July in Israel is usually a hot month, at least from a weather and temperature point of view. But, this is not an ordinary July. The coronavirus is in its second wave here, with alarming increases in the number of those who tested positive to the virus. The present, coronavirus-economic crisis has affected multitudes of individuals and businesses, which, in turn, has generated 11 days of demonstrations and protests in front of the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in other locations throughout Israel. The north of Israel is heating up militarily, as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is prepping for a possible confrontation with the Hezbollah, an extremist Shiite Muslim terrorist group supported by Iran, whose existence necessitates that the IDF is informed, determined and decisive in its actions. And, of course, Israel continues to deal with the disease of anti-semitism, sometimes disguised as anti-zionism or anti-Israel (collectively “anti-Israelism). It is a disease that cannot be studied in a medical laboratory under an electron microscope, nor is there a vaccine that will neutralize it and protect against it. Yet, it is pandemic and has been with us since we were freed from slavery to Egypt and were called as a nation.
The subject is too broad and pervasive to be dealt with in a short blog post. Still, my thoughts are to focus on one aspect of anti-Israelism that is not part of daily discourse, namely: Amalek, who reared his ugly head throughout the millenia and is doing so still today.
Many of those who subscribe to this blog may not be familiar with Amalek. A brief explanation is warranted. Amalek was the first enemy nation that the Israelites encountered after they crossed the Red Sea following their release from slavery under Pharaoh. According to the Book of Exodus (Exo. 17:6-16; 18:5), the Amalekites attacked the Israelites, but were defeated, although not totally destroyed. Moses was then instructed by the LORD to memorialize in writing that the LORD would utterly blot out memory of Amalek from under heaven. To commemorate the victory, Moses built an altar to the LORD and proclaimed that “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” As Israel was about to enter the land after its wilderness wanderings, she was again instructed regarding Amalek (Deut. 25:17-19):
“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.” (emphasis mine)
The passages quoted or referred to point out several things: (1) war with Amalek continues from generation to generation; (2) Amalek attacks from the rear: (3) Amalek attacks when we are faint and weary; (4) Amalek attacks “stragglers”; (5) Amalek has no fear of God and (6) the memory of Amalek needs to be blotted out. This is not intended as a Bible study, so I won’t undertake an exegesis of the above passages. Still, some historical data is important to grasp the reason why we need to remember what Amalek did when the Israelites came out from Egypt and the final instruction: “you must not forget”.
The grandfather of Amalek was Esau, who sold his birthright to Jacob for bread and a bowl of lentil soup (Gen. 25:34). Esau determined to kill Jacob, who was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but only after the death of their father, Isaac. He didn’t take into account that Jacob could have children before Isaac died and, therefore, nothing would be gained if he succeeded in accomplishing his goal to kill his brother, if Jacob was survived by at least one son. Centuries later, Pharaoh tried to kill every Jewish male at birth, but God intervened and allowed the life of Moses (and other Israelite male children) to be spared. Further along in our history reveals Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews (Esther 3:6), so that none survive. The Romans did their part in destroying the nation. They were followed by religious persecution over the centuries and mass murder of Jews by the Crusaders, followed ultimately by pogroms and ultimately Hitler’s attempt at the “final solution” to rid the world of Jews.
The goal of Amalek is the annihilation of the Jews (Psalm 83:7). A major theme in the Passover Hagaddah (the retelling of the story of the exodus from Egypt) is: “In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.” This is the collective outcry of the Jewish people, whose history has been one long anti-semitic, anti-Jewish progrom. In every generation, there is an Amalek who rises up against the Jewish people. Even though he has been called by different names and titles, his modus operandi is always the same: Get the masses stirred up over a particular event and then blame the Jews for causing it or being behind it. Don’t confuse the masses with facts, just present the situation as being true. Hatred, prejudice, jealousy and ignorance will take over. Amalek continues to war against the Jewish people.
By whatever name he is called now, Amalek definitely exists. It is evident in the anti-semitic events taking place daily throughout the world. The mass media, politicians, anti-Israel organizations, academicians, sports personnel, news reporters, performers of all kinds, and lay people from every walk of life, rally around the call to condemn the Jew, remove any influence he may have and then eliminate him from involvement in society. Israel’s very existence is hard pill for them to swallow, so they seek ways to delegimitize Israel and accuse it of whatever wrongs they can think of. It is a very sad commentary of the times in which we live when claims of anti-semitism are being whitewashed and ignored. One scholar recently questioned: Racism is recognized as intrinsic to Western societies. Why isn’t Antisemitism?
In today’s emotionally-charged demonstrations and protests against authority and history, we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the hatred that is swallowing up societies around the world. Conspiracy theories abound that foster anti-semitism. There is no paucity of conspiracy theories today or the people behind them who consciously or subconsciously compete with each other to come up with the best conspiracy to lay at the feet of the Jewish people.
We are told to remember what Amalek did. This is reinforced by the command: “you must not forget”. The reason is simple: If we forget, we won’t do anything to prevent it from happening again. We won’t act against Amalek’s efforts. We won’t “love our “Jewish” neighbor as ourselves”. We’ll excuse our non-action with a statement that “The Jew’s life doesn’t matter. His situation doesn’t affect my citadel of self: I, me, mine, myself, my life, my family or my possessions.” Hatred is color blind. It is a disease that affects people of every color and language and every belief and particularly, throughout the millennia, the Jew. Amalek is the manifestation of a spiritual disease, which the eternal Word of Truth describes as a hatred for God and Israel (Psalm 83:1-5). Amalek’s end is sure. It will be destruction (Number 24:20).
It’s the beginning of a new week. With a little help, it can turn out better than last week.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. (Psalm 91:15)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.