The interpretation of history is a most delicate matter. Even more, so when one tries to understand the present. It was Charles Peguy in his Clio who said that it is impossible to write ancient history because we lack source materials and impossible to write modern history because we have too many. This is even more true for the religious personality. Trying to understand the hand of God behind historical and present events is like applying ones ear to an enormous seashell and listening to a perpetual murmur coming from waves far beyond the shore. Since the present is rolled up and muffed in impenetrable and countless folds any attempt to understand the present seems to be doomed to failure from the outset.
Yet, our sages teach us that one may in a most cautious way utilize the Torah as a guide through which one is able to decipher certain events. Although such an undertaking is not without great risks, it may give us some understanding and grant us some guidance to deal with our present challenges.
When carefully following the debate about the Gaza withdrawal one realizes that both sides reflect competing nightmares. Opponents to the withdrawa,l including top military experts, fear that the Palestinians will be encouraged to start a new even more perilous intifada, seeing that their earlier terrorist attacks were most successful and forced Israel out. Supporters of the withdrawal are terrified of Israel becoming a pariah state in which the army will be forced to violate its basic ethical standards and international pressure will grow for a one state solution. Both nightmares are highly realistic. Each side has strong and convincing arguments. Opponents wonder how the Israeli government can prevent Gaza from becoming a terrorist state, especially when Egypt is entrusted with policing the Philadelphia corridor and the Palestinians possess a port and airport. What will Israel do when missiles hit Ashkelon or even Ben Gurion airport? Will it decide to re-occupy Gaza and the western part of Samaria? In that case there will be many more Israeli casualties and nothing will have been gained by the withdrawal.
Those who support the withdrawal claim that it is absolutely impossible to keep millions of Palestinians under Israeli control. This will ultimately force Israel to expel them (a complete impossibility) or to continue to rule over them against their will and consequently be forced to give them full civil rights and liberty which in the long run will sign Israel’s death warrant as an Jewish State.
As such it becomes clear that the Palestinian problem has become Israel catch 22 in which no solution seems to be possible. Seemingly any solution will lead to a nightmare. Looking in every direction the Israeli government is confronted with a huge problem which does not let up. There is no escape and by now it is by far its most acute headache without any solution in the offing.
In the section of Haazinu, (Devarim 32: 20,21) the Torah discusses the severe consequences faces the people of Israel if they not live up to their religious and moral mission, God warns of His intention to withdraw His active and protective presence of the Jewish people. While introducing this possibility the
Torah suddenly introduces the following scenario: And I said I will hide My face from them
And I will see what their end will be
They are a generation of confusion (or reversals)
Children in which one cannot trust
They have caused My zealousy
with that which is a non-god
They have angered Me with their nullities
And I will cause them envy by a non-nation
Through a scoundrel nation,
I will provoke them and create resentment.
This most unusual text, against all expectations, seems to suggest that when Israel fails to live up to its religious and moral commitment it will unknowingly cause the creation of a nation, a non-nation, which, without any historical claims, will appear from nowhere. It will provoke Israel through great
resentment of which Israel will not be able to escape. Only a return to Jewish values, religious commitment and a high standard of ethics will force this nation to stop bringing havoc on the Jewish people.
Knowing that there is little to no evidence that the Palestinians have any historical roots as a nation, one cannot escape the impression that the Torah may be sending a message to present Israel warning it of the dire consequences when it does not take care of its moral and spiritual condition:
The sudden and totally unexpected coming into existence of the Palestinian people of which nobody had previously heard several years ago has now become the focal point of much of the Middle East severe troubles and has made the security situation in Israel most complex and precarious. It has
jeopardized, in the eyes of many, the Jewish claim to its land and tries to undermine the Jewish peoples’ capacity to live there in tranquility while undermining its credibility in the eyes of the world. Any attempt by Israel to accomplish peace is skillfully turned around and consequently used to prove
Israel’s aggressive intentions. The absurdity is so apparent that one is forced to look for altogether different reasons far beyond the scope of politics.
It is difficult to deny that with Israels’ increasing obsession to become a nation among the nations, in which more and more people no longer want to know about their unique Jewish roots, its security issues have become more and more complex.
With official Israeli calls to change Israels anthem the Hatikva into a non-Zionist text, and the removal of the Magen David from its national flag and Israeli academicians teaching the young people anti Zionist, anti-Jewish texts and philosophies and an overall obsession with western hedonist culture in
which money and sex are becoming the new idols, Israel is putting its very existence at risk. It is not at all surprising to see a most serious increase of crime in Israeli schools and streets, (something which for years was a non issue) while simultaneously Israel is losing its Jewish identity which happens to be its only viable reason for existence.
Even more painful is the realization that in the absence of a strong religious inspirational Israeli leadership, Israel is falling more and more victim to its own undoing, believing that its salvation is found in the de-judaising of its people. No greater mistake could be made. While we fully realize that Israelis will not, en masse, take up a religious life style, there has always been, throughout Israeli history, a great respect for Jewish tradition, culture and values and a deep pride in its Jewishness. This is clearly fading away within many circles being replaced by a hollow and cheap Israelism which if not stopped will undermine the very existence of the State.
One is reminded of the prophet Yechezkel: As for what enters your mind it shall not be As for what you say: We will be like the nations, like the families of the land . But I will rule over you with a strong hand. I will make you pass under the rod and bring you in to the bond of the covenant Then you will know that I am the Lord. (Yechezkel 20:32-38)
Still, here lies our greatest reason for optimism. If our interpretation is correct, the above verses prove that what happens to the Jewish people and the State of Israel at this very hour is not taking place by random forces or just because of political turmoil. They prove, as clear as it can be, that God is in charge, showing that His providence is at work through its very absence. As such the solution to Israels’ severe problems is not difficult to discover: The need for the people of Israel to rediscover their roots and to realize that the covenant between the Divine and the Jewish people is very much alive and needs to be acted on. May God grant us that wisdom.