Morning Has Broken at Mahanaim

A historic transformation has been going on for decades for Jews who are able to walk the talk. I am talking about hardy individuals who pull up roots in whatever land of the Diaspora they found themselves, pack their bags, and head off to help fulfill the Zionist enterprise.

These olim many times not only leave lifelong friends, aging parents, and professional careers, they embark on a journey of uncertainty to fulfill a yearning that can be satisfied in no other way. Many of them pay the ultimate price by giving their sons and daughters to die in defense of an ancient vision.

What exactly is this idea that is worth dying for? Jacob struggled with the same question all night long. When the morning broke, the answer was clear. Israel. What exactly did this epiphany mean to him? It was the discovery of his destiny, a vision so clear that it was like scales falling from his eyes. It was a new dawn of understanding that now has lasted thousands of years.

I certainly value the input of Jews in Miami, LA, and Brooklyn, but on issues intimately affecting the safety of Israelis, the armchair quarterbacks just don’t have the same credibility like someone who lost their kid in Lebanon or Gaza. Israelis should be allowed to decide their own destinies without being intimidated by anyone claiming to know best. I love to hear them whine, but their voices don’t quite resonate like the sound of Israeli children playing in Sderot or Efrat. Until we’ve had the Mahanaim experience, we are still just Jacob.

Those all night wrestling matches with our destiny can test the very essence of who we are. Yet the inner eye can see so much more clearly during the night when one’s vision becomes focused and one is less distracted by the usual voices of the day. Typically, there is no one there to tell you that Peniel is not really Peniel. It’s something else, they say. We knew that already.

The solution is clear when morning breaks at Mahanaim. The answer is Israel. Anything worth doing is worth taking a chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. Everything that is good in life involves some risk. An angry brother and several hundred Edomites stood between Jacob and Shechem and he was handicapped with a bad limp. Yet he latched on to his destiny even if he could only hobble at that point, and the rest is history.

Armed with little more than a vision of the night, Israel has had almost nothing but handicaps. We were highly inconvenienced by having to restore our ancient glory in a land that had been settled by a hostile people hundreds of years after we were unceremoniously escorted from the premises.

How dare they? Having started their calendar at the Hijra in 622 C.E., they too often reserve the right to deny any historical event preceding Mohammed’s arrival in Medina? What are they smoking in their hookahs anyway?

Our identity as Israel was initially forged on the bank of the Jabbok at Mahanaim before we ever spent one day writing Talmud by the rivers of Babylon. There was Jacob’s camp, but then another camp was there, also. That made all the difference. Things become really clear at Mahanaim.

So Jacob then divided his family into two camps. Yes, we’ll engage in the necessary diplomacy with the inhabitants of Edom and Canaan, but by now we all know what Israel really means. There are eleven sons and another is on the way. We are here to stay.

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About the Author
Yoeli Kaufman earned his bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and then worked as an analyst and Arabic translator for U.S. Army Intelligence. His master’s degree was in Educational Administration from Temple University in Philadelphia. Eli now regularly writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, and Diario Judío México.
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