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In his great wisdom, King Solomon stated in the beginning of Ecclesiastes “ … there is nothing new beneath the sun.” Since human nature will not change, the various people deal with current events is no different from how past generations of people handled events of their time. I have in mind specifically the current conflict between Israel and Gaza but let me take you back to an event long ago.

Our Torah records the conquest by Moshe over Sichon, king of the Amorites. The territory conquered by the Israelite nation took place only after Sichon refused to allow their passage through its land on their way to Canaan. Not only did Sichon reject Moshe’s request but he assembled his entire nation to fight and destroy Israel. The tract of land won by the Jewish nation was the land on the east side of the Jordan River, now currently the country of Jordan. As mentioned in this week’s Torah portion, Matot, this land was given to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasha.

Fast forward from the conquest of Sichon to the story recorded in Judges, chapter 11. The King of Ammon accuses the nation of Israel of taking its land when they came out of Egypt. He demands that it be returned. The leader of the Jewish nation at that time was , Yiftach. In trying to make peace with the King of Ammon, Yiftach reminds him of the truth, how his land was originally lost. In fact, it had been lost by the first King of Ammon, 300 plus years earlier in a war with Sichon; and as recorded in the Torah, it was from Sichon that Israel conquered it. So you, King of Ammon, have no cause to come at us. The end result of this episode was the successful defense of the land of Israel by Yiftach and the Israeli army.

Today, the situation in the Middle East is no different. Every attempt is made by the current enemies of Israel to rewrite the truth of modern history. In complete disregard of the facts of the recent historical record, dating from the late 1800’s to the present, Israelis are accused of stealing the land they live on and of the illegal occupation and brutalization of the people living in the adjacent territories, Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Modern Israel was carved out of the same swath of land, the former Ottoman Empire, and by the same international bodies, the League of Nations and later the United Nations, as were the modern countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Israel’s right to exist is at least as strong as theirs.

The existence of modern Israel, however, demonstrates nothing less than an expression of God’s divine providence. This idea is disturbing to a large segment of the world. But consider the circumstances of modern Israel’s continued existence. Since 1948, including as well today’s military action, all of Israel’s military campaigns have been undertaken only out of self-defense. Even after returning the Gaza Strip, land taken by Israel in a defensive war with Egypt in June 1967, to complete Palestinian control and governance in September 2005, citizens of southern Israel have endured 9 years of relentless rocket attacks.

Denial of the facts is nothing new for the enemies of Israel. It is part and parcel of their arsenal of disinformation. It creates doubt and confusion in the minds those people who don’t take the time or make the effort to learn the truth. It is a tactic they use to garner support and justify their hostility toward the nation of Israel.

As we enter this Shabbat let us pray that Hashem continue His protecting care over the men and women of Israel’s Defense Forces, preserve them and return them whole and complete to their families and brethren in Israel. May Hashem continue to safeguard all the citizens of Israel and its enemies finally come to accept the reality of the nation and people of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Robert Kaplan