President Obama’s visit to Israel – TWTW … ending 23 March, 2013




Shalom all, 

After two months of negotiating for jobs and titles, Israel’s new coalition government was finally sworn in. Some were happy, some were not. Most of the country was just tired from the seemingly endless politicking that went on during the negotiations and were relieved that, at least for now, we finally have a new government. Still, last week was all about President Obama’s brief visit to Israel. Some were happy, some were not. Some couldn’t care less. Just before Obama left the country, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to Turkey’s Prime Minister for Israel’s “operational mistakes” that occurred during the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident three years ago. Some were happy, some were sad. Some had mixed emotions. The Syrian border is becoming worrisome and this week, we celebrate, once again, our becoming a nation – 3,500 years after the event.

President Obama’s visit to Israel
On the surface, it looked as though Barack Hussein Obama was on the campaign trail, trying to win the hearts of voters – only from a distance of over 5,000 miles from Washington, D.C. There were lots of smiles, lots of hand-shakes, lots of hugs, lots of compliments and lots of humorous moments. Along with that, there were clear, political messages that were given and, undoubtedly, serious discussions and undisclosed negotiations that took place behind closed doors.

Yes, President Obama touched a lot of sensitive issues in a positive way. He said many “right” things and visited important places, all of which were intended to show American support for Israel, for the Jewish people, for our Biblical heritage and Feasts, for our ties to this land, for our technological progress and even for Zionism. He jokingly described the “apparent differences” between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu as something that was planned in order to provide material for the writers of a popular Israeli TV program and handled a heckler in his student audience, by saying that this, too, was planned so that he could feel at home. 

He seemed to pull out all the stops and made every effort to “charm” the people of Israel, whose attitude towards him, on the whole, until then, was one of distrust. There are valid reasons for that attitude, going back to the beginning of his first administration and his first visit to this region, when he by-passed Israel, endorsed the “Palestinian” rhetoric and bowed (literally) to the Muslim world. He added insult to injury, as he condemned Israel’s actions, treated P.M. Netanyahu with disdain and disrespect and made demands to freeze settlement construction, even in suburbs of East Jerusalem that were primarily Jewish areas. And, adding insult to injury, he totally ignored our Biblical and historical ties to this land during his famous Cairo speech in 2009.

Now, at the beginning of his second term, in his first trip abroad, he came to Israel, purportedly to speak to the people. In so doing, it appeared as though he was trying to turn the clock back and “undo”, to the extent possible, his sins of the past. His public communications here, from the time he stepped off the plane, until his departure, went beyond what many referred to as “charm”. There was a sense in which his audiences were mesmerized and captivated by his charisma and his efforts to show his friendship and support to the people of Israel. He referred to the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as an eternal, unbreakable alliance. Indeed, Israel played this up as well, giving an operational name to this visit, namely “Unbreakable Alliance”. But, this is the English designation. The Hebrew designation is “Alliance Between, or Of, Nations”. There is a clear difference between the two of them.

There also was a major difference in the attitude of “officialdom” here during Obama’s visit. The emphasis was on the relationship with the man, Obama, rather than with the U.S. It was as if the importance of this visit was the person of Barack Hussein Obama, rather than the “alliance between our two nations”. And Obama soaked it all in and played his part to the hilt. 

But, the part that he played reflected the position that he, and U.S. officialdom, espouse, namely: stop the settlement expansion and resurrect the dead “peace process” to enable the implementation of the “two-state solution”, all at the expense of Israel. While addressing a selective student audience at Israel’s International Convention Center, he was applauded numerous times. Almost everything he said found favor with this audience. But, after the humor, the jokes and all the nice words that hit all of the right spots, he got to the heart of the matter: “Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, “Palestinians” have a right to be a free people in their own land.” That’s the long and the short of it. Your history, your ties to this land for millennia, has a limited geographical area. It does not include “their [the ‘Palestinian’s”]) land“. The message was actually a double one, with each part intended for its particular audience, Israeli and “Palestinian”. It was Obama’s way of addressing his student audience with the “two-state solution” situation and he urged his young listeners to act, so as to influence our leadership to get on with the program, as he sees it. It was a classic “yes, we can” speech. The first problem, of course, lies in the erroneous premise that “their land” is being occupied by Israel. This faulty premise and the arguments that flow from it, have been addressed time and again by me, as well as by others. A lie that is repeated often enough and loudly enough tend to gain credibility, even by those who made up the lie. The second, even if the premise were true, is that the “Palestinians” have not come to the same conclusion regarding a “two States for two peoples” solution. All efforts to pursue the unachievable is like building a house on sand, which will not stand when the storms come.

I could not help but notice the difference in the way Obama related to former Prime Ministers of Israel, whom he referred to with respect, and the casual way, during his speech, in which he referred to Netanyahu, relating to him as “my friend Bibi”, rather than as the Prime Minister of the nation who hosted his visit. It was a polished speech. It was specific and it was addressed to the next generation of potential leaders of this country. When it was all over, we realized that very little, if anything, has changed regarding Obama’s world view of the Middle East situation.

Lest we tend to over-react, let’s consider some additional factors, namely: As the head of state of the most influential country in the world, he chose not to address the representative body of leaders of the State of Israel, the Knesset. Rather, he chose to take his message directly to “the people”, in this case, university students. He did not visit the Western Wall, nor the Temple Mount  (regarding the latter, the “Palestinians” issued specific directives for him, what he could and could not do), undoubtedly to avoid a confrontation or to create the impression that U.S. policy (which treats those locations as “disputed” areas) has in any way changed. It should be recalled that the university students who were invited to hear Obama did not include students from Ariel University, which is “over the Green Line” and, therefore, is considered by U.S. officialdom as being in “occupied territory”. So, on the surface of things, at first it appeared that this was going to be “a change we could live with”. But, when all the joking was put aside and the smoke cleared, we understood that the purpose of his trip was to further his agenda to divide Israel and scatter our inhabitants. Really, the more things seemed to change, the more it became obvious that not only did everything remain the same, they seemed to get worse.

Obama is sending in his new Secretary of State to deal with the “diplomacy” – if we can use that word – that will be required to implement Obama’s desire to bring about an end of the Arab-Israeli conflict during his second term in office. The primary question is: From which areas will we be requested to withdraw – the ’67 cease-fire lines, or the totally indefensible 1949 borders? Neither one will be good for Israel. The secondary questions flow from the first: What is the motivation, at this juncture, to agree to push negotiations with the “Palestinians” to get them to “negotiate” with us, as if we didn’t make the effort over the years? And what price do we have to pay?

Even though most Israelis would affirm that we cannot entrust our security to any other country, it would seem that the clear motivation for Netanyahu’s actions is the U.S. promise of backing of Israel vis-a-vis Iran. There is still no clear U.S. decision regarding a time-table for dealing with Iran. Obama’s policy of continuing with diplomatic efforts is still the one that prevails, although, once again, Obama made it clear that if diplomacy fails, all options are still on the table, an argument that has been repeated ad nauseum. At this point, Netanyahu may have been satisfied with a promise of U.S. support, both in terms of military supplies and manpower, when Israel decides that it can no longer wait for U.S. diplomacy to work. There are also concerns that U.S. diplomatic efforts may result in a compromise, that will allow Iran to accomplish its goals even more quickly, by developing medium-enriched uranium. The clock is running and if action is not taken fairly soon, it will be too late to shut off the alarm. Everyone will point a finger at the U.S., and Obama, for their failure to act and for allowing the world to be placed in jeopardy. I realize that it is not the sole concern of the U.S. and that other countries around the world will share in the blame of allowing a nuclear Iran to threaten everyone’s existence. But, world leaders need to lead and take the initiative, which includes risks. If they don’t, history will hold them accountable for their failures. 

Friends encourage one another and do not place conditions on their friendship. So, after all the nice ego-building words of encouragement and support in public, what really counts is the relationship that exists when the parties are out of the lime light.

Only days after Mr. Obama left our territory, a decision was made by Israel to the renewal of our monthly tax revenue transfers to the “Palestinian” Authority, which is said to help it to relieve its financial crisis. Is this one of the “confidence building measures” that the president encouraged us to undertake? What about our own financial crisis? The new Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid party) remarked shortly after assuming office that he didn’t realize just how serious our own financial situation is. He said: “The picture that is gradually unfolding before me is much worse than I supposed … Leave behind words like ‘deficit’ and ‘fiscal crisis.’ I’ll explain it in a much simpler way. I came to renovate the house, but I discovered that our account has a monstrous overdraft; it’s ominous and still growing. We are talking about an expected deficit of some 50 billion shekels ($13.7 billion) this year, 5 percent of the gross domestic product and double the planned target. How did that happen?…Like any overdraft: They wasted a lot money they didn’t have, money they thought would come in didn’t come in, they took on commitments they shouldn’t have taken on. It turns out, once again, that the citizens of Israel always know what they are talking about…For some years already, the government has been trying to sell them a story that the situation is good, but they knew all along that it’s not true and that the situation can’t be good. They are in a bad way, and everyone they know are also in a bad way; they can’t pay their monthly bills and they have absolutely no chance of buying an apartment.” At last, someone in authority has publicly stated what I have been saying for years – the economy has not been revitalized and most of the people are struggling to get by. Let’s see whether the new Finance Minister will help to balance the budget, or at least make a substantial dent in that direction. 

Clearly, the discussions that took place between the two leaders behind closed doors had to be of considerable significance to cause P.M. Netanyahu to agree, at this time, to renew giving our tax money to the P.A. and to apologize to the Turkish Prime Minister for the events that resulted in the deaths of Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara 3 years ago.

P.M. Netanyahu apologizes to P.M. Erdoğan.
It was not exactly a ” let’s kiss and make up” situation. Nor was it an “I’m sorry for what happened, let’s get on with life” situation, which brought about Netanyahu’s willingness to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdoğan (pronounced Erdwan). The crisis between Israel and Turkey began in May, 2010, when the Mavi Marmara left Turkey in an effort to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The ship was stopped at sea and its purportedly peaceful passengers attacked Israeli commandos, who boarded the ship, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish activists. Even though an international board of inquiry determined that Israel was legally justified in its actions, Erdoğan demanded: an official apology; the lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza, and compensation for the families of the Turkish activists who were killed. Israel had refused to consent to those demands, which resulted in a complete breakdown of relations between the two countries. That is, until the last moments of Obama’s visit to Israel.

As the two leaders proceeded to the airport last Friday, Netanyahu phoned Erdoğan and when the conversation was over, Netanyahu expressed regret over the deterioration in the relations between the two countries and “apologized for operational mistakes aboard the Mavi Marmara”. This met Turkey’s demand for a “formal declaration”, beyond a mere statement of regret over what happened. But, it was a private, not a public declaration. But, Netanyahu went beyond apologizing and agreed to provide compensation to the families of the Turkish activists who were killed. In all likelihood, a compensation “fund” will be set up and the compensation will be paid to it and later transferred to the families. The lifting of the naval blockade was not agreed to. I suppose we should be thankful for that. There was not the slightest reciprocity from Erdoğan, for his comments a few weeks ago condemning Zionism, saying that it was a “crime against humanity”.

As expected, the Netanyahu’s apology and agreement, in principle, to provide compensation, drew comments from all sides of the political spectrum, both positive and negative. On the whole, the political left approved, while the political right disapproved, with certain exceptions. Those who lauded his actions aligned themselves with the argument that he acted in the “national interest”. This is the official line taken by the Prime Minister’s Office, which claimed that the disintegration situation in Syria required “regional coordination” that was “demanded” by the U.S. It should be pointed out that the U.S. had been trying to get Turkey into the picture, but its efforts were rebuked by Turkey, who said that the rift between it and Israel was too great to allow it to work together with us in dealing with the Syrian crisis. 

Another official in the Prime Minister’s Office said that the apology came about “from an understanding and desire to end the crisis with Turkey, and [… because] in the Middle East, the relationship between us [Israel] and Turkey is of great significance in regard to Syria, but not just in that regard”, at the same time denying that it was the result of U.S. pressure. An official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office included the following:

“[Prime Minister] Netanyahu said he had seen Erdoğan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper {in which Erdoğan clarified his ‘Zionism is a crime against humanity’ statement}   and appreciated his words. He made clear that the tragic outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident was not intended by Israel and that Israel regrets the loss of human life and injury. In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the Prime Minister expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/non-liability.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into the ‘Palestinian’ territories, including Gaza, and that this would continue as long as calm prevailed.”

Apparently, it was not believed that the above official statement was enough, so Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page that “before Shabbat, I spoke to the prime minister of Turkey. The changing reality around us forces us to constantly re-evaluate our relationships with the countries in the region. Over the last three years, Israel has made several attempts to end the crisis with Turkey. The fact that the situation in Syria is deteriorating by the minute was a key consideration in my decision. Syria is disintegrating, and its enormous reserves of advanced weapons are beginning to fall into various hands. The biggest danger is if terrorist organizations were to obtain Syria’s chemical weapons. It is important for Israel and Turkey, both of which border Syria, to be able to communicate with one another, and it is also important to communicate in the face of other regional challenges. In addition, U.S. President Obama’s visit, together with Secretary of State Kerry, created a diplomatic opportunity to end the crisis. Therefore, toward the end of the American president’s visit, I decided to call the Turkish prime minister and resolve the conflict, repairing the relations between the two countries.”

Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, was on the positive side of those who commented on the agreement with Turkey, calling it “extremely important”. He added: “It is important to remember the past, to learn from it and draw conclusions, but don’t look back like Lot’s wife, who remained planted in place, but rather look forward. When you look at the region, there is no doubt that tightening regional relations have strategic implications. The prime minister was wise to mend this relationship, which can influence our ability to handle challenges…. There are those who misinterpret the influence that this has on the IDF. I fully support any soldier anywhere as long as they use their judgment and abide by our values. Aboard the Mavi Marmara, the operation was carried out with determination and value-driven professionalism. Any other army in the same situation that the IDF fighters were in would have ended up with dozens of fatalities. The commandos acted professionally. They, too, understand that the remarks made about them serve a strategic purpose.”

Let’s consider for a moment the above two statements. On the one hand, the P.M.’s office said that the apology was due to “operational mistakes”. On the other hand, the IDF Chief of Staff said that the commandos carried out the operation “with determination and value-driven professionalism”, but added that the official “remarks made about them serve a strategic purpose”. So, if there were “operational mistakes”, it had to relate to planning and preparation for boarding the Mavi Marmara and not to the actions of the IDF commandos who boarded the ship and who acted in self-defense when they were attacked, resulting in some of them being seriously wounded.

Politics once again played its role in international affairs, this time bringing further injury to the IDF commandos who were involved in the Mavi Marmara incident. One of them who was interviewed had this to say: “The apology of the Prime Minister hurt me and I am sure also [hurt] many of my friends…I don’t want to get into the question whether it was necessary to apologize for political reasons. The fact that they claimed that there were “operational failures” is spitting in our faces as fighters sent to perform a mission. We did everything in order not to hurt innocent people, and we encountered there not violence – what was there was simply terrorism. I hope they clarify this point, because it really can damage motivation to join the commandos.”

This statement really strikes at the heart of the feelings and attitude of those who were commanded to board the Mavi Marmara. The ship violated international law and it sought to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Those who were aboard the ship were supposedly on a “peaceful” mission, but the realities revealed otherwise. They were on a political mission that was intended to embarrass Israel in the international community, who needed very little persuasion to condemn Israel. Among the many things which characterize Israel’s combat soldiers is a high degree of motivation. If that is removed from the equation, our effectiveness would be considerably diminished and our security would be severely compromised. Our soldiers should not be made pawns for political expediency. The realities of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East should speak for themselves and should act as catalysts to bring about cooperation and working relationships between those who have common interests in the region.

Israel and Turkey are both threatened by the regional upheavals. In the last three years, since the Mavi Marmara incident, we have seen the “Arab Spring” turn into the “Arab Winter”, with the Muslim Brotherhood coming into power and influence in neighboring countries. The civil war in Syria has left over 60,000 people dead and the overflow of that war could quickly affect Lebanon and Jordan, as well as Turkey, all of whom share a border with Syria, as does Israel. So, there are mutual concerns that should enabled Turkey and Israel to mend their differences, without causing Israel national and international embarrassment. 

What seems to be overlooked in the situation is that despite the diplomatic rift between our two countries, our financial ties continued over this time to prosper. Tourism to Turkey may have suffered, but this is likely to change before too long. But, what seemed to be missing from the picture is a reality that Erdoğan needs political friends in the region, many of whom he lost when misinterpreting the Syrian situation. He does not know how to deal with the threat of unconventional weapons being funneled into the hands of terrorist groups and does not know how to prevent Syria from falling into the hands of radical jihadist elements when the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad comes crumbling down. He does not know how to deal with the increase in Kurdish activity in Syria and the gap between Turkey and Iran has widened, as both seek to gain a foothold in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as gain influence over the “Palestinians”. So, in a real sense, Israel is its most natural ally. Even though they don’t have the same goals, in many respects they share the same concerns. They could have reconciled their differences in an effort to work on mutually-shared interests, but Erdoğan would not consider it until now. Maybe he didn’t even want to end the crisis between the two countries, as his anti-Israel rhetoric grew bolder and more pronounced with time. Perhaps he was guided and motivated by a desire to re-establish the Ottoman Empire, with himself at its head. 

There are those who would argue that there was no political arm-twisting taking place in the remaining hours before Obama left Israel. They are entitled to their point of view. I see it totally differently. We admitted doing wrong, when we were officially justified in acting to protect the country. In this area, honor carries a lot of weight. It will prevent someone from apologizing and from compromising, even when absolutely necessary. One who attains honor usually does so at the expense of the one doing the honoring, who is seen as losing honor and prestige. What happened last Friday resulted in Turkey being honored and Israel losing honor from an Islamist perspective. It will affect all future discussions and/or negotiations with all of our neighbors in the future.

What is the compensation that is being demanded by Turkey? Reportedly, the amount is $1 million for each of the nine families of the activists who were killed, while Israel is said to be willing to pay $100,000 per family. We acted in self-defense and now we are being asked to pay for being successful? How many more flotillas will be sent to break our naval blockade? How many more activists will be on board? How many more crises will we have to face … and with how many different countries who oppose the blockade? Only time will tell.

The situation in Syria is deteriorating.
Syrian gunmen opened fire at an IDF jeep on our northern border over the week-end. When it happened the second time, Israel responded, destroying the Syrian outpost with precision fire. Israel’s new Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said that the Syrian fire was a “violation of Israel’s sovereignty [and that we] take the fact that Syrian shots were fired at an IDF patrol in Israeli territory last night and this morning very seriously”, adding that “Any…fire from the Syrian side will be answered immediately by silencing the sources of fire when we identify them.”

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official reported on Army Radio that sometimes the fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces take place not far from Israeli lines. “At times, shells or bullets are fired at Israel. Usually the shooting (from Syria) is not deliberate, but it doesn’t matter…Israel should not be the target of any attack, whether intentional or unintentional – because after all, if you accept something that was unintentional, that could lead to something intentional in the end.”

During the last approximately 40 years, since the Yom Kippur War, the area between our two countries has been relatively calm. But, there is a growing concern by military officials that a rebel take-over could upset the situation. As stated by IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz: “We are seeing terror organizations gaining footholds increasingly in the territory. For now, they are fighting Assad. Guess what? We’re next in line.”

Although Israel is doing its best to stay out of Syria’s civil war, it has acted from time to time to return sporadic fire, as well as bombed a convoy said to include weapons headed for Lebanon. The rebels condemned Assad’s regime for not retaliating.

Interestingly enough, The Wall Street Journal reported this past week-end that the Syrian rebels are being provided with military intelligence by the U.S. Is the expected reconciliation between Turkey and Israel intended to help the U.S. bring down the Syrian regime, without getting its hands muddied in providing troops for actual combat? I wonder.

Israel celebrates its independence as a nation – 3,500 years after it first happened.
On Monday evening, the 25th of March, Israel, along with Jewish and many non-Jewish families around the world, celebrating the Feast of Passover, in accordance with the Biblical command in Leviticus 23:4-8: “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.” 

As seen from the Biblical commandment, the celebration of the Passover takes place on one evening, even though in many places outside of Israel, the holiday is celebrated for two days, instead of one. That is followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a 7-day celebration. Over the years, the two holidays have been combined and are referred to together as the Passover holiday, so that from a non-Biblical perspective, Passover is an 8-day celebration, instead of a 1-day celebration. 

Sometimes we forget that we were not always a nation. We began as a small family, with the head of the family who was Abram, later to become Abraham, to whom God promised both a people and a land. Abraham’s family grew and the promise was repeated to the “son of the promise”, Isaac and then again, to his son, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter. They were an extended family, but living together. Like most families, there was lots of sibling rivalries and one of these resulted in the 11th son,   Joseph, being sold to traders and eventually into slavery. The rest of the sons lied to their father and claimed that Joseph was slain, resulting in the father grieving. Times became difficult and the father sent most of his remaining sons to Egypt to buy food. What they didn’t know was that their younger brother, who was sold into slavery, acted faithfully towards the God of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. As a result, despite his early sufferings, he found favor in the sight of God and man and achieved greatness under the existing Pharaoh. When his brothers came down to Egypt to get grain, they had to deal with their younger brother, but did not recognize him. Eventually, in an emotional reunion, he revealed himself to them, pointing out: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Seventy people went down to Egypt, joining Joseph and there was a tremendous family reunion. The family was given fertile land and they settled in, they prospered and their families grew.

As the generations passed, their numbers grew considerably, so much so that another Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, was afraid that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would become so numerous that they would outnumber the Egyptians. So, he enslaved the descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and made their lives bitter. As they suffered under the whips of their cruel taskmasters, they cried out to God, who heard their them and remembered his covenant with their forefathers. At that time, Pharaoh had ordered the slaying of the Hebrew male children. Despite such a command, one particular male child, Moses, was miraculously saved. He was allowed to be weaned by his mother, who received payment from the daughter of Pharaoh, and grew up in the courts of Pharaoh, becoming trained and learned in all the ways of the Egyptians, learning to be “something”. Yet, at the age of 40, he had to flee Egypt and spent the next 40 years on the backside of the desert, where he married and tended his father-in-law’s sheep. It was at this time, that he learned to be “nothing”. He was then called by God to return to Egypt and to lead his kinsmen from slavery to freedom. It was during that time that Moses learned that God was able to make “something” out of “nothing”.

But, why was it necessary for the children of Israel to become enslaved and eventually need a deliverer? Being human, the tendency is to enjoy creature comforts. Life was difficult in Canaan. The children of Israel lived like nomads, wandering from place to place, looking for greener pastures, so that they could feed their flocks. When the famine became severe, they looked elsewhere for sustenance, eventually leaving Canaan and going to Egypt, where life took a turn for the better. Perhaps, for the first time since Abram left Ur of the Chaldees, the Hebrews had a place where they could live without wandering and where they did not have to listen to the bleating of their goats, who were hungry. And so, they settled in. After a while, they seemed to have forgotten that the place of blessing was not Egypt, but Canaan. Living in the midst of a country, filled with all kinds of false gods, most of them seemed to forget the One, True God, who promised to bless them and make them a blessing to all of the families of the earth. So, although God chose the children of Israel, they had, in large measure, forgotten Him and they needed to be re-deemed the people of God. Because life was good, at least for a few generations, they were oblivious of the fact that they needed to return to Canaan when the famine ended. After generation upon generation, they became rooted in the wrong place and they needed to be up-rooted and brought back to the place of blessing. Nothing like a crisis to get us to rethink our situation and our priorities.

The crisis was slavery. They no longer enjoyed the land, they became slaves to it. They no longer found the favor of the Pharaoh, they became his property. It took a while, but eventually they started to complain and to ask for help. Slaves do not free themselves, they need to be set free. When one seeks to be truly free, not only from the system that enslaved them, but from the power that kept them slaves, they needed outside help. That’s where God made His provision. He made it tough on the slave owner, Pharaoh, and eventually defeated him and all that he trusted in, showing that the gods of Egypt were powerless against the God of Israel.

Often we forget that all of Egypt was under the condemnation of death. The means by which death could be avoided was to provide for an innocent lamb to be chosen, inspected for four days and found perfect. The lamb was to become the sacrifice. At the appointed time, each family was to take his lamb and slaughter it, pouring the blood of the lamb into a hole at the entrance to the home, then dipping hyssop into the blood and placing the blood on the doorposts and then the lintel of the houses in which the lamb would be eaten. All who followed God’s instructions were saved from death. Those who didn’t, died. Passover revealed God’s principle of life for life. An innocent life that would be slaughtered to provide for freedom from slavery. “A” lamb shortly became “the lamb” and then became “your lamb”.

When death entered the family of Pharaoh, the power of the ruler of Egypt was defeated and those who were his slaves were allowed to go free. What began as a family of about 70 entered Egypt, ended with over 2 million being set free from slavery. No longer were they a small family. In over 400 years, they became a nation and, in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, they were brought out, so they could return to the land of promise and blessing. It was our day of national independence, some 3,500 years ago.

We are commanded to repeat the story of the exodus from Egypt to our sons, generation after generation. We are to tell the story of how God redeemed us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Every generation is to see itself as if it personally came out of Egypt. We are to rejoice and in the freedom from slavery in Egypt. The lesson is intended to be personal. It’s not what happened to “them”, but what happened to “me”.

But, if we consider that all that happened to the children of Israel was freedom from physical slavery, then we miss the big picture from God’s perspective. He is the One Who deserves the honor and the glory and the praise. He is the One Who established the means by which true freedom could be obtained. It was the principle of life for life and the need for blood atonement. As Moses would later write, according to God’s command: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11)

The shedding of the blood of the innocent lamb and the placing of its blood from the threshold to the door-posts to the lintel of the home formed a picture of a cross, stained with blood. It pointed to the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), Whose blood would be shed on the cross of Calvary, to free us not only from the penalty of sin, which is death, but from the power of sin in our lives. Like those who were in Egypt, we are all under the penalty of death, which is the penalty for sin (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; John 8:24). We’ve all missed the mark, we’ve all sinned and we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Psalm 130:3). Like the salvation of old from Egypt, this salvation – freedom from the penalty and power of sin, is also by faith in the shed blood of the Lamb. It is a one-time event and will not be repeated, but is always available.

In less than three weeks, Israel will once again celebrate Independence Day, only this time as a nation state. We will do so in the land that God has given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and entrusted to the Jewish people. Despite our dispersion in the diaspora, despite centuries of persecution intended to destroy us as a people, we have once again returned to the land, in fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecies concerning them. Woe to those who seek to divide it and remove us from it.

And That was a little more than The Week That Was.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced.” (Zechariah 12:10)

Have a truly blessed week.

Marvin


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