If you look at this week’s Torah reading, you’ll see that nothing has changed. But Israel’s leaders could learn from our ancient history!
This past week saw the economic component of Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” unveiled in Bahrain. Kushner presented the administration’s ideas on how to “economically rehabilitate” the “Palestinians.” The political component, the part that presumably will deal with borders, sovereignty, etc. is being held off until after Israeli elections in September.
The Palestinian Authority refused to participate, as anticipated, and squawked about the meeting, demanding that Israel ‘give back’ the ‘occupied territories.’
It’s a common refrain of the Palestinians, and in parts of the world today; but truth be told, it goes all the way back to the beginning of the Jewish people.
This week’s Torah reading is Chukat, and at its end, we find the story of Israel’s conquest of the east bank of the Jordan river. The nation had skirted Edom and Moab, then requested from Sihon and then Og, Amorite kings, permission to peaceably pass through their territory.
Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites: “Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”
They refused and decided to go out to war against Israel. Moses, as any good Jewish leader would do, ordered the IDF of the time to counter-attack full force and, “Israel put him [Sihon] to the sword, and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok…Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding towns. Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.” (Numbers 21:21-26)
Actually, quite similar to modern Israel’s peace overtures to Egypt and Jordan after the 1948 war, being ultimately met with the 1967 war thrust upon the Jewish state. Unplanned, Israel’s victory then led to possession of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza – part of the Jews ancient Jewish homeland, which Israel then began to repopulate.
We then find in the Haftarah reading that follows – Judges Chapter 11, 300 years after the Torah story citd – the king of Ammon making war against Israel, on behalf of his kinsmen Moab, in an attempt to reclaim the lost territory. The elders of Gilead appoint Yiftach (Jephte) to lead the military resistance.
Yiftach sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: “What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?” The king of the Ammonites answered Yiftach’s messengers: “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.” (Judges 11:12-13)
By the way, what took them 300 years to try and reclaim it?
How Should a Jewish Leader Respond?
Unlike Peres, Rabin, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu, how did a real Jewish leader respond to claims of returning so-called “occupied territory?”
“Yiftach sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, saying…Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites.”
He then recounted all the history from leaving Egypt, to asking permission to cross territory, and being attacked. “Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.”
But Yiftach doesn’t make a historical claim or say that Israel’s right to the land comes from capturing it after being attacked. He ends with absolute faith in the God of Israel and clearly states that Israel has no right to give it away: “Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess.” (Judges 11:14-15, 21-24)
End of discussion…
Maybe if Israeli leaders today would deal with the Arab world and the “Palestinians” the same way, they would get the same results as Yiftach’s leadership achieved: “And Ammon was subdued before the Children of Israel.” (Judges 11:33)
Yes indeed, Sinai, Trans-Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, etc. are all parts of the Promised Land of Israel! (Deuteronomy 11:24)
Sign the Declaration to Keep Jerusalem United
Jerusalem Must Remain the United Capital of Israel
I declare that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish People and support all efforts to maintain and strengthen a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.