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What Does the Pharaoh Have in Common with Anti-Israel College Professors?

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659), by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the process through which Moses and Aaron try to persuade the Pharaoh that he should let the children of Israel go. After all, Pharaoh was the absolute head of the most powerful state and civilization of that era. He had every reason to feel confident in his assumptions. When faced with a people who had no state, no power, and no authority, why would he take them seriously?

Initially, Moses and Aaron simply approached with an argument and a request. But when that was rejected, they began to use what we might look at as tricks, or magic, to get Pharaoh to change his mind — which is strange given that magic comes to be specifically forbidden by the Torah.

Aaron, as the spokesman, starts the process by using Moses’ stick, and turning it into a snake. Then Pharaoh called his magicians, or more accurately, necromancers, and they are able to do exactly the same thing. Except the snake that Aaron threw down swallowed theirs and Pharaoh was not persuaded. The next act was to strike the river so that everything would turn into blood. Once again, the magicians were able to do the same thing. The plague of frogs was also replicated by the magicians. Only this time, they were not able to remove the frogs, which was something that Moses was able to achieve. But Pharaoh was still not impressed.

Aaron then hit the ground, turning the dust into lice. This time the magicians were unable to replicate it, and for the first time, they admitted that there was something more powerful. Even so, Pharaoh was still not persuaded. Then the plague of wild beasts which does not affect the Israelites but still no progress. Plagues followed that struck Egyptian livestock, along with hail and boils, which finally convinced Pharaoh to think about freeing them.

One is bound to ask why Aaron and Moses started with signs that could be replicated? Why not start right away with the big ones?

One answer lies in how to break down prejudice, and get people to change their minds. You rarely get somebody who has an entrenched point of view to concede quickly. It is a process that takes time. Secondly, the basis on which Egyptians made decisions through magic or necromancy is non-rational and based on superstition. Most human beings are both non-rational and superstitious, so the first thing you have to do is to break down their certainties.

I think this lesson in persuasion is applicable to our current times, where we have witnessed how a whole generation of academics and teachers has turned against the Jewish State – and then encouraged their students to do the same.

It started slowly and imperceptibly, with contributions to universities to set up departments that would present a specifically anti-Israel narrative and appoint staff in other areas who would share such an agenda, until it became the accepted narrative. Then people who were focused entirely on race and an oppressor vs. oppressed mindset twisted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fit their agenda.

Pharaoh was never convinced he was wrong. Let us hope that this time, it might be different. We were commanded in the Bible not to hate the Egyptians for their destructive policies. However, we were encouraged to establish an alternative narrative. And that remains true to this day.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

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Washington Says It Will Not Back Expanded IDF Operations in Rafah

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

i24 NewsMedics reported that Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza’s Rafah claimed the lives of 17 individuals on Saturday.

The attacks come as tensions escalate, with over a million Palestinians densely packed into the border city, awaiting a potential full-scale offensive amid widespread destruction across the enclave and limited avenues of escape.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans for military action, aiming to evacuate Rafah’s population and dismantle four Hamas battalions allegedly stationed in the area.

As IDF prepares for an intense ground operation in Rafah, its efforts to create safe corridors for Palestinian civilians are made more difficult by the fighting ongoing throughout Gaza. @mcauliffe_marym joins @Nicole_Zedek with the latest updates:

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 10, 2024

Unlike previous conflicts where civilians were urged to seek refuge in southern Gaza, the current situation presents a dilemma as there are no relatively unscathed areas left, leaving residents with nowhere to flee. Aid agencies have warned of the potential for a significant loss of civilian lives should an assault on Rafah occur.

Reports from Gaza City indicate intensified fighting on Saturday, with residents reporting clashes amid the ongoing hostilities.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, disclosed plans to coordinate the relocation of Rafah residents northward in anticipation of potential military action. However, Egypt has stated its refusal to permit mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory,.

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Numerous Weapons Discovered in UNRWA Premises in Gaza

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsThe IDF revealed that it had discovered, in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza, twenty terrorist infrastructure sites including a tunnel entrance near an UNRWA school. The tunnel, an “important part of Hamas’ military intelligence services,” passed under the building which serves as the main headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.

Large quantities of weapons were found in rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives. Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that these offices had also been used by Hamas terrorists, the military claims.

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Qatar Says Hamas ‘Promises’ Hostages Received Medicines, But Offers no proof

One of the digital billboards of Hamas hostages that were taken down in London. Photo: Provided

i24 NewsIn a recent development, Qatar has informed both Israel and France that Hamas has purportedly agreed to ensure that hostages receive the essential medicines delivered to them in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Qatar facilitated the transfer of these crucial drugs to Gaza following a comprehensive list compiled with input from the hostages’ respective doctors. The medications in question are deemed “vital,” primarily aimed at addressing chronic illnesses among the hostages.

This development comes amidst ongoing efforts to address the welfare and medical needs of the hostages held in Gaza, with international stakeholders closely monitoring the situation for further updates.

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