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What the Exodus Can Teach Us About Israel’s War for Survival

A Torah scroll. Photo:

There are two themes in this week’s Torah reading that stand out as being particularly relevant at this moment in time. The first one is how the Egyptians reacted to the Israelites. Although the antagonism towards Israel came from the top, in fact, the general population seems to have been much more friendly and positive towards the Israelites. It was the servants of Pharaoh who turned to him first and said that there was a problem, and he should let the people go (Exodus 10:7 ). And a significant group of disaffected Egyptians, the Eyrev Rav, left Egypt with them (Exodus 12:38).

After the plagues were over and Pharaoh agreed to let the Jews go, the Egyptians were happy to give them silver, gold, and garments. The text says that the people looked favorably upon the Israelites (Exodus 12:36). The language used is ambiguous as to whether they were pressured to give, or whether they willingly gave. Nevertheless, the phrase that they looked favorably on the children of Israel does say something about the attitude of the ordinary Egyptian in the street. This is similar to South Africa, where the ANC political leadership is loathed by its own citizens, who are much more favorably inclined towards Israel and Jews.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 91a) records a mythical encounter between Alexander the Great coming through the Middle East, and the various enemies of the Jews approaching him with their complaints against the Jews — a bit like the International Criminal Court today (nothing much has changed).

Egyptians later claimed that the Israelites stole all their gold and silver when they left, and were demanding compensation. The Jewish response was led by a very modest humble scholar named Gevia ben Pasisa, the hunchback. He pointed out that the claims they all made were based on Biblical texts. But the very same Biblical sources gave Israel as much right to the land, if not more so, and deserved compensation for their suffering at the hands of others that outweighed the complaint.

It’s amazing that the idea that Jews had a right to Israel was challenged from Greek times on.

The second theme of this week’s parsha, familiar from the Passover Seder,  is the importance of remembering what happened both in the positive sense — to be grateful for our freedom — and at the same time, also to remember that others suffered at our expense, remembering, not with malice but to be positive.

In Exodus Chapter 12, verse 26, you have the famous phrase, “It will come to pass when your children ask you what this celebration is about you will say that it is because God passed over our houses when he plagued the Egyptians and gave us our freedom.”

The idea of teaching one’s children is repeated in Exodus Chapter 13:8 — “You should teach your son that this was why God took us out of Egypt.” Four times this is mentioned in connection with Pesach, and this is the origin of four sons on the Seder night asking the four questions. Similarly, in the Shemah we repeat that “you must teach your children” and make sure that they carry on the tradition.

It is one of the saddest aspects of Jewish life that throughout history, so many Jews either turned against the religion or tried to escape from it. A very significant proportion of Jews living in the Diaspora have joined the campaign against the right of the Jews to have a homeland. In most cases, it is because they simply know nothing about Judaism. They never received a proper Jewish education or the beauty of our tradition. They were never taught Jewish history. It is unsurprising therefore that they see no reason to assert a Jewish identity and, on the contrary, have more in common with the prevailing social and intellectual fashions than they do with their own heritage. Even in Israel, most Israelis are woefully ignorant of Jewish traditions and history. At least they have the language, but most of the Diaspora do not.

To defend ourselves physically and mentally, we need to ensure our children know our history, know what and how to respond, and know why they should be proud to be Jewish.

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

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

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 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

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