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  • Writer's pictureRabbi David Gerber

Koach and Gevurah

From Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, of Blessed Memory

The following is a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z''L. It was shared by a wonderful person to follow on social media (@K_AminThaabet on X).

"Though Israel has had to fight many wars, from the very beginning it sought peace. The Hebrew Language has two words from strength: koach and gevurah. Koach is the strength you need to win a war. Gevurah is the courage you need to make peace. Israel has shown both kinds of strength. But peace is a duet, not a solo. It cannot be made by one side alone. If it could, it would have been made a long time ago."

Israel has agreed to the framework of a ceasefire. Hamas has not. My sense is their demands will get more and more outragious. They can get away with this because all of the international pressure seems to be on Israel. The more Palestinians who are killed, suffering, or displaced, the worse Israel looks. They are counting on this pressure to force Israel to agree to something that only benefits Hamas.

What Rabbi Sacks said remains true. Peace is duet. For too long, Israel has been without a legitimate partner.

Why I Don't Use The Term Occupation

The term "occupation" tends to refer to the West Bank (which has some legitimacy" as well as the Gaza Strip (which is nonsense). In terms of the laws of warfare, areas that have been conquered in war that have not been returned nor annexed are considered occupied. Here is why I don't use the term (and find it offensive).

Let's start with Gaza.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza nearly 20 years ago. They were only ever in Gaza because they won a defensive war against Egypt in 1967. So the idea that they are occupying Palestinian land is factually incorrect. If anything, they could be accused of occupying Egyptian land; though Egypt did not want Gaza returned after the war.

The West Bank was obtained by Israel during the same war when Jordan attacked. Again, it was never a Palestian country, it was Jordanian. Jordan was and still is unwilling to take in refugees from the region, so Israel can't be accues of occupying it from Jordan.

This doesn't even take in to account the historical connection Israel has with the land.

The term "occupation" wasn't thrown around when the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, or Christians literally colonized the land from the Jews. It certainly wasn't used when the Muslims conquered the land, completely colonizing the region. So I'm not going to start using it now. I'd like to see the response of the Crusaders or the Caliphate if Jews protested and called them "occupiers."

Israel has never started a war. It's almost like the Jews aren't even allowed to win wars. Above all else, the picture included here is reason enough not to use the term. It is a word used to distort history and deny the Jewish connection to our ancestral land.

By the way...all that red in the picture? All that land once belonged to someone else. Of all the people in the world to be accused of occupation or colonization; labeling the Jewish people as such is laughable.

On a lighter note...

These exist! -->

And I already bought a pair. They should be here within a couple weeks, but if you want your own, here is the link.

Isn't it awesome that they are a bestseller!

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