Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Purim and Its Lessons”

Today, as I write, is Tannit Ester (the Fast of Esther), which precedes Purim.  In the Megillat Esther – the story of Purim – Esther fasts before taking action to save her people from annihilation.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Zahor, when the weekly Torah reading is supplemented with a reading of Devorim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19.  “Remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt,” we are commanded.  Amalek ambushed the Israelites from behind, attacking the weak. “You must erase the memory of Amalek from under the Heavens. Do not forget.”
We are taught that in every generation an Amalek or Amalek pro-type rises up to destroy us.  It is our task to be vigilant, and strong in our own defense.
Saturday night and Sunday, Purim will be celebrated. We read the book of Esther (from a scroll), which tells of the attempt by Haman to destroy us.  We then are commanded to rejoice that we were saved.   In Jerusalem (which was a walled city), Shushan Purim is celebrated a day later.
Credit: David Victor
I share all of this today because it echoes with such relevance for our situation.  We dare not ignore the lessons.
We are facing Iran, with which we have yet to contend.  And we are dealing with radical Islamists at our door:
Yesterday, the south of Israel was pelted with some forty to sixty rockets.  Thank Heaven, there were no casualties and very little damage.  Islamic Jihad took credit and said that this was the start of a campaign. 
They claimed that the attack was in retaliation for the death of three of their operatives on Tuesday: The Air Force struck in Gaza after three members of Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, had shot mortars across the border into Israel, attempting to hit IDF forces near Gaza. 
It should also be noted that, according to Israeli assessments, Islamic Jihad was to be a recipient of the rockets that were intercepted last week. 
It is some while since I have written about Iran’s growing support for Islamic Jihad.  At one point Hamas had fallen out of favor with Iran, which then turned to strengthen Islamic Jihad. But that situation has shifted.  What my source has now advised me is that Iran has worked to make peace between the two terrorist groups, and that now the armed wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas cooperate.  Hamas retains political control of Gaza – and Islam Jihad, which wants to focus only on that jihad and not government issues, does not challenge Hamas in this regard.
Israel responded to this attack swiftly and with reasonable force.  Terrorist infrastructure was hit with 29 air strikes and warnings were sounded.  Said Netanyahu: “If there won’t be quiet in the south, there will be noise in Gaza,”  Defense Minister Ya’alon echoed this: When it’s not quiet in southern Israel, it won’t be quiet in Gaza — so that the terrorists will regret their rocket fire.”  
This reflects Israel’s quiet for quiet policy.  The idea is that we have sufficient deterrence power so that the terrorists think twice before hitting us. Along with others, I will suggest that this is insufficient.  Those rockets that would have been, as it is said, a “game changer” were intercepted in the Red Sea. And Egypt, for its own reasons, has closed down over 90% of the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai to Gaza.  However (and this is a big “however”), the terrorist forces have already stockpiled thousands of rockets, and are constantly building more inside of Gaza, and improving their capability.  As long as they don’t launch those rockets, Israel leaves them alone to keep building.
This, too, is something I have not written about for some time now, because other matters have deflected focus on this.  But there is something maddening about knowing that an enemy at our border is being permitted to increase its stockpiles of weapons to be used against us. In the end, it is shortsighted policy, for that enemy (or multiple enemies) can launch those weapons at us in large numbers at a time of their choosing.
Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA has addressed this and called for Israel to take out those weapons caches:
The problem, as always, is that the weapons are hidden in civilian areas.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has gone much further and is calling for us to re-take Gaza:
There are reports, confirmed, of a strengthening of al-Qaeda associated Salafi forces inside of Gaza – who say they are ready to hit Israel at any time.
When it comes to dealing effectively with Gaza, it does not seem that time is on our side. 
What we see, with all of this, is the evidence proof-positive, from a perspective of security, why any withdrawal of Israel from Judea and Samaria would be a colossal mistake.
Which leads us to the “peace process,” and a statement Kerry just made at a Congressional hearing. The secretary of state has been described in many ways, but I see him as a pit bull: once he sinks his teeth in, he does not let go:
Kerry conceded that "The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen, on both sides," and that there were "gaps .... some of them very significant," and that “Certain narrative issues are so powerful and so difficult that neither leader is going to definitively cede on them at an early stage of the negotiation."
But does this deter his efforts? Nah... "I still believe it's possible, but this particular challenge, inches are acceptable...And we're going to keep moving the way we're moving."
What I deeply resent is that he also said, "Each of them [Netanyahu and Abbas] has helped to inch forward."  He does this – draws an equivalency between the two sides that is absolutely fallacious. What, precisely, has Abbas done, other than add on new stipulations?
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament Elmar Brok last week requested of Israeli Ambassador to the EU David Walzer that a special European Parliament delegation be permitted to examine the prison conditions of the Palestinian Arab prisoners in Israel.
Lieberman’s response was on the mark: They would be allowed to come if an Israeli delegation would be permitted to examine European prisons.
A source within the foreign ministry said this request had been coordinated with the PA: It was clear that this is a desire to accuse Israel and publish conclusions that were prepared for a foretold condemnation.",7340,L-4496215,00.html
I also see this as a good move:
“An IDF force lying in ambush shot dead an Arab terrorist who was preparing to throw rocks at Israeli cars traveling on Road 60, north of Jerusalem. The incident took place near Givat Asaf, in the Binyamin region, on Monday evening.”
The ambush was set up after a growing number of rock attacks had put civilians and soldiers at risk.  These rocks – sometimes boulders and chunks of concrete – maim and kill, and for too long, the risk they pose was not addressed seriously enough.  Talk about deterrence: if rock throwers know they might get shot, they are likely to think twice.
Now, to end this posting I return to where I began, with Purim. For all the warnings it teaches, for all the import of its messages, at the end of the day, Purim is a time for silliness and laughter and celebrating.
And so, in that spirit, I share two silly (non-traditional but very pleasing) videos.
Ya’alili communicates joy and lightheartedness:
And the Maccabeats express Jewish pride at Purim time. The Queen Esther in this video is very lovely:
And so, Purim Sameach!
Megillah clip art
Credit: Beth-David
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