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Michael Devolin

Gideon's 300
By Michael Devolin
Feb 26, 2012 - 5:20:34 AM

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In the Book of Judges the story is told of how the Jewish hero Gideon was commanded by G-D to choose only those soldiers who "lapped with their hands to their mouths" for the coming battle with the Midianites. "Whoever fears and trembles," he was instructed to send home. Next to be given their leave were "everyone who laps from the water with his tongue as a dog laps" and "everyone who kneels on his knees to drink." As an ex-middleweight boxer, I believe I have a special insight into the prerequisites the G-D of Israel required of the 300 Jewish fighters eventually chosen to contend with the Midianites. And it's all about prudence.

Anyone who's ever watched a boxing match will notice that seldom do fighters actually swallow the water given them in the corner, between rounds. There is a reason for this: if too much water is swallowed, the fighter will suffer debilitating cramps or become unnecessarily pervious to the pain caused by "body-shots" to his midsection. Many of Gideon's army remaining after the fearful were sent home were also winnowed out because they were not mindful of the impending combat. Only those who "lapped with their hands to their mouths" were deemed fit for battle because these men were thinking like fighters; they were anticipating the martial challenges ahead of them. These fighters were conscious of the terrible consequences of losing a one-on-one to such a cruel enemy as a Midianite because of a body cramp.

The situation faced by the State of Israel today is not so dissimilar to that faced by the Jews of Gideon's generation. Today the State of Israel is also confronted with an enemy who is quite willing to destroy her completely. And today, as in Gideon's time, Israel's survival is impeded by those who refuse to consider the religious voraciousness of her enemies. The Midianites intended that whoever "aggrieved" Baal "should die by morning." Many of Israel's Muslim enemies are of the same mind, although some fools choose not to believe this.

Today, Israel's Jews are continually threatened by a preponderant Islam whose Arab adherents are "aggrieved" by the very existence of a sovereign Jewish homeland in their midst. Compounding this obtrusive danger is the fact that many of Israel's leadership, like the fearful and imprudent of Gideon's generation, have wilfully ignored every indication of impending military confrontation. They are afraid of sounding like "hawks" in Western ears at a time when sounding like hawks in Middle Eastern ears is not a bad idea. These are the politicians whose sycophantic rhetoric, although pleasing to Western leaders, has done nothing but besmirch the proud history of the Jewish people and belie the careful dedication of the Israeli Defence Force to the survival of the Jewish people of Israel in a predominantly Muslim (and therefore anti-Jewish) Middle East.

What was the Oslo Accord but the abdication of Jewish pride and history in return for a dangerous nothing. Arafat, the king of terrorists, had no intention of recognizing the "right of the State of Israel to exist" nor of renouncing terrorism. What was the "Disengagement Plan" but a perfidy without precedent: Jewish families forced from their homes, not by SS or Gestapo or European collaborators but by Jewish soldiers under orders from Jewish leaders within the borders of a Jewish Israel at the behest of a non-Jewish world.

"I am peace," wrote the Psalmist, "but when I speak, they are for war." Times have not changed for Jews living in the Middle East. There has never been a shortage of enemies there for the Jewish people. But instead of dealing resolutely with these enemies, Israel's leadership continues to plead with them and bargain with them, as though they were somehow anything but implacable. How much time is required for the Jewish leadership of Israel to fully comprehend what it takes to conquer such an enemy? They are lapping like dogs and kneeling on their knees when they should be envious of those prospicient Jews who are spoiling for a fight. The men of Ephraim were offended that Gideon had not summoned them to fight with him against the Midianites. When was the last time an Israeli politician was offended by not being summoned to fight an enemy of the Jewish people?

Today the non-Jewish world dictates to the Jews how Israel should pander to their enemies, and Israel sheepishly obeys. Just as the Jews of Gideon's day were fearful of offending the peoples of other gods, so Israel's present leadership is afraid of offending the non-Jewish world. Today Israel fights her enemies by cover of night, as though Jews should feel ashamed of turning back her enemies from the gate. Gideon may have been afraid of offending "his father's household," but he got the job done: he broke the idols of Baal and cut down the Asherah-tree regardless.

Gideon and his 300 finally came out from under the cover of darkness and conquered the Midianites. HaShem had told him to "go with this strength of yours," and so he did. The Jews of Israel today need a leader with this kind of personal strength. Is Mr. Netanyahu that kind of leader? I don't know. But what I do know is that the equivilant of Gideon's 300 are residing somewhere in Israel today. All they need is a Gideon to seek them out.

Michael Devolin


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