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P. David Hornik

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August 4, 2013 - 9:00 am
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One of the most arresting passages in the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) occurs in the 23rd chapter of the Book of Numbers.

The stage is set in Numbers 22. The Israelites, on their way to the Promised Land, have camped out in the plains of Moab—in what is now Jordan, just across the Jordan River from what is now Israel. They’re a vast multitude, and Balak, king of Moab, sees them and is deathly afraid.

So Balak summons a Moabite prophet, Balaam, and asks him to “curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me….” Balaam eventually agrees, but with the proviso that “the word that God putteth in my mouth, that I shall speak.”

In Numbers 23:9, referring to the people of Israel both in the singular and the plural, Balaam pronounces:

For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.

This, then, is not a “curse” but something God has put in Balaam’s mouth. Yet it seems to imply some sort of splendid isolation, a separate and unique fate.

Yet other, no less resonant statements in the Bible suggest that Israel’s destiny is very much connected to that of other peoples. In Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, God says Israel’s mission is to be “a light unto the nations”; and in Isaiah 60:3: “And unto your light, nations shall walk, and kings unto the brightness of your rising.” In Genesis, God tells Abraham three times, and Isaac once, that “In thee shall all nations [or 'families'] of the earth be blessed.”

That theme—or contradiction?—of splendid isolation while having much to offer other peoples runs throughout Jewish history, and is very much present in Israel today.

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One aspect of life in Israel you omitted was the amount of integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society. I believe the driving force towards integration has been the relative prosperity in Israel. Go to any hospital and you will find a completely integrated staff. Shopping centers and recreational areas you will find Jews and Arabs. You may have trouble getting into some of the Arab villages because of the Jewish shoppers clogging the roads trying to to do their shopping there. There are some areas such as high tech where there too is a start towards integration. The media doesnt report any of this since it doesnt fit their agenda.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (10)
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35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Western ethics are the modern manifestation of the ancient moral prescriptions originally recorded in the Torah. Is it really a coincidence if those most in rebellion against these ancient moral prescriptions are precisely those who hate the people who managed to convey them all the way into the present?

The modern state of Israel as a miracle in our time. If we take history as a guide, should we expect miracles to be universally recognized, let alone celebrated? Let's be realistic, and recognize the hard facts: Just as an example, the Saudi monarchy is so afraid of the Bible, it has banned it in its land! This is the kind of reality we live in. The nation of Israel is doing a darn good job of dealing with it, but the hate is ultimately the haters' problem.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I support Israel 100% as an ally and pretty much sole rational actor in an irrational, dangerous part of the world. I am not so naive to not believe that ultimately Israel acts in Israel's own self-perceived best interests. Articles that portray that "Real Politic" in self-referencing religiosity make me more than a little nervous. The differnce one might suppose in Americas' "Manifest Destiny" to ultimately expand to the Pacific as opposed to a "Divine Destiny" used to justify it. The former represents geographic rationality, the latter more on the order of mystic moralization.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
As an American Jew all I can say is when 89% of Republicans, 78% of independents and 63% of Democrats support Israel, Israel will never have to worry, We are hear to back you up, no matter what Obama does. And Canada also has high support for Israel and lately has been Israels best friend in the UN, so our norther neighbors are on your side too and 75% of columbians support Israel, so you have some support in central america and many of the pacific island nations back you up too.

Israel, you've got friends. God be with the only democracy in the region with no state religion and guaranteed religious freedoms for all, free speech and equality for all
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
One aspect of life in Israel you omitted was the amount of integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society. I believe the driving force towards integration has been the relative prosperity in Israel. Go to any hospital and you will find a completely integrated staff. Shopping centers and recreational areas you will find Jews and Arabs. You may have trouble getting into some of the Arab villages because of the Jewish shoppers clogging the roads trying to to do their shopping there. There are some areas such as high tech where there too is a start towards integration. The media doesnt report any of this since it doesnt fit their agenda.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
to 99.9% of the MSM, facts are such inconvenient things! Thanks for posting this important information.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really wonderful article. I had of course been aware of the "light onto the nations" phrase, but not the "dwelling alone." It brings a certain solace to know that the Torah foresaw this (in some broad way).

An original and insightful piece. Very well done.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
The kind words are much appreciated.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
You write as a man of immense integrity. Beautiful article; sobering, but beautiful. Thank you.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
And thank you very much.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
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