The agreement with the UAE joins with those previously signed with Egypt and Jordan, and soon possibly with Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and the Maghreb states. It is a breakthrough of historic proportions, reversing the obstinate refusal of all the Arab states to recognize the Jewish state in the midst of what they believe to be the Arab part of the world.
Is it good for Israel or bad – and if bad, how bad?
This week’s parasha introduces the new generation of Am Yisrael to the calamitous City of Shechem. There they would participate in a ceremony marking the nation’s confirmation of being Hashem’s chosen people. Even though the confirmation was first done in chutz la’aretz in the Sinai desert, it had to be repeated in Eretz Yisrael, its predetermined natural habitat, because the confirmation in chutz la’aretz did not have the same spiritual energy as the holy land.
Our acquittance with the city of Shechem leaves a bitter taste.
The Gemara (Shabbat 30b) records a didactic strategy that the illustrious amora Raba ben Nachmani would employ in order to gain the attention of his students before entering into a complex halachic discourse. He would begin with a humorous story or joke. So, in the spirit of the 15th of Menachem Av, one of the two happiest days in the lives of our ancestor’s years ago, permit me to begin with a light story.
This Wednesday night is the 9th of Menachem Av (the 9th day of the 11th month of our calendar year Menachem Av, counting from the previous month of Tishrei [Rosh HaShana]- that is our 9-11). For the 1950th time, we will mourn – in that exquisite unity that binds all Jews – the death of the 600,000 Jews in the desert who turned their backs on Eretz Yisrael and will feel the fresh anguish at the destruction of our two temples and subsequent expulsions into galut.
The Jewish Hall of Infamous Events and Characters contains villains like Nimrod of Mesopotamia who cast Avraham Aveinu into a fiery furnace; Avimelech the Philistine king at the time of Yitzchak Aveinu, Lavan who did everything he could to make Ya’akov Aveinu’s life miserable, and the Egyptian king who enslaved our fathers. The list goes on to include the arch anti-Semites of each generation: Nevuchadnezer, the destroyer of the first holy Temple; Haman and Achashverosh, the evil players in our Purim shpiel; Antiochus of the Chanuka episode; and the Roman general Titus, destroyer of the second holy Temple. The list includes popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, local Spanish, Ukrainian and Polish priests, caliphs, kings, knights, emperors, czars, presidents, chancellors, chairmen of the party, sheikhs and just plain folk who murdered Jews for the fun of it.
The situation could only be described as surrealistic, bizarre, inconceivable, and even grotesque. The participants, on both sides of the issue; those who stood for HaShem, for Torah, for Yiddishkeit versus those who turned their backs in denial of all they had mastered over the previous four decades: all behaved and responded inappropriately.