United States Secretary of State John Kerry has certainly become a frequent flyer to Israel in recent months. If I’m not mistaken, he’s been here close to 15 times since July.

biblical wisdom

Rabbi Ari Enkin

Kerry’s frequent trips to Israel, however, are not to float in the Dead Sea, pray at the Western Wall or even to eat falafel at the Mahane Yehuda market. Rather, Kerry is a fine statesman whose mission, both personal and professional, is to try and bring peace to the Middle East, and most specifically, between Israel and the Palestinians.

The US has been trying to bring peace to Israel for over 60 years. “Plan A” didn’t work. Neither did “Plan B.” Ditto for “Plans C,D,E,F,G, and H.” Apparently, now Kerry has some new and refreshing ideas up his sleeve. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s wait and see.


Meanwhile, what does Judaism say about making peace with one’s enemies?

The classic source for the Torah view on making peace with enemies can be found in the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob ran away from Esau after Esau swore to kill him for having “stolen” the birthright. After a separation of more than 20 years, the brothers met up again. But Jacob was quite unsure of Esau’s intentions. Fearful for the safety of his family, Jacob dispatched emissaries with a message of peace and reconciliation for his brother Esau.

Upon their return, the emissaries reported to Jacob that Esau would be approaching him with 400 armed men. Jacob began to worry. Esau’s intentions did not appear to be peaceful, to say the least. It didn’t seem like Esau was coming with the same conciliatory tone that Jacob had intended.

Jacob got right down to work and made preparations for the worst. We are told that he prepared to meet Esau in three different ways:

1. He prepared gifts for Esau.

2. He prayed that God would save him from any harm and evil that Esau might have been plotting.

3. He prepared for war.

Jacob’s three preparations serve as an inspiration and example to the Jewish People, the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces on how peace must be made. We, too, must emulate Jacob in the manner in which we approach our enemies.

First, as a nation, we must tell our enemies that we seek only peace. As Israel’s Declaration of Independence clearly states, we stretch out our hands in peace to all our neighbors. We have always been ready to give gifts to our enemies in search of peace. Whether it be the sharing of water and other natural resources, as is the case with our peace treaty with Jordan, or land according to our peace treaty with Egypt – Israel is always ready to give gifts to its enemies for the sake of peace.

Second, as a Jewish State, we must always turn to God for His guidance and direction. We must pray that God help us in whatever comes our way, both in peaceful and in confrontational situations. We always pray for our soldiers who stand on our borders.

And finally, sometimes we have to prepare for war. We have to fight in defense, and sometimes we must make a pre-emptive strike.

Ultimately, Jacob was successful. God answered his prayers, and in what appears to be miraculous and Divine intervention, Esau dropped his weapons and reunited with his brother. Well, only temporarily, but that’s another story.

The Esaus of today continue to plot against us and seek our annihilation, just as Esau wished to annihilate Jacob. We can never let the guard down. We must always consider Jacob’s three-part planning when dealing with the regional realities of today.

Author: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbinic Director, UWI
Date: Jan. 19, 2014