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

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

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority