Posted by Orit Arfa
The fantastic story of Pinchas takes place in the book of Bamidbar, on the heels of the Moabite King Balak’s attempt to eradicate the budding Israelite nation by hiring the gentile prophet Bila’am to curse Israel to destruction. God foils Bila’ams plan, and Bila’am finally declares: “They are a people that shall dwell alone and that shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Bilaam seems to have sensed that Israel’s pride as a lone nation, with a unique ethical vision and destiny, protected them.
Thus, how would the Moabites be successful in their persistent mission to destroy them? They had to break their pride, their sacredness, their unity. They would have to create destruction from within. The Moabites understood human nature and human desires. What better way to break Israel fraternity than to send alluring prostitutes to seduce the men into idol worship? And this is exactly what they did.
And many Isralite men gave into temptation; they had sexual feasts and rituals on the altar of Ba’al Peor, the Moabite god. As a result, a plague struck Israel, wiping out thousands. But the men continued to be seduced, and some even flaunted their apathy and self-hatred. A prominent Israelite named Zimri paraded his Moabite mate, Cosbi, in front of all the Israelites, while his brothers and sisters cried – knowing too well of the destruction it entailed. Pinchas, heeding Moses command to kill the men who caused the plague, follows Zimri into the fornication tent, and thrusts his spear into both their bodies. The devastating plague ends, and God awards Pinchas with a covenant of peace.
One of my goals in painting biblical portraits, including the graphic portrait of Pinchas, is to tell biblical legends through a modern context, where a major difference is not human nature, but the technologies and contexts that express human nature. The story of Pinchas is not without contemporary analogy.
Today, Israel still suffers from a great plague – the terror plague – once suicide bombers, and now rockets and random stabbings and stonings. Death is at Israel's doorsteps daily, not because modern Israelites are committing sexual harlotry, but because they are committing moral harlotry – and they are not unrelated. Harlotry, unlike friendship or love, suggests a relationship based on passions. Just as life-sustaining sex consists of a partnership where two people are connected through the mind as well as the body, life-sustaining national partnerships consist of two nations making rational exchanges.
The cessation of violence is not a commodity for rational exchange, for the threat of terror plays on the passions of the people – fear and hope. But the “peace process” which world powers are yet again trying to push is based on the passions: the hope of the victim (Israel) that the terror will end, and the fear that they might die if they don’t give in. Today, factor in the fear of world disapproval.
Just as Moab wanted to destroy the Israelite nation 2500 years ago, Israel’s neighbors want to destroy Israel in the 21th century. And they have blatantly attempted genocide in the past, not through a Bilaamic curse, but through outright war. Seeing that they could not obliterate Israel military, they chose a more sly option: seducing Israel into becoming a country of “moral” pacifists, where she would disarm and willingly give-up crucial borders. At the same time, the Israeli casualties resulting from the economic, diplomatic, and propaganda war waged against Israel are dubbed inevitable “sacrifices for the sake of peace.” A plague has been caused from within.
The modern day Ba’al Peor is the “god” of the Palestinians. In worshipping this god, children are raised as pawns and weapons; individual rights are subordinated to the god's dream of genocide. By consorting with the PA and appeasing a political entity founded on terror, Israel too worships their god. Even worse, she breaks the moral fiber and pride that was meant to characterize and unite the people of Israel. And while Prime Minister Netanyahu parades his desire to sacrifice parts of Israel to the ritual prostitute Mahmoud Abbas, and feasts with him on the altar of American diplomacy, the people of Israel are continually faced with the terror of rockets, guns, and stones.
Pinchas was not a religious zealot, but a moral zealot. He went against the grain, taking bold action to end the cause of all this death. He represents decisiveness, certainty, and moral passion. He recognized that there is good and evil – and that good cannot "sleep" with evil. His seemingly brutal killing of Zimri and Cosbi in the act represents the killing of moral compromise.
The temptation for a hostage to give in to the demands of its terrorist is just as strong, and even as understandable, as the temptation to sleep with an alluring slut. And sometimes, once aroused, there’s no turning back. Ultimately, Israel must act upon her own self-reliance and political relationships based on reason, for the Israelites are a people that dwell alone, that are not reckoned among the nations. Only then shall we, like Pinchas, achieve the true covenant of peace.
Orit is a author and painter living in Ariel, Israel. Visit her website at www.oritarfa.net.
7.18.13 at 3:59 am | The sign for Ariel University has gone up on. . .
7.15.13 at 1:12 pm | For the community of Netzarim in Ariel, Tisha. . .
7.14.13 at 9:31 am | Eight years since the Expulsion of Jews from. . .
7.11.13 at 8:43 am | A leading military leader of the "disengagement". . .
7.10.13 at 11:08 am | My life's work, The Settler: A Novel, is now free. . .
6.28.13 at 3:16 am | This week's Torah portion is Pinchas, a man who. . .
3.8.13 at 7:13 pm | More suggestions for an "eviction notice" counter. . . (4)
6.28.13 at 3:16 am | This week's Torah portion is Pinchas, a man who. . . (3)
3.15.13 at 9:00 am | Alex Shams leads the sham Harvard College. . . (2)
June 7, 2013 | 7:36 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
The mission of the lobby J Street is “a two state resolution to the conflict with the Palestinian people.” Decried as an anti-Israel lobby by staunch Israel supporters who view the two-state solution as the Arabs' "Final Solution," J Street focuses much of its efforts on reviving the defunct peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This relentless focus, combined with J Street's support for US lawmakers with poor records on Israel, have often alienated J Street from mainstream pro-Israel organizations. The obsession with solving supposed Arab grievances has sidelined on-the-ground humanitarian concerns of those living in Israel and particularly in Judea & Samaria, Arabs and Jews alike.
But with the recent visit of J Street to the City of Ariel in Samaria, perhaps a new "peace process" has begun, one that should be a prerequisite to any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the peace process between Jews and Jews. Any resolution with the Arabs that requires or precipitates a diplomatic, intellectual and physical assault on Jews, particularly those living in Judea and Samaria, will simply open up a more dangerous front: Jews battling Jews, Jews uprooting Jews from their homes, Jews hating one another even more.
My colleague at Ariel Development Fund, Avi Zimmerman, has documented what may be the start of this Jewish-Jewish peace process through his blog on Times of Israel about the visit of J Street's campus arm to Ariel. He wonders if J Street U is taking a U turn, writing:
By engaging with the City of Ariel through an unadulterated, boots-on-the-ground, personal encounter, J Street U has taken a giant leap forward on behalf of an organization that may soon need to grapple with the waning prospects that its godfather, Peace Now, has had to face. The more the academic and journalistic communities increasingly concur that the long awaited “two state solution” is doomed to failure, the more J Street will be in need of a new approach. Now, perhaps more than ever, the only way to be “Pro-Israel and Pro-Peace” (their slogan) is to be thoroughly circumspect and sincerely committed to analyzing all angles of our current reality in order to reach a viable conclusion.
J Street U is the future of J Street – not only in terms of its target audience age demographic, but more importantly, due to its recently demonstrated onsite openness to multiple narratives. It’s safe to assume that one visit to Ariel will not cause the organization, nor any of its participants, to take an about face U-turn with regards to what they think and believe about settlements, Judea and Samaria, democracy and demography. But that should not be the objective. The goal is to raise an informed and engaged generation of young adults who truly care about the future of Israel and truly care about the prospects for peace. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE BLOG.
June 5, 2013 | 11:30 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
Please forgive my hiatus in blogging. I was busy making aliyah and starting my new position as Director of Communications and Visitor Services at Ariel Development Fund, getting settled into a new apartment, buying furniture, etc. Baruch Hashem, Israel's newest "settler" is settling in....
It is incredible to live here, in the magical and maliciously maligned Judea & Samaria, especially in the City of Samaria, Ariel, a place that is constantly growing, building, thriving, thinking, a place where creative Zionism is in full swing. There have been ups and downs, as with any big move, with notoriously lax Israeli customer service not helping.
Sometimes I think...yeah, I could have lived a more materially comfortable life in the United States, advocating for Israel to Americans. We know how profitable that endeavor could be if one is to judge by the top ranking salaries of Jewish professionals.
But now, my ultimate "donation" to Israel is...my life, my being, everything I am. Every emotion. Every heartbreak. Every victory. My Zionist contributions include getting a (well-deserved!) manicure from the Russian immigrant down the street, eating Arab-made hummus at the neighborhood joint, trying to impress upon Home Center the meaning of "the customer is always right."
The donation is not really to Israel--it's to a better world, to the safety of individuals everywhere, especially Jews, and to the pursuit of ultimate Jewish self-actualization.
Israelis appreciate and sometimes rely on American support, but, in all honesty, it's easier to be a Zionist in the US. Sometimes I think it's much easier to fight on campus for Israel than it is to buy a car here. (Forget living surrounded by enemies. I hardly think about that lately.) It's easier to donate to Zionist charity than budgeting for that overtaxed car and Israel's exorbitantly expensive gas. It's easy to rave about Israel's economy when you don't have to live through its confused capitalistic-socialist system. Living here is Zionism without ever uttering the word "Israel" or "Arab."
But for every difficulty, there's a benefit, such as the constant invitations to Shabbat meals by "strangers"; being a headline rather than reading one; an abiding sense that I'm an obstacle to...war. But one of my happiest moments recently came from just walking through the cool night air to Ariel's Sports & Recreation Center ("The Country Club" for locals), thinking: I'm walking through a great Zionist dream, a city built out of a will of stone, where just the gym (a very nice one by the way) is a line of defense for the good, the holy, the true.
So if you want to make the biggest contribution to Israel, find a way to join me.