God, Mother of Israel

Aug. 17 2022

The image of God as a father is a common one in Judaism, found in such well-known prayers as the ancient Avinu Malkeynu (“Our Father, Our King”)—and even more common in Christianity. Yet in the Hebrew Bible, and in later Jewish texts, the Almighty is also likened to a mother. Malka Simkovich observes:

This image of God as mother extends through biblical tradition as a way to highlight the mystery of God’s attachment to Israel. Later, images of motherhood are applied to Zion and to Jerusalem, though in a very different way. And later still, the rabbis ascribed to themselves the status of motherhood by way of their work as Torah teachers. They believed that such teaching was a life-giving act which guaranteed the survival of the Jewish people. In other words, from ancient times to the early Common Era, the experience of motherhood was central to the understanding of what it meant to be a Jew.

Some biblical authors home in on the image of God specifically as a nursing mother. The author of Isaiah 49, for example, has God say to the Judeans, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15). The writer of this verse understood that a nursing mother and her child are bonded by the mother’s unconditional love and by the child’s utter dependence. God’s unconditional love, the prophet asserts, goes even beyond that of a nursing mother. Because God has promised to maintain this bond and protect the people, Israel can call upon God to help in times of crisis. As mother, God is accountable, compassionate, protective, powerful, and bound to her children through love.

Read more at Christian Century

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy