Yisrael Rosenberg

Stopping Up The Wells

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

History can be a great learning tool.

Its greatest value comes to fore when human interactions reveal dynamics that shed light on the future. And in fact, one can make a case that is not the role of the observer to determine exactly how accurate the history actually is. If the behaviors in the historical account are plausible, and resemble the conditions found in future times, then that account itself can be applied to different, future scenarios.

Such is the case with the ancient Biblical story of the Patriarch Isaac and the Palestinians. (Note: I use the terms ‘palestinian’ and ‘philistine’ interchangeably in this context. The ancient word “philistine” and the present-day term “palestinian” are derived from the same source, the archaic root “P-L-S” which means “invader” in ancient Hebrew. The first Philistines, a seafaring people who arrived in ships on the Mediterranean coast, were labeled ‘invaders’ by those who were here before them. The Philistines in turn gave their name to an area, the Land of the Philistines. Generations later, that place name was then used by the conquering Romans to refer to a much larger region. Finally, in 1964, the name ‘Palestinians’ was given official recognition upon the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.)

In the Biblical Book of Genesis, we see a number of confrontations between the forebears of the Israelite Nation and a contemporary people known as the Philistines. Perhaps the most powerful description of the nature of these people comes to light in the story of Isaac, the son of Abraham:

“The man [Isaac] grew [wealthy], and he grew in leaps and bounds until he became very great. He had flocks of sheep and flocks of cattle, and many servants; and the Palestinians became jealous of him. All the wells that the servants of his father had dug, in the day of Abraham his father – the Palestinians stopped up, and filled with dust.”

Isaac is the forebear of the Nation of Israel, and the Philistines are in turn the spiritual ancestors of today’s Palestinians, by their own admission and narrative. The story tells us that Isaac was materially successful, and that the response of the Philistines around him was one of envy and jealousy. As a result, they could not suffer the success of the lone Jew in their midst, and they rendered the wells that Isaac’s father had dug for the use of all who needed them useless for everyone, including themselves. Better that NO-ONE should benefit than the Jews should benefit!

And if stopping up the precious sources of water weren’t enough, they had to go further and fill them with the dusty desert dirt so as make them blend back into the desert environment.

Such were the actions of the ancient Philistines. Apparently, in the more than 3,000 years that have passed, their modern-day descendants have not changed their behavior. In today’s Jerusalem, Arabs shower the new Jerusalem light rail with stones that break and disfigure the trolley cars. This, in spite of the fact that the train was designed to serve Jerusalem’s Arab populace exactly as it serves the Jewish residents of the city. With each delay in the train service, the Arabs commuters hurt along with everyone else.

History is indeed repeating itself. The Jewish Nation has returned to live in its original place, the Land of Israel. And the collective People of Israel, like their prototypical ancestor Isaac, is growing rich as they turn this desert land into a veritable Garden of Eden, just as they said they would.

Modern-day Philistines can dump as much dust as they wish into the wells flowing with sweet water that the Jews have dug since returning here in large numbers in the past few centuries.  But they will no longer be able to stop the flow of those waters, which are bringing this sleeping desert land back to life. It is to here that we will return as a complete nation, and rebuild our Temple on Mount Moriah as in the days of old.

This time, it is for keeps.


About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.
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