Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Washington

       In the 1939 classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, James Stewart played the role of Jefferson Smith, a naive and idealistic young man who was picked as the replacement for a recently deceased U.S. Senator.  Once he arrived in Washington, he got involved with a bill authorizing the Federal Government to buy land for a national boys camp.  In a similar fashion, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Washington to discuss some “land issues”, but he was neither naive nor idealistic.  His service as a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit made sure that he was grounded in reality.

During his visit, Mr. Netanyahu gave President Obama “the whole megillah”.  Now, what is that?  Giving someone “the whole megillah” is the English translation of a Yiddish expression for telling a story with all details, nothing omitted, which Mr. Netanyahu did.  But he also gave the President an actual Megillah, an intricately ornated scroll holder containing the book of Esther.  He also referred to Esther in his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Ostensibly, he did so because of the Jewish holiday of Purim that was going to be celebrated a couple of days later.  Purim is celebrated in remembrance of the attempt by the government of Persia (modern day Iran) to kill all the Jews living in that land.  There were obvious correlations between the Purim story and today’s intentions of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon to “erase Israel from the face of the earth”.  But there’s more to the present than this obvious correlation.

       First, P.M. Netanyahu indicated that he was well aware of his special position and the responsibilities that come with it.  Just like Queen Esther who was told that “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14), it seems like Mr. Netanyahu was well aware that he just might be in his position for such a time as this present one.  He acknowledged that much when he declared that “I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation” and that “Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat”. These are non-negotiable issues and he stood up for his people.

   What really struck me was the symbolism of Queen Esther going to speak to King Ahasuerus.  Going in unsummoned was penalized with death.  She had a choice between a seemingly "suicidal" mission and the murder of all the Persian Jews.  So, what did she do?  After asking for prayers from the Jews, she agreed to go to the king saying "if I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16).  Similarly, Mr. Netanyahu had a choice between attacking Iran, an action deemed "suicidal" by many experts, and the annihilation of the Jews in Israel.  He never said it in so many words, but his references to Queen Esther and his gift of the book of Esther to the U.S. President suggested to me that he was ready to attack and, if it comes down to it, perish for his people.  That was probably the message his mostly Jewish audience got.

       How realistic is an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities?  Let me refer the reader to Jeremiah 49:35-36.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the foremost of their might,  Against Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds; there shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.”   It is interesting to notice that Elam was located in southwest modern day Iran and that several nuclear facilities are located in that region, for example the Bushehr reactor which the Russians loaded with fuel rods in the summer of 2010.  A sudden attack on Bushehr, and the subsequent nuclear fallout, could account for the “scattering” of the people of Elam.

       We are certainly living in interesting times!