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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Israel's Indigenous Independence and the Philistine Curse

After the post war miracles of 1948 and the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the remnant of three ancient deals continued to affect the nation. Today they are manifest in Gaza - the strip of land that accommodates a people who diminish Israel from its own territory and the capitulation to desire by Jewish people who succumb to other national identities. 

The indigenous rights of Israelis are established, recorded through Judaism and Jewish practices from the descendants of Abraham. No other nation possesses such a record or the rights that emanate from it, no other people can argue continuity or prove their lineage through it. The realization and recognition of Israel’s tribal heritage rights through pacts and deals that date back almost 4000 years must not be relegated by the symbolism of modern Zionism.

Three deals made by Avraham, Yitzchak and David delayed the realization of Zion as a permanent place of peace for Jewish people, of Jerusalem and the complete conquest of the land of Israel. During David’s conquest he shattered the long held inter-nation tribal deals that upheld the honor of Avraham and Yitzchak in the eyes of non Israelite tribes, but he was blinded in the process.

Avimelech - Father King of the Plishtim (Philistines), descendants of Noah's son Ham, realized his tribal future would eventually be lost to Israel, therefore he  requested a treaty that the sons of Yitzchak would not take away Plishtim land. Yitzchak cut an ammah, a strip of his donkey’s leather bridle and gave it over as his oath. The land represented by this ammah on Israel’s modern map approximates Gaza. 

In making this treaty Yitzchak reinforced an earlier pact his father Avraham entered with Avimelech who assisted Avraham to defeat the four mighty kings that conquered Sodom and Gemora. The pact was limited to 3 generations, but Yitzchak extended it.

Avraham had also made a second treaty referring specifically to Jerusalem with other Plishtim tribes. When he wanted to buy the cave of Machpela to bury his wife Sarah, the Jebusites (Yevusi) who were relatives of the Hittites objected. The Hittites demanded a condition that Avraham’s descendants would never conquer the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 

Rivkah (Rebecca) was repulsed by the prospect that Yaakov (Jacob) may marry from the Hittites. They sent him away to find a wife from her brother’s family. As a result, he did not enter a treaty with the Hittites partly because he left the land of Israel to establish his family and fortune and only returned toward the end of his father, Yitzchak’s life.

The Jebusites who entered the covenant eventually made two idols, one a blind man representing Yitzchak who went blind and the other a lame man representing Yaakov who limped. They placed these idols along with seven iron sheep at Jerusalem’s entrance as a reminder to Israel’s future leaders.

Following Israel's return from exile in Egypt, Yehoshua (Joshua) commenced a conquest of the land and attacked Jerusalem, also referred to as Beit El, but Yehoshua was reminded of the treaty once made by his descendants and he honored it allowing the inhabitants to continue their tenure. The same occurred, after Yehoshua’s death, by the army of the tribe of Yehuda. The Jebusite responses on each occasion was to further fortify the city against future attacks. 

Four hundred years later the tribes of Israel were bitterly divided. At the time of King Shaul (Saul - a Benjamite), the shepherd David (a Yehuda-ite) was anointed King by the popular prophet and judge Shmuel (Samuel). In response to a calling by King Shaul whilst fighting the army of the Plishtim, David rose and killed Goliath - the giant Philistine. David wanted to remove Goliath's massive armor to decapitate him, but could not find a way to do it. On the battlefield Uriah the Hittite approached David and offered to resolve the problem. Uriah, who thought David would one day be King over all Israel, requested a Jewish wife. Oblivious to the serious misappropriation, David entered a pact with the Hittite to give away any woman of Israel Uriah chose. The armies of Shaul were amazed at David’s tenacity and bravery and King Shaul’s jealousy was aroused. 

King Shaul’s armies pursued David like a dog for many years. In arguably the most tragic event, David went to Nov (the site of Shmuel and the Mishkan, north of Jerusalem) to seek refuge from the priests that lived there. Do’eg the Edomite, then loyal to Shaul, was studying at the nearby yeshiva and witnessed the high priest provide impoverished David with the Philistine sword of Goliath and 100 loaves of bread for David’s men. Do’eg reported this to Shaul as a brewing rebellion by the priests and Shaul gave permission to massacre the 85 priests killed as a result of Do’eg’s testimony.

David left the proximity of King Shaul’s army and sought refuge from a Philistine regional chief Achish who provided him immunity and land in Ziklag. When all the Philistine nations finally arose against Israel and King Shaul, Ziklag was destroyed and the families of David and his men were kidnapped. David pursued and rescued them, but Israel was defeated under King Shaul. His son Yonatan (Jonathan), David’s closest companion, and King Shaul were beheaded.

King Shaul’s descendant could not hold (Benjamite) power so the tribal elders came to King David of Yehuda in Hebron and appointed him the King and all the tribes of Israel accepted him. David immediately marched to Yevus, Jerusalem, built on the border of Yehuda and Binyamin (Benjamin) to bring the fortified city back under Israeli control. The inhabitants, living under Araunah (Ornan) the King of Yevus, taunted David’s men reminding them of the pact of the lame and the blind. David promised military leadership to the first man that conquered the city. Yoav, entered through a concealed water pipe and provided passage to the others in his party - he became David's general. They occupied the water tower and progressively took the rest of the city. They argued with the inhabitants that the ancient pact was obsolete because the Philistines had once attacked and filled in Yitzchak’s wells, but they allowed the King of Yevus to live among the new Jewish occupants including King David.

Uriah the Hittite was granted the right to marry Batsheva considered to be the most beautiful woman in the land. Uriah was dispatched along with Yoav and his army to fight against the Ammonites. All soldiers provided their wives a conditional bill of divorce in the event of their death. One afternoon David caught a glimpse of Batsheva and sent for her. David lay with her and she conceived. On receiving the news of her conception, David requested Uriah’s return from battle and encouraged him to go home to his wife, hoping he would lie with her and confuse any public identification of the morally illicit conception. Uriah refused to go to his wife and responded to the King - the Ark of the covenant lives in a tent (in the city of David); my Master Yoav and my Masters servants are encamped in open fields. Will I then come to my house and lay with my wife? In response David sent Uriah to the front lines with a sealed letter ordering Yoav to place Uriah in harms way. Yoav did not retain the confidentiality of Davids sealed letter, but carried out his orders. Yoav blamed David for the loss of lives of some of his commanding officers. Against the backdrop of David’s splendid reign, news of his indiscretion spread fast and festered among the tribes, it catalyzed a terrible decay in the kingdom.

Batsheva’s birth was cursed, David did not repent until the prophet Natan highlighted his indiscretion which caused The King to enter a state of great repentance. The baby died, David’s behavior turned (II Shmuel12:21) and he began to lose control over his fragmented nation. Batsheva’s second son was Shlomo (Solomon) who, despite great inter-family upheaval, violence and death among David’s children ultimately became the King of Israel.

The effect of David’s reign was to provide the platform for Shlomo to build the first temple and unify the fragile tribes. It was a wonderful period in the nations history fondly remembered to this day. Each time Jews close the Ark containing the Torah in temples around the world we repeat the words - “Renew us as in times of old”. But Shlomo’s reign, in context of Israel’s history was short and soon after he died the divided nation expressed itself, in all its glory, through the upheaval that resulted from the unpopular anointment of Shlomo’s son Rehavam. Yerovam the leader of the tribe of Efrayim (from Yosef) rebelled using Egypt as his base. He was appointed King over ten of Israel's twelve tribes that split from Yehuda and with it he plunged Israel into the most devastating self imposed period of enduring exile that ultimately led to their near complete banishment from the land.

2744 years passed before the nation Israel returned to their land to establish the modern state of Israel in 1948. Today 65 years on, Israel continues to struggle with its early legacy, but the indigenous rights of its Jewish people are impossible to dispute.