On Foolish Comparisons between King David and Contemporary Politicians

Some of President Trump’s apologists of a religious inclination have defended his character and private behavior by invoking the biblical David, much as apologists for Bill Clinton did two decades ago. Thus, referring to David’s adulterous liaison with Bathsheba, and his subsequent decision to send her husband to the front lines so that he would be killed, one such apologist recently claimed that “God himself chose morally compromised individuals to accomplish some greater good.” This argument, writes Meir Soloveichik, betrays a woeful misunderstanding (or deliberate manipulation) of the book of Samuel:

The [ancient] rabbis observe that David’s predecessor, Saul, lost the kingship when he failed to fulfill God’s command to destroy the egregiously evil nation of Amalek, whereas David committed more severe sins and yet remained king. The answer, the rabbis suggest, lies not in the sin itself but in the response. Saul, when confronted by the prophet Samuel, offers obfuscations and defensiveness. David, meanwhile, is similarly confronted by the prophet Nathan. [But] David’s immediate response is clear and complete contrition: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David’s penitence, Jewish tradition suggests, sets him apart from Saul. . . .

[A] study of the book of Samuel and of the Psalms reveals how utterly incomparable David is to anyone alive today. . . . [F]or David, . . . intimacy with the divine was central to his existence, and the books of Samuel and Psalms are an eternal testament to this fact. This is why simple comparisons between David and ourselves, as tempting as they are, must be resisted. . . .

We need to understand David better because we can use his life to comprehend what we are missing, and how utterly unlike our lives are to his own. For even the most religious among us have lost the profound faith and intimacy with God that David had. It is therefore incorrect to assume that because of David’s flaws it would have been, as Amos Oz has written, “fitting for him to reign in Tel Aviv.” . . . David’s complex humanity inspires comparison with modern figures, but his faith, contrition, and repentance—which lie at the heart of his story and success—defy any such engagement. And so, to those who seek comparisons with modern leaders from the Bible, the best rule may be: leave King David out of it.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bill Clinton, Book of Samuel, Donald Trump, King David, Psalms, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics

 

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem