electable if their personal favorite is not nominated. However, is it credible that a Gingrich supporter would actually vote for Obama over Mitt Romney? Possibly, but highly unlikely, especially since the election will ultimately be a choice between Obama and Anybody Not Obama who is a functional human being. It is true that you cannot beat something with nothing, but as the election draws nearer, candidates begin to appear more plausible, especially as the field narrows.

The other factor that exercises people these days are the flaws that are perceived in each of the Republican candidates. It is a lot like the Jewish dating scene, where people go out with each in order to find the one trait that renders them unmarriageable. Of course each candidate is flawed; no one is perfect (except, apparently, the critics of each of the candidates). Nor is it rational or sensible to expect that a voter should agree with every single position of even a preferred candidate. (The wag said: “If two people agree on everything, then one of them is superfluous.”)

Certainly each candidate comes with weaknesses, vulnerabilities, ideological inconsistencies, questionable personal conduct, unpalatable positions – all because each is a thinking, breathing human being.

Thus, those who look for salvation to the non-candidates – Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, et al – don’t realize that if any or all of them (or others) entered the race, they too would be vilified within a very short time. That unhappy aspect of modern life keeps many fine though imperfect people out of politics. And some of the “perfect” candidates don’t measure up under even mild scrutiny. That is why we were never privileged to elect President Fred Thompson or President John Edwards.

Mindful of the Talmud’s statement (Yoma 22b) that a leader should have some skeletons in his closet in order to keep him humble, we must evaluate a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and look for the “best” and not the “perfect.” There is no perfect.

Additionally, the pundits and laymen who obsess daily on this process seem to forget that not a vote has been cast in either a caucus or a primary, and that polls are volatile. They reflect momentary perceptions but not the reality over time. It is, frankly, bizarre that disproportionate weight in the primaries is given to states like Iowa and New Hampshire that are hardly reflective of the rest of the country. But it is what it is, and undoubtedly after the votes are cast – within a few weeks – the field will be whittled down and an apparent nominee will appear, who will even begin to look somewhat presidential.

So, without expressing a personal favorite, here is the current racing form:


The Presumptive Nominee

It is Mitt Romney’s race to lose. He recognizes that, which is why he seldom allows himself to be interviewed, and prefers to control the dissemination of his message unimpeded by annoying media queries. He looks the part (important today – Lincoln in our era could not have won a primary or an election), has command of the issues, and scandals have yet attached to him. Indeed, he is criticized for looking perfect.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

The Origins Of Discontent

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

It is difficult to remember the last time the United States was wracked with such dissension, discontent, protests, and economic hardship.

From my vantage point, “Occupy Wall Street” has been primarily a source of comic relief – the participants, their complaints, their solutions, and their antics – except for the sporadic violence, and the loss of job and business in lower Manhattan caused by the unwillingness of sane people to traverse that area under siege.

There are many different forces at play in these nationwide protests, most without any clue as to how to improve their personal financial situations or the national economy. Having occupied Wall Street, the occupiers do not seem to know what they want to do with it.

But there is discontent among the wealthy as well, who are being demonized for the most crass political purposes and who have lost much of their wealth in the last few years (from 2007 to 2009, there was a 40 percent drop in the number of millionaires filing federal tax returns, from 392,000 to 233,000), and among the middle class, who have seen their assets diminished and found near-insurmountable obstacles to their pursuit of the American dream. Everyone is unhappy.

And the more government meddles in our lives, the worse and less free our lives become. All this discontent is the fruit of the poisonous tree of big, intrusive government trying to run every aspect of our lives – and failing at all of it: telling us what we can eat, what we can drive, what types of bulbs we can use, how much water the shower nozzle can dispense, how high our fences can be, how many miles per gallon our cars should provide, what types of medical procedures we should or should not have, etc.

There are many who expect and want government to satisfy their every desire and care for their every need – to be given a job, a home, health care, retirement pay, and a host of other entitlements. I want none of that. I just want to be left alone.

America was founded on the premise of the right of the individual to pursue happiness as he sees fit – as long as his pursuit does not encroach on the rights of others. So a federal government should provide for the common defense against external enemies, enforce contracts so the commercial system remains viable, and build interstate roads and highways. Beyond that, I struggle to find where a federal government is useful or effective, and I resent that the fruit of my labor is confiscated to pay for useless, frivolous, unneeded and unwarranted boondoggles.

Consider how far we have traveled. In 1887, Texas was stricken by a drought (just like this past year). Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for the suffering farmers there. President Grover Cleveland vetoed the bill, saying: “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit….

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

Cleveland added: “The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.”

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Embracing The Enemy’s Narrative

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Reportedly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been preparing to unveil new Israeli diplomatic initiatives – including the possibility of further territorial withdrawals from Judea and Samaria and even the recognition of a provisional Palestinian state – before last week’s bombshell announcement of a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement.

Even without this latest development, such concessions would have been the wrong moves at the wrong time, for a variety of reasons. Indeed, these initiatives are throwbacks to the unique Israeli policy of preemptive surrender that has been the bane of Israelis for almost two decades.

In the face of relentless intransigence from an enemy who refuses to negotiate, much less to concede anything, Israel’s prime ministers (since the Oslo process began) have felt a compelling need to bypass negotiations and gradually yield to their adversaries everything they seek. It was an error that led to thousands of deaths and injuries through terror and caused the downfall of the first Netanyahu government, and it is as bizarre as it sounds.

Certainly with the Arab world in turmoil, Israel should be focused on preparing to engage a new and changed neighborhood. While Westerners hope, perhaps naively, for the emergence of democratizing forces in the Arab world, it is as likely – if not more likely – that radical Islamic forces will seize control in several countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and perhaps even Syria.

And with Lebanon already in the throes of its own radical Muslims, Gaza tyrannized by a Hamas that is eager to expand its influence into Israel’s heartland, Europe finally responding to the Islamic onslaught that is overwhelming its culture and undermining its stability, and the United States reeling under economic woes that will dominate the coming presidential election campaign, the further weakening of Israel’s strategic posture serves no rational purpose.

In fact, Israel is currently an oasis of stability in a region that is erupting like a volcano. Even with the recent upswing in Arab terror, Israel’s military presence in the Arab cities of Judea and Samaria has effectively clamped down on the enemy’s violent tendencies. The security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority has also helped, though based on past results that might be a temporary and strategic lull that garners the Arabs plaudits, money, training and weaponry, all to be deployed, potentially, in a future conflict.

The Oslo debacle should have imparted several valuable lessons to Israel, among them: do not delegate your security to the enemy; concessions of whatever nature simply whet the appetite for more concessions; do not expect any concessions to win you favorable world publicity beyond one news cycle; and the maximum concessions one makes at any stage simply serve as the starting point for the next round of concessions.

Certainly the present uncertainty of the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty should give pause to those who would put their trust in pieces of paper signed by unelected autocrats with unclear futures.

The fear of the declaration of a Palestinian state in the fall is overblown, especially if Israel counters with unilateral actions of its own that put facts on the ground and strengthen its strategic position, and not that of the enemy. Israel has the stronger hand, and will have it for the foreseeable future; it just has to play it intelligently.

The secular mindset, however, persists in analyzing the conflict through a purely secular lens, and cannot even entertain, and certainly not embrace, the reality that the Middle East is roiling because of religious conflict (not a dispute over land and nationalism) and that Israel’s foes perceive the conflict as religious, and not secular, in nature.

Nonetheless, there are broader reasons why these “peace” efforts are so misguided. It is bad enough that Israel’s leaders are again considering the further surrender of the biblical heartland of Israel promised by God to our forefathers and their Jewish descendants for eternity. It is even worse that they endorse unthinkingly and uncritically the historical narrative advanced by their enemies.

* * * * *
Before we embrace the “inevitability of a Palestinian state,” the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” “justice for the Palestinians” and the narrative of “two peoples fighting over one land,” we should have a reality check.

For starters, try to name a “Palestinian” thinker from the 12th century, or a writer from the 13th century, or an artist from the 14th century, or a poet from the 15th century, or a builder from the 16th century, or a scholar from the 17th century, or a merchant from the 18th centuryor a judge from the 19th century. The Palestinians are a 20th century fabrication – and not even an early 20th century fabrication.

For much of the first half of the 20th century, the Jews of the land of Israel were derided by their neighbors as Palestinians, while the Arab inhabitants of the land had no national identity. Palestinian Arab nationalism arose simply as a counterweight to Jewish nationalism. Its sole objective was to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. As such, it is unsurprising that the “Palestinians” rejected the UN Partition Plan in 1947 – their goal was to thwart the Jewish state, which partition endorsed.

Seen from this perspective, it is even less surprising that after the 1948 War of Independence, there was no indigenous Palestinian national movement in the territories that fell under Arab control. Jordan annexed Judea and Samaria and Egypt annexed Gaza. There was no reason for either country to be solicitous of a Palestinian national movement – it did not exist, either in the world of politics or the world of ideas. When Golda Meir famously stated that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” she was right. But even she did not fully realize how right she was.

Rav Zvi Tau, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Hamor and one of the leading disciples of HaRav Zvi Yehuda Kook, zt”l, writes in his classic For the Faith of Our Times (Le’emunat Eetainu, Volume I) that today’s “Palestinians” are remarkably similar to their namesakes, the Philistines of biblical times. (Of course, there is no biological or historical relationship. It is ironic that the name “Palestine” was slapped onto the land of Israel by the conquering Romans in the second century CE in their effort to eradicate any Jewish presence in the land. The Palestinians have simply adopted the Roman legacy for their own purposes.)

* * * * *
So, who were the Philistines?

Interestingly, they are not mentioned as one of the seventy nations that descended from Noach, though they do figure in that account (Genesis 10): “And Egypt begat Ludim, and Anamim and Patrusim and Casluchim whence the Philistines came forth ” All the other nations are designated by the phrase “yalad” – begat – whereas the Philistines “yatz’u misham” – came forth. What is the difference?

Rashi comments (10:14) that the Patrusim and Casluchim swapped wives – illicit even in the ancient world – and those relations spawned the Philistines. In other words, the Philistines did not have a normal identity or origin. They did not have to exist as a nation, and they had no place among the seventy nations. They had no real existence or culture, nor did they contribute anything to civilization. They had only one purpose – they were a pseudo-nation that existed only to challenge the Jewish right to the land of Israel.

Indeed, the Philistines fulfilled their role with a vengeance, challenging Abraham, Isaac, Joshua and the Judges, and the first Jewish monarch, King Saul, until they were vanquished by King David.

In effect, the Philistines were an obstruction to the national destiny of Israel, but they existed in order to enable David’s kingdom to flourish. As Rav Kook explained, every human development has to be coaxed into existence, including the sovereignty of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. To ensure that we remain focused on the national objective of Torah – building a model and moral state that is a beacon of God’s morality to mankind – we were provided with a nemesis to guarantee that Jewish national aspirations would never lose sight of the ultimate goal and squander our resources in frivolous endeavors.

Because of the Philistines, we were constantly under siege, and our national identity incessantly challenged. Once Jewish sovereignty was established and fully grounded, and reached its climax in the kingship of David and Solomon, the Philistines, their historical function complete, disappeared.

* * * * *
Fast forward to the 20th century. With the Jewish national movement in full gear, its counterforce had to be created as well, again to guarantee that the Jewish people actualize and implement its nationalistic ambitions – this time in realization of the ancient vision of the prophets of Israel.

In that milieu, a Palestinian people arose – to goad us, to provoke us, to induce in our people a willingness to sacrifice for the land of Israel, one of God’s gifts to the Jewish people and one that is only acquired through suffering.

It is nearly twenty years since the Oslo futility (and more than sixty since Israel’s independence). The Palestinians have received billions of dollars in international aid – and have still not liquidated even one refugee camp. They still have no indicia of real nationhood and almost no industry except terror. They only came into the world when the Jewish national home was realized, and their entry onto the world stage was through airplane hijackings, kidnappings, threats, murder and terror, which they have since refined via the use of suicide bombers, lynchings and slitting the throats of infants sleeping in their cribs.

For all the glowing reports of world organizations, they are ill equipped for statehood but quite ready to continue their war against Israel from even better circumstances.

In the song of Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32:21), Moses chastises the Jewish people – in God’s name – for their future disloyalty: “They provoked Me with a non-god (blo el) so I shall provoke them with a non-people (blo am).”

Israel is surrounded by nations that have identities and culture, some of short duration and others of longer duration, but within the borders of the land of Israel, the Jews are threatened by a group without any real national identity – a group that is not even seriously reckoned as a nation by other Arab countries.

From the moment we entered the land of Israel in Abraham’s time until the monarchy of David, the Philistines served their function as a divine rod to ensure we did not lose sight of the goals of the Jewish national home. Without bearing any historical or actual connection, it is nevertheless eerie that today’s Palestinians will never be satisfied with any Israeli concession and do not even deign to make a counteroffer in negotiations – when they even deign to negotiate. Their entire existence is as a counterweight to our aspirations; sadly, but for their intransigence, Israel likely would have surrendered all its vital interests long ago.

* * * * *
It is chilling to behold the secular leaders of Israel accede to the narrative of the Palestinians and grant them rights in the land of Israel, knowing as we do that the ancient Philistines succeeded (because of Jewish infidelities) in dominating the land of Israel for many decades over the course of several centuries.

The Philistines tormented the Jewish inhabitants of the land of Israel, who nonetheless persevered and finally triumphed in David’s time through faith, courage, loyalty to Torah and recognition of the fundamentals of Jewish life.

It is illogical for Israel to contemplate new concessions that will destabilize its own polity at a time when the entire Middle East is racked with instability. From a political perspective, it is foolhardy to deflect the world’s attention from the revolutions in the Arab world by resurrecting the hoary myth that the fate of the Palestinians is critical to Mideast stability; clearly it is unrelated.

It is the height of imprudence to tread down a path that will lead to a retreat to the cease-fire lines in 1948, knowing full well that will only elicit more Arab terror designed to force an acceptance of the return of Arab refugees, a bi-national state, and the disappearance of the State of Israel.

But from a spiritual perspective, ignoring the nature of the enemy while accepting their narrative as real, substantive and equivalent to our claim, based on divine right, testifies to a faltering spirit and a lack of knowledge about Jewish history, identity and destiny.

If we think small, others think small things about us. If we want the world to perceive the conflict as an argument over a few acres of land, then we will always stand convicted as petty thieves who are persecuting a poor and deprived people after we threw them off their land. And in due course, Israel will be pressured to compromise even with Hamas, on grounds of “justice” and the tripe that “you can’t choose your enemies.”

But if we think in grander terms, we will gain strength and faith, revive the Bible as the source of our nationhood and national claims, and hasten the fulfillment of the national destiny of Israel of which the State of Israel is, with God’s help, just the beginning.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey. He is the author, most recently, of  Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim(Gefen, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

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