The Story of Cyrus the Great, Invoked by Harry Truman, Is a Cautionary as Well as a Hopeful Tale

Speaking to a Jewish group after the end of his presidency, Harry Truman famously declared “I am Cyrus!”—referring to the Persian emperor who in the 6th century BCE permitted Jewish exiles to return to the Land of Israel to rebuild the Temple. Meir Soloveichik examines this invocation of “the most celebrated non-Jew in the Hebrew Bible” by a president himself deeply familiar with Scripture, and its lesson for the future of U.S.-Israel relations:

Cyrus’s story hints at an extraordinary occurrence unparalleled in Jewish history: the existence of millions of Gentiles who are Zionists, Americans whose attachment to Hebraic texts is the foundation of their love for the Jewish state. . . . The American founders, and many of their successors, were dramatically affected by the Tanakh, but there is no guarantee that America will remain this way. Here Cyrus’s story offers a cautionary example.

The book of Ezra reports that although Cyrus proclaimed the Jewish return, the rebuilding of the Temple was then halted by those who bribed members of Cyrus’s court and lied about the Jews’ motivations. This was the first movement against the Jewish right to Jerusalem, and it existed in Cyrus’s empire 2,500 years ago. The message is clear for our time: a world power that is moved by the story of biblical Israel can also become unmoored from the values of biblical Israel. The [story of Cyrus] is, perhaps, a hint to a future where millions of Gentiles would revere the Hebrew Bible and the land of Israel; but it can also be seen as a reminder that countries whose leaders were once inspired by the word of God can cease to be so.

The question we face is whether the Hebrew Bible will continue to speak to America, or whether, as in suddenly secular Europe, America will amputate this aspect of its identity entirely from itself.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Ancient Persia, Harry Truman, Hebrew Bible, US-Israel relations

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