On Friday, December 15, 2023, with the onset of the Jewish Sabbath in Jerusalem, Hamas launched a rocket attack upon the Israeli capital, to the reported cheers of Jerusalem’s Arab residents.
The episode was timely, for the Haftara accompanying the weekly Torah portion of Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) read by Jews around the world came from I Kings 2:1-12. It relates the famous story of King Solomon’s adjudication of a tug-of-war between two women, each claiming to be the rightful mother of a baby boy.
As the story goes, King Solomon said, “Fetch me a sword!” Whereupon, he instructed that the baby be cut in half, to be shared with each mother. This was sufficient to reveal the identity of the true birth mother, who prized the life and well-being of her child above all else. She immediately insisted that the child be given to the false mother. By contrast, the false mother was content to let the edict stand. If she could not have the child, no one could. Of course, only a false mother could abide such a cruel ruling. In this way, King Solomon, the wisest of all men, elicited truth from the deepest maternal instinct.
That struggle to identify the rightful progenitor reveals something, too, about current competing claims to inheritance. That is, King Solomon’s approach reveals the falsehood – through Hamas’ attack on Jerusalem – in the organization’s claim to Jerusalem and its holy places.
That Hamas would imperil so sacred a space, and that Jerusalem Arabs would celebrate it, in the midst of Israel’s Operation Swords of Iron, is, like the sword of Solomon, sufficient to reveal a falsehood. Meanwhile, Israel’s response to the attack strengthens the parallel to Solomon’s test. That response was not – as might have been expected – to leave a Hamas rocket to take its natural path, potentially allowing the destruction of a mosque. Rather, Israel intercepted it.
Ironically, the Israelis enlisted their Iron Dome (the name for Israel’s defensive shield against Hamas rocket attacks) in the defense of Islam’s Dome of the Rock. (The Dome of the Rock, or Haram Al-Sharif, is a separate and distinct mosque from Al Aqsa, albeit one that shares the same compound and, yes, occupies, the sacred foundation site of Judaism’s two holy Temples that have lain in ruins for millennia.)
Israel’s prevention of damage to Al Aqsa recalls the true mother’s temporary concession. For she was compelled to surrender truth to falsehood in the name of preserving her most precious treasure, only for that sacrifice to be rewarded through Solomonic intuition. So too, Israel’s action corroborates Judaism’s antecedent claim of title to Jerusalem, and of Israel’s role as faithful protector of Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Of course, for anyone observing the unfolding events since October 7, to say nothing of the barbarity of the day itself, Hamas’s abject cynicism is not surprising. Hamas’s leadership retreats to reinforced subterranean tunnels paid for by foreign donations, while their impoverished brethren remain aboveground. Hamas uses mosques, schools, and hospitals to house its fighters and weapons of war even while charging Israel with dishonoring principles of proportionality and the distinction between civilians and combatants.
As this pattern and practice make clear, Hamas is an organization that sees itself as wholly unconstrained. Unconstrained by law, unconstrained by morality, unconstrained by decency, unconstrained by truth.
It is the latter freedom – the freedom from the constraints of intellectual honesty – that makes it possible for Hamas to hold fast to so many internally contradictory principles without any apparent compulsion to reconcile them: to be both “the defender of Al Aqsa,” but also, apparently, its chief attacker; to be the putative voice for advancing the Palestinian cause, but also the prime cause of Palestinians’ dire condition; to be the would-be “liberator” of supposed Arab lands, but the reason for the inevitable Israeli conquest of them; to parade the mounting casualties of Gazan Arabs before sympathetic western media, while maximizing risk to Gazans by employing them as human shields and obstructing their evacuation along humanitarian corridors of Israel’s creation. And on and on.
What permits such conspicuous contradiction, without any sense of the need for justification? Among other things, Hamas’s ideological bedfellows, who allow and encourage the contradictions to linger. The self-proclaimed “progressive” left and the “human rights” organizations that ignore the inconsistencies in plain view while supporting an ideology that is at war with the principles they extoll – equality, women’s rights, gay rights, and human dignity, among them – is the petri dish in which Hamas’ dishonesty is enabled and allowed to fester.
But it is at poignant moments like the Shabbat evening in Jerusalem on December 15, when Hamas again attempted to visit harm upon Jews without regard for the potential for self-inflicted wounds, that its true status as the false mother is most strikingly revealed.