In Attending to Its Oldest and Youngest Members, Israel Chooses Life

Jan. 26 2021

Considering two anomalous statistics about the Jewish state—the first, that it has by far the world’s highest rate of coronavirus vaccination; the second, that it is the only rich, Westernized country with a rising birthrate—Meir Soloveichik looks to the Deuteronomic commandment, “choose life, that thou and thy children shall live.” He writes of the first statistic:

As countries around the world dithered, Israel administered the COVID-19 vaccine at a rapid rate, focusing single-mindedly on the elderly and all citizens over sixty. Reaching a rate of 150,000 vaccinations a day, Israel in early January was on track to vaccinate all its seniors within weeks. It is a stunning embodiment of the exhortation in Leviticus to honor one’s elders, of the biblical obligation to revere those whose sacrifices brought the younger generation into being.

This attitude, Soloveitchik contends, may also explain the second statistic:

If the Jewish people have persevered, it is because of its stubborn clinging to perpetuation. Perhaps there is a deep connection between a society’s devotion to its elderly and to its newborns. A country that expresses reverence for those who come before will seek the perpetuation of the society their predecessors helped create.

This lesson is the essence of Jewish identity. Rabbi Joseph B, Soloveitchik noted that “Israel,” the name given by the Bible to the chosen nation, originally belonged to the patriarch also known as Jacob. This, he argued, is no coincidence: Jacob, he pointed out, is the only biblical progenitor who is seen interacting not only with children but grandchildren. Drawing Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Menashe to him, the patriarch blesses them in the name of Abraham and Isaac, linking ancestors to descendants. We are all named for Israel because the original Israel, in joining generations, is our polestar; a nation that emulates his life cannot die.

With the coming of the vaccine, our forefather Israel was imitated in modern Israel. As Israeli seniors swarmed the vaccinations centers, one of them, Amnon Frank, expressed to the Israeli media what drew him there. “A grandchild without a hug is half a grandchild,” he reflected. “We haven’t hugged them since March.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Coronavirus, Israeli society, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad