Leaving Our Reed-Like Allies

Our sedra contains seven of the ten makkot that Hashem inflicted on the Egyptian people. Nearly every time, Pharaoh promises to let the Jewish People go to serve Hashem in the desert, then he suddenly changes his mind as soon as the plague is gone, returning to his relentless oppression of our ancestors. No one, not even the most stupid or naive among us would ever accuse Biblical Pharaoh of being a friend of the Jewish People (except, maybe the usual suspects- those who embrace our enemies and condemn our brothers at every possible opportunity).

Contrast this with our weekly Haftarah reading, largely from the twenty-ninth chapter of Yechezkel. Past blood seems to be forgotten as the Jews turn to Egypt to defend them from the all-powerful Babylonian Army heading their way to conquer Israel. This ultimately ends in their demise, as the Egyptians abandon their Jewish neighbors in their time of need, leaving them virtually defenseless against Nebuchadnezzar’s onslaught, and effectively causing the first churban.

Jumping back a few months, as the Jewish leaders were sitting and deciding whether or not to enlist the help of their neighbors to the South, Hashem comes to Yechezkel in a vision and tells him to warn the leadership against partnering with Egypt. He foresees a terrible fate for the Egyptians, as punishment for their planned abandonment of their Jewish allies, calling them:

מִשְׁעֶנֶת קָנֶה לְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל… בְּתָפְשָׂם בְּךָ בַכַּף תֵּרוֹץ וּבָקַעְתָּ לָהֶם כָּל כָּתֵף וּבְהִשָּׁעֲנָם עָלֶיךָ תִּשָּׁבֵר

A staff of reeds to the House of Israel… when they grab onto you, you (Egypt) break and hurt their shoulders, you break… (יחזקאל כ”ט:ו’-ז’)

The Jews of the Kingdom of Judea had two choices for how to deal with the impending war; they could either arm their significantly small army, pray to Hashem, and hope for the best, or they could turn to a neighboring country with overlapping interests, and purely rely on their protection. It’s always much easier to turn to an ally, giving them the responsibility and putting the subjects’ lives in their hands, but, as Yechzkel foresaw through his ruach hakodesh, it behooves any leader to be extremely careful when choosing said military ally.

Egypt, a country which at that point had almost never been good to the Jewish people, was hardly an ideal choice, but, as the Greek philosopher Hippocrates famously said: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure… are most suitable” (more commonly quoted in modern English as; “Desperate times call for desperate measures.). And, we see in the end that the Egyptians did in fact abandon Judea in her time of need, leaving her to the destructive Babylonians.

It is clear from the story of our Haftarah that, when choosing allies for an armed struggle, overlapping interests are not enough- there’s also the all-important issue of reliability. Enlisting the military help of a foreign country naturally puts the host country in a vulnerable position, and if the visiting defenders are not committed enough to the struggle and they duck out right when they’re needed, then the defenders are often worse off than they were before. It’s clear from our Haftarah that relying on allies instead of fixing a problem ourselves is a recipe for disaster.

Case in point: the modern-day State of Israel. In the initial decades following her founding, the fledgling medina had her fair share of military struggles. Some of them, especially the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six Day War, were such a long shot for an Israeli victory that almost no other country wanted to send their own troops in to help us (in fact, the first war only really happened because the Islamic terrorism and agression in Mandatory Palestine had gotten so bad that the cowardly British were afraid to keep their troops there). The result was that the understaffed and under-armed Israeli army was forced to fight these battles itself… and look what happened. One unlikely victory after another. Why? Because circumstances forced us to take the first option of dealing with an impending war, and we defended ourselves by faith and prayer, as well as guns and tanks (which, incidentally, the Haganah had precious little of in 1948).

However, once Israel’s victories became more well-known and allies began to lend arms at peacetime, things started to become worse- we began to have to honor the wishes of said allies, no matter how stupid and ridiculous they were, and give back land that we had won in battle and blood. On their forceful advice, we gave up Sinai, we gave up Gaza, we’ve abandoned strategic points in Judea and Samaria, and what have we gotten in return? Rockets, suicide bombers, and political pressure from allies to make even more ridiculous sacrifices (such as the virtually indefensible pre-1967 borders… after all, hasn’t anyone ever wondered how millions of Jews were almost killed in the Six Day War?). And, when the winds of war return, where are our so-called friends? They make themselves scarce and refuse to lend their sizeable arms and political influence to stop our enemies from breaking international law and targeting our soldiers civilians.

In effect, by taking the help of Western countries, especially the United States, Israel is abandoning the glory days of miraculous victories when only we were defending ourselves, and is instead repeating the same mistake that Judea made during the time of the First Temple. Our State has been made weak by letting her reed-like allies push her into directions she should not be going in, and has suffered when she has tried to lean on them and they have collapsed.

In the past three months, hundreds of Jews have been attacked by our enemies, the radicalized Israeli Muslims. Instead of recognizing the problem, our allies in the West have instead used this as another opportunity to stab our country in the back, by abandoning us on the global political front, and opening their countries and cultures to Syrian terrorists and the BDS movement. Even Israel’s so-called “greatest ally,” the United States, has been stabbing our people in the back by refusing to intervene on our behalfs, while steadfastly pushing for the peace process, trying to force Israel to negotiate with the very body which is calling for attacks against its people. The latest administration has even managed to turn support of Israel, until now an ideal for all Americans, into a partisan issue, putting our needs on the “wrong” sides of the political spectrum. Yet, our weak government still gives into the demands of the American government, taking their measly handouts and subjugating ourselves to their every whim. We are now truly suffering as a result of our willingness to rely on an unreliable ally, not unlike the Judean Kingdom in Yechezkel’s time.

It is very clear from our sedrah and Haftarah that military success and a continued אתחלתא דגאולה can only happen once Israel stops leaning on her reed-like friends, and instead relies solely on her true “greatest ally”- herself. We must follow Yechezkel’s warning, learn from our allies’ history of abandoning us (and subjugating us… the US did turn away millions of Jewish refugees in the early twentieth century, leaving them to be killed by the Nazis while they looked the other way), and put our feet down and stop listening to them, so that we can succeed at neutralizing our enemies. With Hashem’s help, we will see our Israeli leaders begin internalizing this message and sending away our flaky allies, and we will see a complete geu’lah very very soon.

About the Author
Born and raised in Teaneck NJ, Tzvi Silver moved to Israel in 2012 after catching aliyah fever while learning abroad. Tzvi is now pursuing a degree in Engineering from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and works on the side as a contributor for local newspapers in the New York Area. Tzvi's interests include learning Torah, rabble-rousing, and finding creative ways of mixing the two.
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