Published in the Readers' Section of the Jerusalem Post Internet Edition on Friday, May 12, 2000


Awaiting The Return Of Jephthah (Yiftach)


After failing to obtain significant United Nations support for the controversial proposition that, in the wake of Israel's prospective withdrawal from its security zone in southern Lebanon, Jewish blood can continue to be shed with impunity as long as any "Palestinian" Arab in Lebanon remains unrepatriated to Israel, resourceful Lebanon -- at the direction of, and in collusion with, its master, Syria -- has invented a new pretext for its continued aggression against Israel. Lebanese leaders now claim that Israel's withdrawal to the U.N.-delineated international border will, in reality, be only a redeployment unless Israel also gives up Har Dov (Mount Dov) situated on the western slopes of Mount Hermon (which the Lebanese call the Shaba farmlands), upon a claim that, failing such additional withdrawal, Israel will still be in occupation of Lebanon and will thereby legitimately remain subject to the continued fury of the Islamic Resistance in the form of Hizbullah. Although, when Israel captured the Golan Heights in 1967, it was Syria -- and not Lebanon -- which was then occupying all of the Mount Hermon region, Lebanon claims nevertheless that, earlier, in 1951, it had acquired legal title to the western slopes thereof from Syria, and that Israel was, consequently, bound to return those lands to Lebanon -- this despite the fact that Lebanon had never asserted any claim thereto from 1951 until the present time.

Jewish tradition teaches us that our biblical ancestors' deeds are guideposts for our future conduct. In this situation too there is a biblical precedent which points the way -- the deeds of Jephthah (Yiftach) the Gileadite, the Judge over Israel. In those days the Israelites lived on both sides of the River Jordan, having captured territory on the East Bank of the Jordan River in Gilead (now a part of modern Jordan) some 300 years earlier from the Amorites, who, in turn, had previously won it from the Ammonites. Despite the fact that Israel had taken Gilead from the Amorites -- and not from the Ammonites -- the Ammonites now accused the Israelites of having taken their land, and they threatened immediate war unless Jephthah accepted their quite contemporary deal, namely, "land for peace". As the Hebrew Bible relates: "Jepthah sent emissaries to the king of the Children of Ammon, saying, 'What is there between you and me that you have come to me to make war in my Land?' The king of the Children of Ammon said to Jephthah's emissaries, 'Because Israel took away my lands when it ascended from Egypt, from the Arnon [River] to the Jabbok [River] to the Jordan [River]; so now return them in peace.'" (Judges 11:12-13). Jephthah's refusal to give Gilead over to the Ammonites -- even for peace -- is enshrined in the following timeless words: "Jephthah once again sent emissaries to the king of the Children of Ammon, and said to him, 'So said Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of ... the Children of Ammon ... [but rather] ... Israel took possession of the entire land of the Amorite ... And now HaShem, the God of Israel, has driven out the Amorite from before His People Israel -- yet you would [presume to] possess it? Surely, whatever your god Chemosh lets you possess, that you shall possess; and whichever [people] God drives away from before us, that [land] we shall possess ... While Israel lived in Cheshbon and its suburbs, in Aroer and its suburbs, and in all the cities that are near [the] Arnon [River] for three hundred years -- why did you not recover them during that time? I have not sinned against you; but you do me wrong to make war against me! Let HaShem, the Judge, decide today between the Children of Israel and the Children of Ammon!" (Judges 11:14-27).

Israel prevailed over Ammon that day. Perhaps Today's leader, (Prime Minister) Barak, can learn something from Yesterday's leader, (Judge) Jephthah. Jewish lives may depend upon it.

Mark Rosenblit


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