Is God Riding on Clouds, through the Wilderness, or on Willows?

Aug. 28 2017

Psalm 68:5 describes God as rokheyv ba’aravot, or “riding upon aravot.” While the second word means “willows” in modern Hebrew and derives from a common Hebrew root with multiple meanings, its interpretation has puzzled exegetes since ancient times. Mitchell First discusses some of the possibilities:

Of all [the word’s usual meanings], the only one that might reasonably fit is “desolate, wilderness area.” Thus, one widespread translation [of the phrase is] “rides through the deserts.” . . . But God as a rider in a desolate area is still an unusual image. More importantly, rokheyv usually means mounting an [animal or vehicle] and not “riding through” something.

In a statement of [the talmudic sage] Reysh Lakish, the aravot were understood to be one of the seven heavens. . . . But aravot does not otherwise mean “heaven” in the Tanakh. . . .

[Another interpretation draws on] Ugaritic, an ancient Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. Ugaritic texts cover many centuries and predate the biblical texts. The discovery of Ugaritic has led to many new understandings of difficult terms in the Bible. Relevant to our context is that the phrase rokeyhv arafot with the meaning “charioteer of the clouds” appears fourteen times in various Ugaritic mythological texts as an epithet for [the] god, Baal. . . . And there are other examples of Ugaritic “p/f” becoming “b/v” in Hebrew. . . . Nowhere else in the Tanakh, however, does aravot have the meaning of “clouds.”

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Read more at Jewish Link of New Jersey

More about: Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat