The Ancient Jewish Statesman Who Rebuilt Jerusalem, Wrote Israel’s First Constitution, and Authored the First Political Memoir

Nov. 28 2016

The title character and apparent author of the biblical book of Nehemiah was a Jewish cupbearer in the court of the Persian emperor in the mid-5th century BCE. Having lobbied successfully to be appointed governor of Judea, he instituted political reforms and repaired the walls of Jerusalem. Reviewing Nehemiah: Statesman and Sage, a study by the rabbi and former U.S. government official Dov Zakheim, David Wolpe examines the career of this great Jewish leader:

Zakheim makes a plausible case that Nehemiah’s reforms amounted to “a new constitution, the first of its kind in Jewish history and perhaps the first of its kind anywhere.” There had been other codes of law, of course, but a constitution is “more than a code of law. It marks a commitment by a people to organize their governance according to agreed-upon principles.” Nehemiah used religious law but was not confined to it, proving a reformer as well as an urban revivalist. . . .

In his conclusion, Zakheim summarizes Nehemiah’s role in this way: “Senior official, governor, statesman, legislator, religious enforcer, national leader, social reformer—Nehemiah was a man of many roles, and he excelled at them all.” [Nehemiah’s predecessor or contemporary] Ezra is remembered in Jewish history as the man who restored the Torah to the nation; Nehemiah was the restorer of Israel’s national identity and cohesion. In that sense, both figures and their missions were complementary. Any observer of modern Israel—where questions of religion’s place in nationality are argued each day, and where a small nation is surrounded by enemies—must marvel at how little has changed in a world where so much has changed.

In addition to the roles listed by Zakheim, however, there is one more to add to Nehemiah’s résumé, perhaps the most important one: Nehemiah was the author of his own story. As Pindar wrote several hundred years later, “Unsung, the noblest deed will die.” Nehemiah both made and shaped history. . . . [T]he nation he revived endured in its land for another 500 years before the Romans exiled it. Two-thousand years later, when the walls of the city were refurbished, his legacy was commemorated by his descendants.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Ancient Persia, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Nehemiah


American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy