When the Jews Prayed for George Washington in 1784

In honor of Presidents’ Day, Stuart Halpern considers a prayer uttered on George Washington’s behalf in 1784 at a New York City synagogue. Two key paragraphs of the Hebrew benediction, composed by Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen, read:

We cried unto God from our straits and from our troubles He brought us forth. And for us, a weak people, inhabiting the land, He in His goodness prospered our warfare. You have restored us our inheritance from the hands of aliens and strangers and given us back the joy of our heart. . . .

Hear the prayer of your firstborn son, your chosen people, who trust in your thirteen attributes of mercy, that they return not empty from before you, faithful sons of faithful believers in the thirteen principles of your Law. As you gave of your honor to David son of Jesse and to Solomon his son [whom] you gave wisdom greater than that of all men, so may you grant intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge to our lords, the rulers of these thirteen states.

Halpern observes:

It is a remarkable collection of allusions. Eight decades before President Abraham Lincoln would refer to Americans as God’s “almost-chosen people,” van Oettingen tied ancient Israel to the future of the United States, and invoked its two greatest kings, David and Solomon, as models of leadership for “our lords, the rulers of these thirteen states,” whom, the community prays, God will similarly support.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American founding, American Jewish History, George Washington

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy