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A walk on the beach was a hint of a better world to come

This article originally appeared on My Jewish Learning

(JTA) — This week’s Torah portion is named after one of the Torah’s more complicated figures. Pinchas is the grandson of Aaron, the first high priest, and son of Eleazar, the second, and his lineage seems to set the stage for one of the most horrific (and from our perspective, repugnant) moments in the Torah: Pinchas personally took it upon himself to execute an Israelite man in the act of having sex with a Midianite woman.

The perceived immorality of Midianite practice apparently overwhelmed the biblical author’s passion for lawful resolution of conflict and proportional response because Pinchas is venerated not only in the Torah, but also by the later rabbinic and Christian traditions. So horrified is the Torah by the idolatry which was a significant part of the attraction to Midianites and their culture that this act of spontaneous violence instantly terminates a plague sent by God to keep the Israelites and Midianites apart. Spearing the couple in the very midst of their passion becomes the paradigmatic biblical warning of the entwined dangers of idolatry and sexual immorality. For this, Pinchas is not only immortalized by King David in Psalm 106, but God directly rewards him with the high priesthood and by bestowing on him a brit shalom, an eternal covenant of peace.

What is a covenant of peace? A covenant is a mutual relationship of reciprocal benefit. The Hebrew word “shalom” conveys a sense not just of peace, but of wholeness. A covenant of peace then is an invitation to reliable connection, to shared humanity, to a hint of what a better world might become. To bestow one is a sweet gift, reserved for something singular and monumental.

I’ve been reimagining what a brit shalom might look like in our own day, discounting all the latter-day zealots and extremists, the “Pinchases” whose violence remains at the ready to obliterate anyone who violates their vision of conformity. And last week, one was bestowed upon me — a more humane and constructive model of what a covenant of peace ought to look like.

Every Sunday, my 30-year-old son Jacob and I take a long walk along the Santa Monica beach, one of the world’s most fabled ocean fronts and a lively location for celebrating the range of human diversity. This beach features not only breathtaking waves and the pungent scent of salt and sea, but also every possible category of person, many of the world’s languages and a perpetual sense of carnival, as tourists, locals, the homeless, addicts, surfers, families, lovers and bodybuilders commingle, each contributing to the bustle and chaos that makes the walk eternally new.

One thing you should know about Jacob is that he is a person with autism. He has a wide range of ways of communicating — among them facilitated communication, so I always carry a laminated print out of a keyboard. His enthusiasm, movements and sounds often draw attention from people around us, and not always in the most supportive of ways. That’s what makes this story a true covenant of peace.

As we were making our way through the crowds, we passed a street artist who was taking strips from palm fronds and weaving them into handheld roses. Most vendors ignore Jacob once they decide he is not a serious customer, but as Jacob walked by the woman’s display she looked at him, a bit puzzled at first. As her confusion gave way to recognition, she did the most amazing thing: She touched her heart with her hands, looked Jacob in the eye and smiled at him.

Among other things, autism can be a motion disorder, and Jacob’s body carried him past her display without apparent recognition or pause. But an hour later, we walked by her again. This time, she stooped to pick up one of her roses and held it out as an offer. Jacob had already swept past, but I called him back and she handed him her gift. Jacob held it and reached for the buddy board so he could type a response. He typed, “Thank you. You are a very kind and compassionate person. I never forget a smile, and I will never forget yours.” She responded, again, by placing her hands on her heart, smiling at Jacob and looking into his eyes.

A moment later, we were walking back to the car, but my heart felt transformed. In an instant, the two of them, each marginalized in different ways, had given each other the gift of affirmation, of belonging, of being seen and appreciated. Each gave the other a covenant of peace. And by witnessing the mutual exchange, I felt elevated and blessed too.

We all have the capacity to bless each other, to see each other as worthy, to cherish each other’s uniqueness. And when we do, we enter into and bestow a brit shalom, a covenant of peace. May we all hasten the day when such gifts are commonplace, and we give and receive them with grace.

The post A walk on the beach was a hint of a better world to come appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza

Eyal Shuminov. Photo: IDF Spokesperson


i24 NewsDuring a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.

The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.

Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).

His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.

Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.

The post IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza first appeared on

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Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.

The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.

In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.

אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.

לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,

ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.

רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…

— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024

The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.

Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.

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IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release

IDF Chief of Staff. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

i24 NewsIn a recent assessment of the situation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Chief of Staff, alongside other military commanders, emphasized the crucial role of the ongoing fighting effort in negotiations for the release of abducted individuals.

During the assessment, which took place on Saturday, the Chief of Staff, accompanied by Major General Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Southern Command, and Lieutenant Colonel Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, discussed the progress and strategy in the conflict zone.

The Chief of Staff’s remarks shed light on the multifaceted approach being taken to deepen military achievements in the region. He highlighted the importance of returning to areas with improved intelligence to make more significant advancements, both tactically and strategically.

These efforts, he noted, not only target enemy combatants but also aim to dismantle infrastructure and clear territories to enhance operational effectiveness.

Addressing the ongoing negotiations for the release of abductees, the Chief of Staff emphasized the interconnectedness between military achievements and diplomatic endeavors. He underscored the pivotal role of the fighting effort in exerting pressure on Hamas, thereby potentially facilitating the release of kidnapped individuals.

“The fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who carry and give in all kinds of places for the release of the kidnapped,” stated the Chief of Staff. “This is the lever we are taking down on Hamas, and you are taking it down very well.”

The Chief of Staff’s remarks underscore the complex interplay between military operations and diplomatic negotiations in conflict zones. While the focus remains on achieving military objectives, there is also a recognition of the broader strategic goals, including the safe return of abducted individuals.

The post IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release first appeared on

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