Bees vs. Hornets: On Settlers in Judea and Samaria

This week’s parasha, Ekev, begins with God’s promise to Israel that if we serve Him diligently, He will bless us with abundance and strength. He will allow us to conquer and settle the Holy Land, despite the numerous nations that oppose us. The Torah says that we will inevitably think to ourselves: “These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out?” But Hashem assures us:

You shall not fear them. You shall surely remember what the Lord, your God, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt. The great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm with which the Lord, your God, brought you out. So will the Lord, Your God, do to all the peoples you fear. And also the tzira’ah, the Lord, your God, will incite against them, until the survivors and those who hide from you perish.

You shall not be terrified of them, for the Lord, your God, Who is in your midst, is a great and awesome God. And the Lord, your God, will drive out those nations from before you, little by little. You will not be able to destroy them quickly, lest the beasts of the field outnumber you. But the Lord, your God, will deliver them to you, and He will confound them with great confusion, until they are destroyed. (Deuteronomy 7:18-23)

There is no reason to fear the numerous multitudes of enemies. Yes, they dwell in the land, but “little by little” God will drive them out. He will confound them and they will destroy each other. This passage is of tremendous significance to keep in mind as we continue to see the intense drama in the State of Israel unfold before our eyes.

First, we have the ongoing protests against the current coalition government and their push to remake the justice system. While there are certainly good reasons to protest, among the reasons that some protestors cite for their opposition to the judicial overhaul is that the (left-leaning) Israeli Supreme Court is the only thing preventing a right-wing government from ramping up settlements in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), or even from annexing it entirely one day. The Left has essentially embraced the argument that Judea and Samaria must become judenrein and given to the Palestinians to form their own state. Apparently, settlements in our own ancestral Holy Land are the major “obstacle to peace”. (Somehow, it is totally okay for Arabs to live freely in the State of Israel but totally not okay for Israelis to live in what might become a future State of Palestine!)

Perhaps the Left has forgotten that when Gaza was handed over, with every last Jew expelled by force, the supposed new “Singapore of the Middle East” actually became a poverty-stricken launching pad for terror attacks against innocent civilians, with a tyrannical government that routinely kills its own citizens, and uses cement to build terror tunnels instead of badly-needed infrastructure. Somehow, the Left thinks it’s a good idea to give an independent state to people whose motto is the liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea”, who actively brainwash schoolchildren to terrorize and exterminate Israelis, and whose president (democratically elected to a four-year term 18 years ago) wrote his doctoral dissertation on denying the Holocaust. The Left should be reminded of the words of Zuheir Mohsen, a key PLO leader before his 1979 assassination, who stated in an interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw that:

The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the State of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism…

It is also worth remembering the maxim of Golda Meir, the truth of which has not changed in the decades since she stated it: “If the Arabs lay down their weapons, there will be no more war. If the Jews lay down their weapons, there will be no more Israel.”

Of course, the Arab-Israeli Conflict is among the most complex in the world, and cannot be reduced to a quote or two. That said, the reality on the ground right now is that chances for a two-state solution are all but dead. Palestinian leaders repeatedly rejected every offer on the table. (See here for Bill Clinton saying how he “killed himself” to give Palestinians everything they wanted, yet they refused anyway.) For the Palestinian leadership, the “peace process” has always been a ruse. Admittedly, a one-state solution doesn’t sound particularly appealing either under the current circumstances. So, it is difficult to see any kind of reasonable solution to the conflict. This is where we need to go back to that passage in this week’s parasha.

The Torah does not say we will settle the entirety of the Holy Land immediately all at once, but that we will make small strides, “little by little”. Indeed, Israeli birthrates have now surpassed Arab birthrates, and Israeli migration to Judea and Samaria continues to increase alongside Palestinian emigration out of the area. It won’t be soon until Jews make up the dominant majority, but even in Biblical times the process took about five centuries—throughout the period of Judges—before there was a unified Jewish kingdom spanning the entire Holy Land, with Jerusalem as its undivided capital. (For more on how the modern State of Israel closely mirrors the Biblical era of Judges, please see here.)

The Torah says it will take a long time, but God “will deliver them to you”, and we won’t necessarily have to fight them head-on, because “He will confound them with great confusion, until they are destroyed.” Rest assured, they will destroy themselves, and we are seeing it happen now right before our eyes: In recent days, we’ve seen various Palestinian militant factions kill each other in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon, as well as in Jenin. We’ve seen Hamas go head-to-head with Islamic Jihad in Gaza, followed by mass protests by Palestinians against the Hamas regime. Meanwhile, the surging Arab-on-Arab crime wave continues in Israel, taking the lives of a record number (nearly 140 so far this year already). In short, the Palestinians are fighting each other on just about every front, and killing one another in greater numbers than what they can blame on Israel.

If recent history has taught us anything it is that, by and large, Israelis are able to live in peace, both with each other and with their Arab neighbours. In fact, despite the intensity of the Israeli protests over the past half-year, violence has been minimal and, on the contrary, wonderful acts of kindness have been plentiful. Palestinians, meanwhile, have demonstrated that, by and large, they are unable to live peacefully, neither with Israelis, nor even with each other. (And the rare Palestinian voice for peace gets silenced or jailed.) Only one side encourages violent re-enactments at school plays and children’s ceremonies. Only one side is willing to sacrifice the lives of their own toddlers, launching rockets from kindergartens and hospitals. Only one side is teaching its citizens to take up knives or strap bombs onto their chests or use their cars as battering rams to harm innocent civilians (in exchange for their families receiving a generous stipend for their “brave martyrdom”). And I believe this, too, is hinted in the Torah.

In the passage above, the Torah says God will send the tzira’ah against our enemies. Rashi explains that this refers to a stinging flying insect, and the word is typically translated as a “wasp” or “hornet”. The hornet is particularly powerful because, unlike the bee—which can only attack once and commits suicide in so doing—the hornet is able to sting multiple times. The opposition, meanwhile, is described by King David (in Psalm 118, which we read regularly in Hallel) as surrounding us like a swarm of suicidal bees, a most-apt analogy in our case.

King David promises that, ultimately, God will eat up the swarm of bees like a fire burning quickly through the thicket (118:12). The message for the Israelites is to be like hornets, small but relentless, making progress “little by little”. A single hornet is not particularly frightening, but an entire swarm is unstoppable. So too, Israel must unite if we are to succeed. It might take a while but, eventually, we will succeed, as prophesied millennia ago. The conclusion is inevitable, and if one wants to know how it will end, they need only open their Tanakh.

Shabbat Shalom!

For lots more on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, please see here.