on biblical analogies,

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Aug. 21, 2003
    On biblical analogies,
    By Amotz Asa-El

    Interesting though they always are in comparison with the biographies of other leaders in today's world, even Israeli leaders' eventful lives are but pale versions of their biblical forebears.
    Moshe Dayan, for instance, reminded many of Samson.

    The celebrated victor of numerous battles may not have carried on his back the gates of Gaza, and his emergence may not have been foretold by an angel, but like the biblical judge, he too was born to farmers and raised in a village constantly threatened by hostile tribes.

    Moreover, the curious Samson's penchant for riddles was reminiscent of Dayan's obsession with archeology. Beyond that, the famously offensive Dayan's military tactics were inspired by Samson's deception, surprise and daring, and the courage of both on the battlefield sharply contrasted with their weakness for women. Lastly, each saw his macho mystique buried under the rubble of the destruction wrought by his hubris.

    Not all our biblical ghosts are creatures of the battlefield.

    Shimon Peres, for instance, while having earned his fame first supplying armies, ultimately dedicated himself to the battlefield's eradication. As such, he reminds one of Moses. Not that our timeless lawmaker has the pretension - let alone the record - of a legislator even remotely as prolific, versatile, or visionary as Moses was; it's just that a man who so stubbornly labors for a cause, and nearly realizes it - at least in his own view - only to then see it vanish into the sunset, inevitably brings to mind the memory of Moses never making it to the Promised Land to which he dedicated a lifetime.

    Another who lost what seemed like a won cause is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who can remind one of Elijah the Prophet.

    Not that this Talmudist was seeking new believers by performing miracles; a rationalist, Yosef is actually said to disparage the Elijah-kind of charismatic miracle Judaism now represented by Lubavitch, Rabbi Kedourie, and the Baba Sali.

    It's just that much like Elijah when he understood the limited impact his spectacular defeat of the false prophets had on idolatry itself, Yosef - who also lost his closest aide to corruption, just as Elijah did - now looks back on two decades of intense politicking and wonders, a-la Elijah: "I have been very jealous for the Lord for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant and I have been left all alone."

    On an even sadder note one can equate Yitzhak Rabin with King Saul, whose accomplishments as a warrior proved irrelevant when it came to the demands of statesmanship, and whose premature embrace of peace led him first to pardon the guilty, then to abuse the innocent, and finally to lose not only his own life, but also his entire tribe's future grip on national power.

    Yet these analogies are almost inevitable. Choosing Ariel Sharon's is more complex.

    Considering the kind of loyal husband he was to the late Lily, and before her to her sister until her death in a car accident, Sharon was no Samson-like playboy.

    A born soldier-politician, who as a 20-something commando was already on first-name terms with David Ben-Gurion and as a 30-something colonel initiated and led the most memorable (and controversial) attack in a war that involved four superpowers - Sharon was also no humble Gideon.

    Though as a commando he used some of that unpretentious biblical warrior's tricks for overcoming numerical inferiority, Sharon was a politician in the making all along. Now, considering his shepherding of Omri (incidentally a wicked biblical king who most Israelis would not name their kids after) into the thick of the political fray, it is clear that nothing could be further from Sharon than Gideon's vow: "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you."

    THERE WAS a time when Sharon seemed like a modern version of Joab - the brave, loyal, and hotheaded general who was behind King David's many conquests, but also contributed to his patron's fateful depression by killing a few people too many.

    Yet that analogy could only work so long as Sharon was a political pariah, a condition that ended three years ago. At that time, what the Israeli mainstream did was what the elders of Gilead did when their own security situation had become intolerable: they sheepishly went to a warrior-bastard they had ostracized years before and begged him: "Come, be our captain so we can fight." His name was Yiftah (or Jephthah.)

    After asking the inevitable - "Did not you hate me and expel me out of my father's house? Why do you come to me now that you are distressed?" - Yiftah indeed led the Israelites to military victory, and became their undisputed leader. But then, in a strange twist of events, he ended up sacrificing his daughter following a stupid and utterly unnecessary move made while finally on his way to the power that had evaded him for a lifetime.

    Sharon, too, had no reason to involve his children in his wars, and he, too, might have to end up sacrificing them. And like Yiftah's, the scandals surrounding Sharon are indeed such that under normal circumstances would render others more suitable leaders.

    But circumstances are anything but normal. Circumstances are such that Jewish children are being murdered in broad daylight and the real battle with those behind this terror has yet to be engaged.

    Considering the alternatives, when it is finally waged our all-out war on terror had best be led by Sharon.

    It follows that this is no time to hunt the prime minister over the kind of affairs in which he is currently embroiled, none of which involves taking cash into his own pockets. This, in fact, is also what the voters said when they crowned Sharon despite the media reports concerning his alleged financial wrongdoings having already been published extensively and exaggerated loudly.

    Yiftah was not a normal kind of guy, but his times demanded his kind of abnormal leadership. Ours demand Sharon's.

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