The Cost of Freedom

Last night was Erev Pesach (the evening before the day of Passover, which is actually the beginning of Passover – “there was evening and there was morning, one day [Gen. 1:5]). Yet, most of the world focuses on yesterday as being “Good Friday”, the day that Messiah Yeshua was crucified. The importance of the day is related to what occurred in it. Yet, so much of the modern celebration misses the Biblical essence of the “why” that particular day in history became and remains so significant.

The Tenach, the Older Testament, consisting of Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) are intertwined like an intricate tapestry, whose beauty consists in the individual strands, each unique in itself, all of which are woven together to reveal, among other things, an unbroken theme: God’s love for His creation and His redemptive work through His chosen people, Israel. At the outset, it should be clarified that “chosen” is for a purpose, not because of anything special emanating from themselves (Deut. 7:7-8).

A few words of background are important. After the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God punished the participants (Adam, Eve and the serpent), but indicated that there would be a way to overcome the punishment of banishment from fellowship with God, which resulted from their disobedience – the Seed of the woman, who would be wounded, yet would conquer the one who wounded him (Gen. 3:12-15). After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve gave birth to her first two sons, Cain and Abel. When they grew up, each of the sons brought an offering to God, Cain from the fruit of the ground, Abel from the “firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”. Abel’s offering was accepted, Cain’s was rejected and he ended up killing his brother (Gen. 4:3-8). From peace in Paradise to murder regarding one family, as related in two chapters of the Bible.

Time passed and God called Abram (later to be called Abraham) and promised to give him a land, to bless him and make his name great, to be a blessing make him a great nation and to make him a blessing, to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). God covenanted with Abram regarding Abram’s offspring through a ceremony that required the death and separation of certain animals (Gen. 15:2-11). God later revealed to Abram that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs, where they would be oppressed for four generations over a period of four hundred years. But, God covenanted with Abram that He would judge that nation and Abram’s descendants would return to the land with many possessions (Gen. 15:12-16). The promise made earlier (Gen. 12) was repeated to him (Gen. 17:1-8), but at the same time, God instructed Abraham to keep the covenant of circumcision, for himself and for every male descendant of his, as well as his servants (vv. 9-13), adding that an uncircumcised male would be treated as having breached God’s covenant and would have no part in the inheritance promised to Abraham (v. 14). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. His son, Isaac, inherited the blessings (Gen. 26:1-5), which were also passed on to Isaac’s son, Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Gen. 28:3-4, 13-15; 32:28).

In due course, Jacob’s descendants went down to Egypt – first Joseph, who, after being sold into slavery by his siblings, achieved status as second only to Pharaoh, and then, the rest of his family followed. There, they prospered, grew in numbers to become a nation, and were eventually enslaved by Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph. They were afflicted and suffered becaused of their taskmasters. The time came for God to fulfil His promise to Abraham.

He raised up Moses, who at the age of 80, was directed by God to deliver His people who were in Egypt and “to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land … flowing with milk and honey” (Exo. 3:7-9).

Moses tried to resist God’s call to be His instrument to deliver His people, Israel. He felt he was not the appropriate person to do this, undoubtedly remembering that he failed to do so forty years earlier and had to flee Egypt. God gave him two demonstrations that were to be repeated before Pharaoh: (1) his staff, which later became “the staff of God”, was turned into a snake and then turned back into a staff and (2) Moses’ hand became leprous and was then healed (Exo. 4:1-8). Moses was being instructed that serving God requires dependence upon His presence and ability, not on his own abilities. God was showing Moses that He is able to create a danger to life and remove the danger as well. Still, Moses persisted that he was not the right person for the job, as he was “heavy of speech and heavy of tongue” (v. 10). God rebuked Moses for his lack of faith. It is recorded: “Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you….” (v. 14 – emphasis mine) We need to remember that there was no telephone, fax, email or internet in those days. A period of 40 years had passed since Moses left Egypt, in haste. Now, Moses is told to return and is also told that his brother, Aaron, is on his was to meet him. Both were being divinely directed and only God could accomplish this task.

Was Moses right? Was he the wrong man for the job? After all, he was 80 years old when God called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. He spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt, learning to become “something”. Then, the next 40 years of his life, he spent on the backside of the desert, being humbled and learning to become “nothing”. Finally, he spent the last 40 years of his life, leading and shepherding the children of Israel and learning the God can make “something out of nothing.”

The Biblical narrative continues: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me”; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn‘.” ‘ ” (vv. 21-23; emphasis mine) This was not what we, in our twenty-first century lexicon, would refer to as the most politically correct statement that could be made in the circumstances to someone who was considered to manifest in his being the Egyptian god of the sun, Ra, and the god of death, Horace, who were sovereign over all other gods.

God lets Moses in on His plans and adds that Pharaoh is not going to be impressed with what he has to say, that he won’t listen to him and that he won’t let the people go. What an incredible announcement! It is not surprising that the messenger, Moses, would not want to undertake a mission which, in his mind, is doomed to failure.

Up to this point, we see that Moses is the reluctant deliverer. He doesn’t quickly say “Yes, Lord!” Quite the opposite. “Here I am Lord, please send someone else!” But, God wasn’t going to let him off the hook. And so Moses finally consents, fearful of what lies ahead, but with the assurance that God will be with him. God is the Redeemer. Moses is merely His spokesman. But, in order to lead God’s people, there was one seriously problematic sin and disobedience that needed to be removed from Moses, as we will see.

 

As the story continues, while Moses was on the way back to Egypt with his wife, Zipporah, and two sons, Gershom and *******. It was then that “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death” (4:24). Moses’ wife, Zipporah “took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and made it touch his [Moses’] feet” (v. 25), saying “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me…regarding the circumcision” (v. 26). As a consequence, God left him [Moses] alone.

Moshe’s mission and the redemption of Israel were in jeopardy. Why would the LORD want to put him to death? Sometimes, we look for answers and try to blame someone else, when we should first take a good look at ourselves, before pointing a finger at someone, or something, else. Immediately preceding these verses are God’s statements to Moses about what is to be said to Pharaoh, namely, His relationship to Israel as a father to a son. Pharaoh needed to be told, “You are killing My firstborn and if you don’t let him go, I will kill your firstborn.” An “eye for an eye”.

The translation of the Hebrew “Çhatan Dameem” as “bridegroom of blood” in many English translations miss the point of the story, which is succinctly pointed out in the last words of verse 26: “regarding (or because of) the circumcision”. The fact that Tzipporah had to circumcise her son meant that Moses failed to do so in accordance with the covenant that God made with Abraham, as indicated in Genesis 17. The words “Çhatan Dameem” are of Akkadian origin, a dialect of Arabic, which was known to Zipporah, a Midianite, and, obviously, also to Moses after living with her and her family for 40 years. Between the different dialects, the term “Çhatan” means both circumcised and defended. In other words, the shed blood of the circumcision, in obedience to God’s covenant with Abraham, will protect Moses, at whose feet the blood was applied, from the dangers that lie ahead and threaten his life.

Moses was on his way to deliver the children of Israel. In the process, he was told in advance what the end of the day would bring forth, namely, the death of the first born of Pharaoh and all in Egypt whose homes were not protected by the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed and whose blood was to be smattered (not spread out) on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. The expression, “Çhatan Dameem”, therefore, is directly related to the story of the Passover, which was about to unfold in the following chapters of Exodus.

Why would this be important for us? Sometimes, familiarity with a story causes us to miss the forest through the trees. At the beginning of Chapter 4 of Exodus, Moses is given two illustrations of God’s ability to deliver from impending danger and death – the rod-to-snake-to-rod and the leprous hand-to-healthy hand. In other words, God revealed to Moses that he could protect and heal. These signs were to be displayed before Pharaoh. Moses needed to experience them and follow God’s instruction to free him from those dangers. The same is true of the last plague – the death of the firstborn. The life-threatening situation that will come upon all who are in Egypt can be averted by following God’s instruction – protection from death by the shedding of blood.

Zipporah, the wife of Moses, was able to make the connection between the failure of obedience that would result in death and immediately undertook to repent and to prevent the consequences of the sin of disobedience. Why was repentance necessary? Moses was a Levi, a descendant of Abraham through Jacob (Exo. 2:1). Zipporah was a Midianite, the daughter of a priest of Midian (Exo. 2:16, 21). Midian was also a son of Abraham, but through his second wife, Keturah (Gen. 25:2). Both were under the command of the covenant made with Abraham regarding circumcision. Obedience to the covenant meant life and God’s blessings. Disobedience meant death and being disinherited.

In Chapter 4, verses 25 and 26, God revealed His sovereignty by bringing deliverance of His servant, Moses, through a woman. He displayed His sovereignty by using women at the outset of the story (Exo. 1:17 – the midwives; 2:1-4 – Moses’ mother and sister; 2:6, 10 – Pharaoh’s daughter). In Chapter 4, it is Moses’ wife, Zipporah, whom God used to deliver Moses – not from Pharaoh, but from God Himself. Zipporah intercedes for the one whom God chose to intercede for Israel. 

Time after time, Moses urges Pharaoh to comply with God’s demands and to let the people go. The original request was not to free the people, but to let them go “that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness … a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God…” (Exo. 5:4). When Pharaoh’s obstinance and disobedience to God’s commands reached its peak, God instructed Moses to choose a lamb, which became the, which became your lamb (Exo. 12:4-5). It was to be killed and the Israelites were to “take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it” (v. 7). The Word does not say to spread it, but to put it. The LORD would “pass through to smite the Egyptians and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you]…And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smother the Egyptians, but spared our homes’.” (Exo. 12:23, 26-27) And so it was. The children of Israel did what God had instructed and they lived. But, “the LORD struck all the firtborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no hone where there was not somneone dead” (Exo. 12: 29-30). The power of Egypt was crushed and the children of Israel were no longer subject to it.

Fast forward 2,500 years. Another deliverer is sent. This time, the message was: “… [The] Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) He is the One, Who said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11). More than being the Good Shepherd, He, Himself, is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). His message was first and foremost for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, but God’s greater plan was to save all Who believe in Him. The promised child Who was born to us, the son Who was given to us, the One Who would be called “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6), our Messiah, “our Passover, has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). He was betrayed by those whom He came to save, placed on a piece of wood that was from a tree that He brought forth, pierced by nails made of material that He created. He was crowned with thorns and his blood stained the top of the altar upon which He was sacrificed. His blood from His hands stained the crossbeam. From the torture rack of the cross, He called out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When His shed blood made atonement for us, the Lamb of God gave up His spirit. It was the event that made the day, not the day itself. What we refer to as “Good Friday” was the saddest Friday in all of creation.

God’s Lamb died for our sins according to the Scriptures and He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). His message that remains is simple and straightforward: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life” (John 3:16). God loves us with an everlasting love and with His lovingkindness continues to call us. This is our reason to celebrate. 

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Have a great week.

Marvin

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“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Yogi Berra, the American baseball legend, would come out with classic statements, some of which would cause people to double over with laughter. For example: “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” Or, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.” We chuckle at how ridiculous some of his “Yogi-isms” are. But, one of his statements embodied the attitude of “don’t give up, no matter how difficult things might appear to be”. In 1973, he came out with: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That could well have been the catch phrase the night of the elections for Israel’s Prime Minister that took place on April 9th.

The pollsters tripped all over themselves. At first, they were leaning towards the success of Benny Gantz, the former General-turned-politician, who is the leader of the Blue and White party. He was favored to be the main opponent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party. In fact, he and the three other major figures in his party, two retired Generals and Yair Lapid, a former journalist, who also is the head of the Yesh Atid Party, declared an early, upset victory on the basis of the “polls”. Some believed it to be over even before the majority of the votes were in. It was a long night and despite the neck-and-neck race between Netanyahu and Gantz, it became obvious that it was premature to declare victory – and that, in front of the cameras – because things could change. And, in fact, things did change. By 01:30, the two leading candidates were tied, with 35 “mandates” (seats) each.

The Dry Bones Blog - 10 April, 2019
The Dry Bones Blog-10 April 2019

The closest to them were two religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, with 8 seats each. It began to look like the handwriting was on the wall: the two front-runners going neck-and-neck, while the two major camps were being split unevenly: 65 for the right and 55 for the left/center-left. Under Israel’s political system, the President of the country, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, would request the leader of the party that would most likely be able to form a new government to do so. In this case, it would be Netanyahu, who was on his way to an unprecedented fifth term in office.

Then, as the night grew on with little change in the two major camps, the dawn appeared and with it, surprise time! The pollsters were wrong! Gantz did not defeat the seasoned politician who constantly seems able to pull rabbits out of non-existing hats. The Zehut party, originally expected to win half a dozen seats or more, didn’t make the cut and is out. Yisrael Beytenu, the party of Avigdor Lieberman, was considered a political has-been by many after severing ties with Netanyahu, but proved everyone wrong and is still in the game with 5 seats, one less than what his party was able to garner in the last election. The New Right party, headed up by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, both of whom broke ranks with the Jewish Home party, did not garner enough votes to make the cut for a continued presence in the Knesset. When it seemed that “it was over”, some still said that we all needed to wait because “it’s not over until all votes are counted”. In other words, things could still change. And, they were right.

Still an open question is which way will Avigdor Lieberman go? Despite being groomed in the shadow of Netanyahu and the Likud, he has proven over the years to be an adept politician and a skilfull negotiator, able to work with Netanyahu, as well as to work against him. He could hold out until the last minute, as he did following the last election, when he finally decided to join the coalition government and became Minister of Defense (until last year).

In similar fashion, Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu (All of Us) party, barely made the cut and it is still not clear whether Kulanu will end up with 4 or 5 seats. Despite his relatively successful service as Minister of Finance, he fell victim in the shadow of the political battle between Gantz and Netanyahu and his party ended up losing ground. It is doubtful that he will have much influence in the setting up of the new government, unless he agrees to be wooed back to the Likud by some of the party faithful, a possibility hinted at by Likud’s Gideon Saar on election night. This could well occur. Kahlon has demonstrated that he can get the job done, is well-respected by many in politics and he would be warmly embraced by the leadership of the Likud if he did so, as his return to the fold would serve to strengthen Netanyahu’s leadership. But, he would need to backtrack on his statement during the campaign that the Prime Minister cannot continue to lead the nation after the filing of a criminal indictment against him. There is no doubt that if Kahlon gets a ministerial post in the new government, he will be a stabilizing influence between the Likud and some of the extreme-right parties, particularly the ultra-religious. And, Bibi could trust him. So, we’ll see what happens. 

And what about the Labor and Meretz parties? Back in the early ’90s, they constituted a formidable leftist alliance, with all that resulted from their joint perspective on being willing to compromise the safety and security of the people of Israel. They managed to scrape together 10 between them. It’s time to say good-bye to them both.

Today, after tallying votes of those serving in the military, the New Right was revived and was looking forward to being part of the new government. But then, it turned out that they fell short by 1,000 votes, which meant that they again did not make the cut. Bennett is, of course, asking for a recount. And, it turns out the 35-35 tie was broken, with Bibi getting a 36th mandate and United Torah Judaism losing ground to 7 seats. The United Right party (headed up by a former military officer who also served as the Chief Military Rabbi of the IDF) also dropped from 5 to 4 seats. If Bennett and company end up making the cut, it could give Bibi a “right camp” of 67 seats against 53 to the left/center-left. If they don’t get it, the “right camp” could end up with a 64 to 56 majority. The final tally, including some 200,000 votes that still needed to be counted as of this afternoon, is expected to be in by the end of the day.

There is no doubt that the big winner in the election is the Prime Minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Notwithstanding on-going criminal investigations and the major opposition of three former IDF Generals, his party received, as of this writing, 36 seats. A dream fulfilled, enabling Bibi to gather under the wing of the Likud, the various right-wing parties and to have a clear majority in the Knesset. He has demonstrated his ability to provide stability to his party, something which the other parties hoped for, but were unable to attain. 

Much more can be said regarding the results of the election, including speculation, some of which is reasonable, on who will get what ministerial post in the next government. But, why get into that now. After all, “it ain’t over until it’s over.”

With that said, where do we go from here? Yair Lapid, the fourth major player in the Blue and White party, and who was slated to switch with Gantz as Prime Minister, one year on and one year off, has promised that the Blue and White party, which will now lead the Opposition, will make life miserable for the government. What does it take for Lapid and company to get it into their heads that the people have democratically made their decision for the government to be headed up by the Likud, with Bibi as the Prime Minister, not as a king?

One TV personality blamed the media for Netanyahu’s victory, stating in part (in Hebrew): “My friends in the media, don’t be confused. The victory of Bibi and the ultra right-Haredi coalition that was here is registered on your name…You thought that if you would give the chosen leader of Israel no rest even for a minute, that you would leak the conversations in the investigation files, ignore and disdain his accomplishments, bark at him in interviews, in the end he would fall. And what came out of that? He didn’t fall, he is stronger than at any time, and the new government doesn’t even have a representation of center. Nothing.” Then, he referred to a conversation that he had with someone on the street, who told him – “I don’t care if Bibi stole, he can even take a thousand shekels a day, the main thing is that he will be the head of the country. You thought that in the name of legal correctness the nation of Israel would give up on someone it perceives as the leader of a generation. Not only did you err, but now you pushed him to be more right-wing than he is…You wanted to bring the left back to rule, but in fact, you smashed it to pieces.” He concluded his article with: “And now what?…Keep going your way, because that is what you know to do, or will you draw conclusions? To the sounds of your scornful snores I say to you – take a break. Bibi won’t stand trial during his tenure. Let the guy work, let the public rest from you…at least change the frequency, accept the decision of the majority…. (emphasis mine)

After the final results are in, will it be over? Or will we just be beginning the next round of political confrontations and battles? We’ll soon see.

Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. (1 Chronicles 29:12)

Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people. (1 Samuel 9:17)

May the prayer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be: Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours? (2 Chronicles 1:10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

So, who are you going to vote for?

“So, who are you going to vote for?” That is the question of the day. It has been the question of the week and of the past month and longer. The answer is not as simple as some people might think. The primary problem with politics is the “politicians”. The pursuit of power often clouds memory, affects understanding and leads to misguided priorities. The present campaign for leadership of the country has focused on almost everything, except the issues that are of paramount concern the people: security, food, clothing and shelter. With few exceptions, promises of politicians are to be taken with a grain of salt. The message is usually adjusted to meet the needs and expectations of the audience.
The political rhetoric that has enveloped this latest, contentious campaign for Prime Minister requires that we pause, reflect and consider carefully who is telling the truth, who will bring things to fruition, who CAN do the job that needs to be done in this day and age of our history. No politician can fulfil every campaign promise in the face of a divided country. Few politicians have made promises for that very reason. They can’t promise with certainty what they will do. It is more reasonable to expect that they will speak with greater conviction about what they won’t do.
Do enemies change or do we merely call them by a different name today? Ability and determination will be key factors that will guide – perhaps, lead would be a better term – our country in the period immediately following the election scheduled for tomorrow.
Occasionally, a politician delivers a message that contains clarity of understanding, a willingness to commit and a proper perspective of both history and the times in which we live. It reveals a passion and a devotion to doing what is right, even in the face others don’t agree. Those messages become embedded in our memory banks, stowed away for the future and brought forth in time of need. Such a message is the one given by former President John F. Kennedy on April 29, 1956 at Yankee Stadium, while he was still a U.S. Senator. The source can be found here.
We are gathered here this afternoon to commemorate a notable anniversary in man’s eternal quest for freedom. For nearly 8 years ago today a state was born – and a people, rising from the ashes of history’s most ruthless persecution, entered upon a new birth of freedom. The state was the State of Israel – and the people were the children of Israel. Today, as the anniversary of that monumental event recurs for the eighth time – Israel, we salute you.
Much is different between the United States and Israel. Our Nation stretches in a great land mass between two wide oceans – the Israelis occupy a beachhead on the eastern Mediterranean. Americans number 165 million – the Israelis less than 2 million. We are the oldest Republic on earth and the youngest people – the Israelis have the youngest republic and the oldest people.
Yes, much is different – but much is the same. For both Israel and the United States won their freedom in a bitter war for independence. Both Israel and the United States acknowledge the supremacy of the moral law – both believe in personal as well as national liberty – and, perhaps most important, both will fight to the end to maintain that liberty.
I join in this salute today because of my own deep admiration for Israel and her people – an admiration based not on hearsay, not on assumption, but on my own personal experience. For I went to Palestine in 1939; and I saw there an unhappy land, ruled under a League of Nations mandate by a Britain which divided and ruled in accordance to ancient policy. And while there I was shocked by a British Foreign Office white paper just issued sharply cutting back Jewish immigration. Yes, as in the days of old, “the glory had departed from Israel.” For century after century, Romans, Turks, Christians, Moslems, Pagans, British – all had conquered the Holy Land – but none could make it prosper. In the words of Israel Zangwill: “The land without a people waited for the people without a land.” The realm where once milk and honey flowed, and civilization flourished, was in 1939 a barren realm – barren of hope and cheer and progress as well as crops and industries – a gloomy picture for a young man paying his first visit from the United States.
But 12 years later, in 1951, I traveled again to the land by the River Jordan – this time as a Member of the Congress of the United States – and this time to see first-hand the new State of Israel. The transformation which had taken place could not have been more complete. For between the time of my visit in 1939 and my visit in 1951, a nation had been reborn – a desert had been reclaimed – and a national integrity had been redeemed, after 2,000 years of seemingly endless waiting. Zion had at least been restored – and she had promptly opened her arms to the homeless and the weary and the persecuted. It was the “Ingathering of the Exiles” – they had heard the call of their homeland; and they had come, brands plucked from the burning – they had come from concentration camps and ghettoes, from distant exile and dangerous sanctuary, from broken homes in Poland and lonely huts in Yemen, like the ancient strangers in a strange land they had come. And Israel received them all, fed them, housed them, cared for them, bound up their wounds, and enlisted them in the struggle to build a new nation.
But perhaps the greatest change of all I found lay in the hearts and minds of the people. For, unlike the discouraged settlers of 1939, they looked to the future with hope. From Haifa to the Gulf of Akaba, from Gaza to the Dead Sea, I found a revival of an ancient spirit. I found it in Israel’s gift to world statesmanship, David Ben-Gurion. I saw it in the determined step of soldiers and workers; I heard it in the glad voices of women in the fields; I saw it in the hopeful eyes of refugees waiting patiently in their misery. The barren land I had seen in 1939 had become the vital nation of 1951.
Yes; Israel, we salute you. We honor your progress and your determination and your spirit. But in the midst of our rejoicing we do not forget your peril. We know that no other nation in this world lives out its days in an atmosphere of such constant tension and fear. We know that no other nation in this world is surrounded on every side by such violent hate and prejudice.
Will Israel fall? Will this noblest of all the 20th century’s experiments in democracy sink beneath the surface, not to rise again for still another 2,000 years? Part of the answer rests with the United States, the leader of the free world, and the godfather of the infant nation Israel. I shall not now attempt to chart our course in detail. But I shall say, and say again, that this is no time for equivocation or hesitation.
TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW
It is long past time for this Nation and others to make it absolutely clear that any aggression or threat of aggression in the Middle East will not be tolerated by the United Nations or the parties to the 1950 Tripartite Agreement. It is time that we made this so clear, in the U.N. and elsewhere, that no nation would dare to launch an attack. For it is the responsibility of our Government to make certain that neither Israel nor any small nation of the world is left defenseless without arms while neighboring states dedicated to their destruction receive unlimited quantities of Communist arms. It is time that all the nations of the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere, realized that Israel is here to stay. She will not surrender – she will not retreat – and we will not let her fall.
Today we celebrate her 8th birthday – but I say without hesitation that she will live to see and 80th birthday – and an eight hundredth. For peace is all Israel asks, no more – a peace that will “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning-hooks”; a peace that will enable the desert to “rejoice and blossom as the rose,” “when the wicked cease from troubling and the weary be at rest.” Then, and only then, will the world have witnessed the complete fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy “Tzee-Yon B’Meeshpat Teepadeh” – “Zion shall be redeemed through justice.” And all of us here, and there, and everywhere will then be able to say to each other with faith and with confidence, in our coming and in our going: “Shalom” – peace! Peace be with you, now and forever. (emphasis in bold, mine)
The foregoing is a redaction of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One copy of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the speech can be found here.
It’s been 63 years since that speech was delivered. Our enemies still exist and many are in our midst. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained….” (Proverbs 29:18) Tomorrow’s election may well be one of the most important elections in the brief, present history of this Country. May God grant that our vision will be restored, that we will stop burying our heads in the sand and pretend that our enemies do not pose an existential threat (even though God is totally in control: Jeremiah 31:35-37) to our nation, that we will recognise that we have been called here for a purpose and that we need leaders who have the respect and the support of the people, whose “yes” is “yes” and whose “no” is “no”. If we don’t pray for wisdom to align our votes with God’s desires, who will? If we don’t do it now, when will it be done? Indeed, the time for action is now!
Our existence is not dependent upon the United States. It will blessed to the extent that it blesses us. (Gen. 12:3) It is dependent solely upon the Holy One of Israel. There is only one Messiah, who has called us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), whose plans for us are for good, to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). No country and none of the present politicians fit that job description.
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even our enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,
Marvin

Not Forgotten!

Thirty-Seven years after he was killed in the Battle of Sultan Yaaqub, in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, the remains of Israeli-American Staff Sergeant Zachary Baumel were returned to Israel and he was buried yesterday, 4 April, 2019, on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem.

Upon reading of the events of the First Lebanon War back in 1982, I learned that Zachary Baumel, along with Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman, was reported missing in action. It was a name, connected to an event, that was connected to a distant place, a place that was pulling at my heart strings. Year after year, from childhood on, the words “Next Year in Jerusalem” took on greater meaning. Three years following that war, after leaving family, friends and business in the U.S. and crossing the Big Muddy to this tiny stretch of desert sand, a different reality took hold in my life. I related to every soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as a member of my family. Every loss was a personal loss. There didn’t seem to be enough tears for all of them. And I wasn’t alone. Israel does not allow the nation to forget those whose have been captured, or were reported missing in action. The names of Baumel, Katz and Feldman were mentioned in many different settings. They were young men, who were reported as missing while defending the country. Their families longed for their return, praying, hoping and yearning to see their loved ones again, to embrace them, to weep for joy over their return. The years have passed, thirty-seven of them, and along with them, some of the members of the families of those who were missing in action.

Israel is committed to bringing all of its sons home. Yaron Blum, special negotiator for hostages and prisoners of war at the Office of the Prime Minister, and formerly a senior official with the Shin Bet security agency, said that this commitment is “not a cliché and not a statement that has something to do with the elections. This is a tremendous commitment; we must act tirelessly to bring the captives and the missing home.”

Many attempts had been made since 1982 to locate Baumel’s remains. According to Blum, “[Over] the years, we perfected the intelligence, until we succeeded in pointing, according to the coordinates, [to the spot] where according to assessments, the remains were located…[But this] would not have happened without the Prime Minister’s special relationship with [Russian President Vladmir] Putin. No less important is everyone’s success in putting their ego aside and working together to get results.” He emphasized that the success in bringing Baumel’s remains to Israel for burial proved that “it’s never too late. . . the time aspect is of significance, but we dod not abandon these issues, even if many years have passed” and that efforts continue to return all of the MIAs from all of Israel’s wars and conflicts. The complete interview of Yaron Blum to Israel Hayom can be seen here.

The funeral service drew thousands from every walk of life, even some who had not yet been born when Zachary Baumel went missing in action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin were among the many who delivered eulogies and speeches. But, the most moving eulogy was that of Zachary’s sister, Osna Haberman, who stated, in part: 

“I thought of what I would do here in this place. Even hugging is impossible. So I thought of turning to the ground and asking the land to embrace him, to hold him tight. And a few minutes later I realized I don’t need to ask. There is no need to ask. The land is hugging tightly. And why? Because there is absolute love between the son who gave everything for the land and the land itself, there is a complete union here, you are together now….

“***I pray for the families who have lived apart from their loved ones for so many years, some more and some less. I pray that there will be a union, that they will come together in one way or another. You’ll be together someday, I’m praying for it.

“This is the place where we will pour out our prayers, because this is a holy place. The family asks from this place to give abundant thanks first of all to the Master of the Universe. The life you gave us every day, and the favor that is greater than the pain. The Sages say that favor in the world is five hundred times more than disfavor. There are times when it is hard to see it, there are times when it is easier. Let us see it every day. Thank you for showing us favor every day.

“I would like to say thank you to the Prime Minister that you . . . personally handled the matter. And heartfelt thanks from the family. I want to say thank you to all the security forces, you do not know how many there are, until you get home together, everyone who worked and did will come and get his reward. Thanks from the family personally. I can not come and tell everyone because you are so many.

“Thanks to the people of Israel who held us, that we could be here today after thirty-seven years. Without you, and you know who you are, everyone who prayed, who wrote, who thought, everyone who hoped in the heart, because of you we are here. Thanks to the people of Israel for this day. 

“Now I want to turn to my dear brother, Zechariah, that we grew up together. A young man so modest, so humble, so unselfish. He would say what are we doing here today, what is happening here, he would not understand. And I say to him this time, yes, for you, particularly because you gave everything. You were dressed with the Spirit of God when you were recruited. Until then you were a mischievous, lighthearted, cute guy, and from the day that the army touched you, suddenly a different spirit dressed on you. I did not understand who this boy was, like [he was] someone else. And I hear stories about the performance and the connection and the giving and I say I do not know who about whom they are speaking here, because it’s you, yes, it’s you, too, Everyone knows something else.

“I am saying goodbye for myself, I can not say good-bye for anyone. . .My prayers are that all the POWs and MIAs will come to unite with their families. . .

“We are parting from you today, I am releasing you to the land, because the land is very, very good. Rest in peace, my dear brother. . . We are in a difficult time and I think that all of our prayers need to be lifted on high.”

Israel’s President, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, added these words:
“Zachary, 37 years ago, a few days before the battle in which you fell, you wrote to your parents: ‘Don’t worry, everything is OK, but it looks like I won’t be coming home soon’. Thirty-seven years have passed since then, but today you returned home. You returned to the soil of our homeland, to Jerusalem. . . Look around, Zachary, if you could see your friends, your officers – some of them already have grandchildren, but we are interning you today as a young warrior, only 22 years old. . . Today is a day that the State of Israel fulfils its oath to out soldiers, our sons and our daughters. Today we are able to unanimously testify that we do everything, even the unthinkable and the unbelieving in order to fulfil our oaths to return our sons who did not return home from battle. Today, we are able to say with full faith and humility to our soldiers, in the past in the present and in the future, we did not forsake and we will not forsake this holy mission until all of our sons who fell in the defense of this nation and land will return home.”

Zachary Baumel’s body was one of several bodies brought to Israel this week as part of Operation Zemer Nugeh (Sad Song). In Israel, they hoped that the bodies of the three missing soldiers – including Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman – were among those who were located. But, the forensic institute examination identified only Baumel, and the three were not buried together.

Some have tried to accuse Prime Minister Netanyahu of timing the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel just before the elections, scheduled for 9th April. While the timing may be fortuitous, it is almost insulting to say that it was a move designed to influence the elections.  This was an ongoing operation that required the cooperative efforts of many different government departments, including the personal involvement of P.M. Netanyahu, who used his relationship with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to recover Zachary’s remains.

The IDF has a special unit, known as “EITAN”, that is tasked with finding all soldiers who were captured or reported as missing, with some 95 files still open from 1948 to the present. It is manned by about 50 reservists, who are called up for a few weeks each year, who continue the research for those who are still unaccounted for. They come from different walks of life and devote their entire reserve time to researching the files of those who are missing. They don’t give up. It is part of the commitment of the IDF to bring all of its sons home, no matter how long it may take. Like so many who have suffered trauma of one sort of another, they need closure. New sets of eyes look on old, still-open files, hoping to find something that may have been overlooked. More on the EITAN unit can be seen here.

Baumel’s first name, Zachary, is Zechariah in Hebrew. It comprises the two words: “zachar” and “Yah”. Put together, zachar-yah (or Zechariah) means “God remembered”. God remembered Zachary Baumel and brought his remains home to the land. May his memory be blessed (yehi zicharono baruch). May God strengthen the hands of those who serve day and night to protect us from our enemies. May He grant wisdom and unity of decision to the leaders of the IDF and may He guard the going out and coming in of every one of our sons and daughters in uniform, that they will go out in peace and return in peace.

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are my servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. (Isaiah 44:21).

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you (Isaiah 54:15).

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marvin

Haman is still around, but where is Mordechai?

The holiday of Purim is a joyful festival. It is based on the Book of Esther, whose events occurred in Persia, the former name of present day Iran. The existence of the Jewish people during the time of Queen Esther was threatened by people in power in Persia. Two thousand five hundred years have passed and not much has changed. In fact, it has only gotten worse. Iran has again emerged as a threat, not only to Israel and the Jewish people, but to the nations of the world.

Some stories, like true vintage wine, become better with age. One of them is the story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. We are commanded to tell the story from generation to generation. It reveals the presence of God, His might, His power and His holiness and ability to save the people whom He has chosen (Deut. 7:7-8). These attributes of God are also present, and He remains mighty to save, even when He is not in the forefront of the action, but in the background and even when He is not referred to or mentioned by name. This is the situation in the Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther). It reveals the presence of Him Who is invisible.

We know the story and it is a great one. It is a story of absence – absence from the country where the sons of Jacob were to shine, to prosper, to worship God in the majesty of His holiness, to be blessed and to be a blessing. It is a story of the absence of a national leadership amongst the captives from Judea and Samaria who were taken first to Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, some of whom were later brought to Persia (modern-day Iran) and who were living during the reign of King Ahashverush (Ahasuerus). It is a story where the absence of God in the lives of the captives stands out by the failure to refer to Him. It is a story that serves as the background for the complaint of the people, as revealed in the explanation of the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel, namely, an absence of hope: “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off”.'” (Ezekiel. 37:11) But, even in the blatant absence of specific reference to Him, still, the Holy One of Israel continues to exercise His sovereign control over all the fortunes and misfortunes of the people, whom He referred to as “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

This comment is being written on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar [Bet], the day “when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them”. (Esther 9:1)

We look at the story with the benefit of hindsight. It is written for us and we can see how the pieces that seem disjointed all fit together and reveal the Hand of God and His unseen presence among His people, during one of the lowest times in the history of the nation of Israel. The major players are Mordechai, his niece Hadassah (whose name in exile was changed to Esther), King Ahashverush, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia and Haman, to whom the king gave exceedingly great authority. The king commanded that all of his servants, who were at the king’s gate, were to bow down and pay homage to Haman. But, Mordechai did neither.

From a political perspective, we see a “situation developing”. One man, who was at the king’s gate (i.e., was part of those who were close to the seat of power and who were able to come in and go out of the court without a special permit), defied the command of the king and would not bow down before Haman. It is recorded for us that Mordechai was living in the citadel of Susa. He was a descendant of Kish, who was a Benjamite and part of the upper class families who were taken captive and exiled along with King Jeconiah of Judah. (Esther 1:5-6) Another famous descendant of Kish was Saul, Israel’s first king, who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions given through Samuel the prophet, to strike and totally destroy Amalek. King Saul defeated the Amalekites, but allowed their king, Agag, to live – an act of disobedience that resulted in the Lord rejecting Saul from being king. Ultimately, the prophet Samuel killed Agag.

But, Haman is said to be “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite”. So, the consequences of Saul’s disobedience had future consequences for the nation of Israel. The descendants of Agag came to distant lands and some of them, like Haman, ended up in the service of the king of Persia. And so, once again, a descendant of Kish meets up with a powerful Amalekite.

However, as mentioned above, not only is Mordechai a descendant of Kish, he is also a Benjamite. Benjamin was the last son of Jacob. He was born after Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, after Jacob crossed the Jabbok and after he and all of his household bowed down before Esau. (Gen. 32-33, 35:16-18) Therefore, Benjamin, who was the only son of Jacob who was born in the land of Israel, did not bow down before Esau. And, his descendant, Mordechai, stood his ground, as well, and did not bow down before Haman. When questioned by the king’s servants why he refused to bow, his answer was that “he was a Jew”. (Esther 3:4)  The refusal of Mordechai to bow down before Haman “filled [Haman] with rage”. When he was told “who the people of Mordechai were … Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordechai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahashverush (Ahasuerus)”. (Esther 3:5-6) Lots (Purim) were cast to determine the day that this would take place.

Haman’s understanding went beyond the simple fact that there are a people under the king’s rule who have a different religion. The issue was not the existence of a different religious belief, which could be tolerated, but rather, the Jewish people, whose existence would not be tolerated by the descendant of Agag, the Amalekite. Even though only Mordechai refused to bow down, the entire nation was going to suffer the consequences of his act of defiance.

The rest of the story continues, with Haman convincing the king to issue an edict that the Jewish people be destroyed. Haman was even willing to pay money into the king’s treasury if the king would agree to his request. Mordechai publicly demonstrated against the king’s edict and enlisted his niece, Hadassah (i.e., Esther, after whom the Scroll is named) to appeal to the king. Esther was chosen to replace the deposed Queen Vashti, when the latter refused to appear before the king and his drunken friends, who had been partying for seven days. Esther explained to Mordechai that her life would be endangered if she came into the presence of the king without being summoned. Mordechai wisely explained the situation in a clear and unequivocal manner: “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14) Things don’t get much clearer than that. Esther understood the gravity of the situation and that it was not her life only that was at risk, but those of the Jewish people who were under the rule and reign and authority of the king – her husband.

She requested that all of the Jews in Susa fast (and impliedly, pray) for her and not eat or drink for three days. She and her maidens would do the same and afterwards, she would go to the king, contrary to law, and, as she said: “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16) And she and they did so and on the third day, the fate of Esther and the Jewish people was decided. The sentence of death had already been passed. Now, would the sentence of death be carried out, or will there be life? The golden scepter was extended to her and with it, life for her and eventually, life for the Jewish people. She chose the manner of presenting her petition to the king and the timing of it. In the meantime, the king had a bout of insomnia and instructed that the chronicles of the kingdom read to him. It was then that he learned that Mordechai discovered and informed about a plot to kill the king, who now decided to publicly honor and reward Mordechai by dressing him in royal garments and having him paraded through the city square on a horse, on which the king himself had ridden. Haman was appointed to do this for Mordechai and to proclaim before all the people: “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desire to honor.” (Esther 6:10-11) This further enraged Haman.

When Esther revealed to the king what Haman had done, the king issued another edict that allowed the Jews to defend themselves, inasmuch as by law, he could not cancel his own decree. Haman was the recipient of the king’s wrath, as he and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows and what had been meant for evil was turned around for good. (Esther chpt. 9) Mordechai recorded the events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces under the authority and rule of King Ahasverush (Ahasuerus), obliging them to annually celebrate the 14th and 15th days of the Hebrew month of Adar, “because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday … for Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them…Therefore they called these days Purim after the name Pur…So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants…The command of Esther established these customs for Purim and it was written in the book.” (Esther 9:20-32)

At the end of the story, Mordehai was exalted to a position of power and authority, second only to the king himself. He was “great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.” (Esther 10:3)

There is much that this story reveals and many aspects of it have significant, and indeed, eternal ramifications and applications for those within the Messianic community, as well as for the whole world. We see how the Hand of God was moving behind the scene, using the drunken feast of the king to embarrass the then queen, who was removed because of her disobedience to the command of the king (by the way, there was significant reason for that refusal); the choosing of Esther to replace her; the positioning of Mordechai as one who was at the king’s gate and his overhearing the plot to kill the king; his being of the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin; his refusal to bow before Haman the Agagite; the unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Jewish people and Mordechai’s being exalted with power and authority, second only to the king himself.

Our God reigns! “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33) What the enemy of our souls meant for bad, God used for good.

Israel sorely needs men like Mordechai today. He was the godly remnant amongst a people who believed that God had forsaken them. He represented the hope of a national restoration, when there had not yet been any experience with exile. Living outside the land, away from the Temple service, away from the place where God commanded the blessing, was all that the people knew. Yet, one man stood in the gap. He said “no”. He would not bow down to man and certainly not to a descendant of those who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Today, we see and experience that once again, the nations conspire together against God and against His people, saying, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation that the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:4). The Lord God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth, knows if you and I are alive “for such a time as this”.  Looking at the situation today in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and in North America, we cannot fail to see that the Hamans of this world abound and have multiplied. Some have even been elevated to positions of power, giving them a platform to curse and condemn the Jewish people. But, where are the Mordechais? We need to be people who are willing to proclaim who we are, as we face the plans and pursuits of nations to divide this land and scatter God’s people. God doesn’t change. He remains the same yesterday, today and forever! A little faith can move mountains. And God is not removed from us, even though we do not see Him physically, but only with the eyes of faith. He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2)

“I will bless those who bless you and the one who [acurses you I will curse.” (Gen. 12:3)

So Bless, be blessed and be a blessing. Happy Purim!

Marvin

Born at 415 grams, today a team player in the IDF

For the last month, most of the blurbs of information that appeared in the news media here focused on the upcoming election, presently slated for early April. Of course, there were other articles and discussions, covering a range of subjects – politics, terror tunnels, confrontations along the border fence with Gaza, anti-semitism, health and medicine, economics, religion, family, archeology, crime, hi-tech inventions, entertainment and sports and more. They were the regular items that make up the heartbeat of the country. But, the heavy emphasis was on politics. Sometimes, I think we need a national pacemaker to keep us on an even keel. Then there were reports regarding the unholy alliance that makes up the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East that encompasses Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza) and their existential threats to Israel. We shouldn’t forget that Russia continues to flex its muscles and exert its influence, primarily in and around the Syrian arena. 

Granted, the next election will probably be one of the most important in our history. Platforms will be important, but less important than the personalities of the people who lead the different parties. There is a concerted effort by committed leftists and newly-declared (and undeclared) middle-of-the-road, leftist leaners, to remove Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Over the years, Netanyahu has proven to be a skillful politician and an adept statesman, turning enemyship of various countries to friendship. Who is best suited to run the country and provide for its defense – a seasoned politician or a former military commander? The next election will provide the country with an unprecedented opportunity to answer that question. In this regard, it is fair to say that most of those who held high positions in the military, who strategized and fought for the defense and protection of Israel, somehow, somewhere along the line, fail to see the same objectives once they leave the military and don a suit (with or without a tie, depending on the audience).

The past year, as well as this past month and even this week, witnessed the growing cancer of anti-Israel activity by individuals, organizations and countries. This tiny stretch of desert sand has become an obsession with some, who continue to make baseless comparisons of Israel with evil and despotic dictators and regimes, who seek to impose economic boycotts on goods and services emanating from different parts of this country and who even want to criminalize commercial ventures with us. 

We are a resilient nation, unwilling to lay down and die. We exist as a fulfilment of a promise that God made that He would gather us from the nations and bring us back to this land. It is absurd to ask us to account for our legitimacy. “Never again!” means just that, “Never again!” As our former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, once said: “We refuse to disappear, no matter how strong and brutal and ruthless the forces against us may be.” 

There is a spirit within the people here that says that difficulties are only challenges that we need to find a way to overcome. Our perception of the problem, rather than the problem itself, usually determines how we will respond to it.

Such was the situation with Corporal Joshua (his real name is not used here). He was born a “preemie”, weighing in at only 415 grams (14.6 ounces), the equivalent of two pieces of chocolate, and he had cerebral palsy. The doctors gave him only a 5% chance of survival. Last week, he received a Certificate of Excellence from the IDF following his involvement to foil a terrorist attack. In his words, “I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders.”

The article appeared on the website of the IDF on 31st January, 2019, in Hebrew. His story began long before he was able to cross-reference the data that would result in saving human life. He was the youngest preemie in Israel ever to survive up to that point. The doctors thought he would never be able to walk or to speak. But, their negative evaluation did not discourage his parents, who were not willing to give up on him. He was their son. They wanted the best for him. They wanted him to succeed. With full cooperation of the medical staff, they got him to stand on his feet and walked with him the entire way with one goal: that he would grow up and become independent. And so, today Corporal Joshua is a regular soldier in a combat intelligence unit of the IDF.

He spoke his first words when he was two and a half years old and began to walk at the age of three. But, the celebration didn’t last long. At the age of five, while crossing the street with his father, a speeding car hit him head on. All his work up to that point was for nought, as he began a long period of rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk all over again. During this time, the doctors emphasized over and over again that, apparently, he would not be able to use his legs again.

But, Corporal Joshua was not willing to accept what others claimed to be his fate. At the end of months of rehabilitation, he learned to walk again and was determined, more than ever, to embark on a new course in his life. “I never lived under any illusions; I knew from an early age that I was not exactly like everyone else, but I have a motto that goes: ‘What is possible – we will do, and what is not – we’ll break down barriers’ [adding] I wanted to prove to everyone that notwithstanding all of the predictions [concerning me]… there wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t be able to do.” 

He went to a special-needs school until the second grade and then continued in the regular educational system, completing high school just like everyone else … and without any special privileges. After receiving his first induction notice [which students usually receive in the 11th grade], the medical staff informed him that he was released from having to serve in the military. This resulted in a lengthy process during the course of which he requested to volunteer to serve the country.

After completing twelfth grade, he attended a pre-military induction course, where he was taught to press on to the full extent of his ability, to accomplish every goal he needed to accomplish and to make the impossible possible. It was during this time that an army officer came to speak to the class. Corporal Joshua saw this as his opportunity to fight for his place in the system. After the meeting, he approached the officer, introduced himself and succeeded to convince the officer to take him under his wing. The same officer helped him to complete the process of volunteering. 

To the surprise of “the system” that exempted him at the outset from enlistment, Corporal Joshua actually flourished in the military. His peak came about two weeks ago. At that time, he brought important intelligence information that resulted in our forces in Judea and Samaria undertaking a nighttime operation to capture a warehouse loaded with weapons, that would likely have been used in a significant attack against Israeli citizens. As he stated: “I received an assignment to investigate a certain area, and after I cross-referenced many sources of information, there was an indication of weaponry in one of the villages in the sector.” On the basis of that information, a combat unit was dispatched to that location and it discovered a warehouse full of weaponry of different kinds.

Following the successful operation, Corporal Joshua received a Certificate of Excellence directly from the commander of the unit. “It was only after the [military] operation was completed that I was able to grasp that the information that I supplied helped to thwart a future attack … I am glad that I had the privilege to lead to this accomplishment, but for me, as soon as this operation was over, I moved on to the other missions that were lying on my desk. The greatest thanks goes to everyone in my department who does a great job every day to discover terrorism and to thwart it in time.” He added in conclusion: “During the time of the pre-military induction course, the instructor used to say: ‘When we walk alone we arrive quickly, and when we walk together we go far’. I am happy to take part in a corps that really does a significant job and succeeds in achieving objectives precisely where my story has released me from taking part. I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders. I get up every morning in order to do the best that I can, with a desire to prove that even the sky is not the limit…I believe that if we want something, we need to achieve it, and so what can be done – we do, and what is difficult to do – we need to exert effort until finally, we also succeed.”

Way to go, Corporal Joshua! May there be a multitude of others who are willing to face the challenges before us with a proper attitude, even the attitude of an 85-year-old man of faith who, after receiving a promise, said some forty years later: “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

It’s a new year and the right time to get a proper perspective on who we are and Whose we are. Both will help us to think and to act in a manner that will honoring and glorifying to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You will also decree a thing and it will be established for you; and light will shine on your ways. (Job 22:28)

What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! (Job 26:2)

Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any; He is mighty in strength of understanding. (Job 36:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

2018 – How Do I Describe You? Let me count the ways.

As we approach the end of the year 2018 and take a glance at what the year was like, what did we see? Here are a just two dozen of them.

1.  Israel celebrated its 70th year of independence! Yay!!!

2.  Israel obtained evidence of Iran’s continued efforts of uranium enrichment and activities towards nuclear capability.

3.  The United States withdrew from The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the formal name for the Iran nuclear agreement).

4.  Hamas began and continues its weekly Israel-Gaza border fence uprisings, with the use of incendiary kite balloons and the widespread burning and destruction of agricultural land and other property in and around communities in the south of Israel.

4.  U.S. President Donald trump signed into law the Taylor Force Act, which cut funds to the “PA” over its practice of paying terrorists (“pay to slay” stipend).

6.  The United States moved its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and a few other nations followed suit. 

7.  Incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements by public officials and groups in different countries rose considerably during the year.

8.  Exposure and destruction of no fewer than five cross-border tunnels by Hezbollah from Lebanon and the failure of the U.N. to condemn that terrorist organization as a terrorist organization. 

9.  The U.N. mission on the Israel-Lebanon border marked its 40th anniversary – of ineffectiveness.

10.  The U.N. Secretariat claimed that Israel was responsible for the damage to the UNRWA facilities in the 2014 Gaza War, despite the fact that Israel proved that terrorists used U.N. facilities to hide weapons and fire rockets towards Israel.

11.  The U.S. finally decided to defund U.N.R.W.A., which totally failed in its mission to re-settle Arabs who left Israel prior to the War of Independence.

12.  Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., a strong voice of moral, forceful American leadership in the world and a staunch defender of Israel in that world body, resigned as of the end of this year.

13.  The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a quasi-constitutional law, which has come to be known as the “Nation-State Law”. It has been the center of controversy at home and abroad since its enactment. Proponents hail the legislation as a breath of fresh air, claiming, among other things, that it puts Jewish values and democratic values on an equal footing. Opponents condemn it, asserting that law discriminates against Israel’s minority communities. Much of the opposition stems from political overtones and a failure to understand the reason for the Law’s passage and how it impacts Israeli society as a whole.

14.  Tehran continued to destabilize the region and threatened the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, utilizing its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

15.  The 7-year civil war in Syria is winding down, with Bashar Hafez al-Assad remaining in power as President of that country. 

16.  The terrorist organization, ISIS (also known as “Islamic State”) was widely defeated in Syria, although it remains active in other locations.

17.  With the defeat of ISIS in Syria, U.S. President Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, much to the satisfaction of Iran, Russia and Turkey, as well as Syria.

18.  The “PA” refuses to have anything to do with the Trump administration and continues to pay terrorists and their families for the consequences of their anti-Israel activity.

19.  On-going rocket and missile fire from Gaza into the southern communities in Israel, including an extensive rocket barrage of some 400 projectiles in November.

20.  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, resigned over disagreements following the November events concerning Israel’s response to the attacks from Gaza.

21.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under investigation for possible corruption (charges of bribery and breach of trust), including his receiving a gift from a billionaire of expensive cigars (“Cigar-Gate”?).

22.  Netanyahu called for new elections, which will take place in April, 2019.

23.  Immigration to Israel is up.

24.  WE’RE STILL HERE!

Was that ALL the news? Far from it. We had the excellent, the very good, the good, the less than good, the bad, the very bad and the worst. But, we made it through another year, with successes and failures, with gains and losses, with tears of joy and of sorrow.

Not the least of these events is the recent missile fired from Syria this week, which landed in a coastal area north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa, resulting in an immediate military response by Israel.

And, the worst of the worst – the tiniest victim of “Palestinian” hatred and terrorist attack: A little boy, born prematurely, who lived only four days after his mother was shot in a drive-by shooting while waiting for a bus. Her husband was also wounded, along with others. They remained in the hospital and were not even able to attend the funeral of their infant son, whose young life ended before it began. One writer expressed it thus: “Until Israel negates the PA and calls it what it really is…never a partneralways an enemy…nothing will have changed. Nothing will have been learned.” (see The Shimon and Levi Option).

So, what about Netanyahu, the dissolution of the Knesset and the call for new elections? In a nutshell, it is probably going to be one of the most important elections in Israeli history. More on this to follow.

As we approach a new civil year, please keep my youngest son, who is serving in the north, in your prayers for protection, wisdom and strength. 

What can we say about all of the above? If God is for us, who can be against us?

“You have crowned the year with Your goodness”. (Psalm 65:11 – Ee-tar-tah shnat tovatecha)

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness and her salvation like a torch that is burning.

The nations will see your righteousness and all kings your glory;

And you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will designate.

You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD and a royal diadem in the hand of your God…

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;

All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth…

Go through, go through the gates, clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.

Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth,

Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” And they will call them, “The holy people, the redeemed of the LORD”; and you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:1-3, 6-7, 10-12)

May the new civil year 2019 bring you the blessings of good health, wisdom and grace and favor in the sight of God and man.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin