Understanding Jonah’s Prayer from the Belly of the Whale

Having been swallowed by a great fish, the prophet Jonah offers a lengthy prayer to God that in many ways marks the turning point in the eponymous biblical book. Erica Brown seeks to explain this frequently misunderstood, and even more frequently neglected, passage:

Jonah, ignoring God’s call for the prophet to rehabilitate Nineveh, “goes down” to Jaffa, down into a ship, and finally down into a deep sleep. This downward movement, represented in the Bible by the drumbeat of the Hebrew root yarad (“to descend”), demonstrates Jonah’s withdrawal from the world into himself. He ignores, [successively], God’s command, the storm raging around him, the sailors he imperiled, and the captain’s plea to pray. Unresponsive and unwilling to save himself, Jonah is equally unwilling to jump off the boat to save the lives of others. In his anguish and passivity, Jonah asks to be thrown overboard.

Jonah’s descent continues. Once thrown overboard, he sinks into the sea. . . . He is unable to die, and also unable to live, . . . until the great sea monster appears with its unexpected salvific powers. . . . At the lowest point in his life, at the lowest point of the earth—only then does Jonah understand all that he is about to forfeit. If engulfed by the deep, he would never be able to serve God again.

The very act of prayer, the attempt to close the abyss between himself and God, helped Jonah recognize this. Our capacity to ascend often only becomes apparent after we have traced our descent in prayer. “When my life was ebbing away, I called the Lord to mind, and my prayer came before You” (Jonah 2:8). Prayer ascends to God, and by it, we are lifted up.

Spiritual memoirs, narratives of addiction and recovery, and rags-to-riches stories take us through arcs of descent and ascent. They fascinate us because they give us hope that the monsters inside of us—and, in the case of Jonah’s fish, outside of us—need not imprison us.

Read more at First Things

More about: Hebrew Bible, Jonah, Repentance

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security