GOLAN HEIGHTS: From Torah to Trump

President Trump never plays it safe or conventional. Fully aware that his proclamation recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights would shock the world, he still did not hesitate. To further complicate matters, this foreign policy about-face makes things awkward even for Washington’s other Middle East allies; Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The world body politic joined in the protest: “The U.S. Stands Alone,” they declared. The UN Secretary-General added for clarity: “The status of Golan has not changed.”

This is going to sound odd, but I agree with the Secretary-General. At the same time, know this: The U.S. does not stand alone. You see, there is this book, better known as ‘The GOOD BOOK’ to some and the Bible to others. It is the world’s all-time best seller and is revered by Jews, Christians and yes, even Moslems as the Word of G-d. This is what it says.

Following the death of Moses, half of the tribe of Manashe settled in, “Golan in the (region called) Bashan.” Deuteronomy actually references a city called Bashan in the Golan as a place of refuge designated by Moses himself.  After the Jews built a community there, the Aramean kingdom attacked. The Book of Kings describes the monumental battle in the 9th Century BCE when the combined forces of the Jewish tribes of Judah and Israel defeated the Aramean armies in the Golan where, “The Children of Israel struck down Aram, a hundred thousand soldiers in one day.”

For centuries Jewish communities in the Golan flourished. Many of the battles against the Syrian Greeks that culminated in the holiday of Chanukah took place there. As historical documents make clear, the Golan region was part of the Hasmonean kingdom ruled by Judah Maccabee’s great-nephew, King Alexander Yannai (103-76 BCE). Like the Secretary-General said: “The status of Golan has not changed.” It has always been part of the Promised Land deeded by G-d to His Chosen People.

Indeed, it was one of the very last areas in Israel to fall to the Roman Empire in 67 CE. Though Jewish political autonomy ended, Jewish life in the Golan continued to flourish. Archeologists have uncovered no less than 34 ancient synagogues from that post-Roman era which served the Jewish communities there.

I could go on, but hopefully that should suffice. The U.S. does not stand alone. It is joined by history, countless Jews who lived and fought there, kings, Moses and G-d.  One might be forgiven for thinking the Golan Heights is bigger than it is. After all, it must be huge if it stirs up so much controversy. The truth is, the area held by Israel is only about 500 square miles. In addition to its 32 Jewish towns, many of the 40,000 people that call it home are Druze and Alawites. Its most visited site is Mount Hermon also mentioned in Torah.

In 1923, Britain gave the Golan to France, along with the territory of present-day Syria. In 1947, Syria forced the Jews out of the Golan Heights, and used its towering hills to regularly shell Israelis. Children were forced to sleep in underground bomb shelters.  Recognizing Syria’s incessant aggression, the UN sent troops to police the border. In 1966, Israel appealed to the UN. But all its ‘humanitarians” refused to condemn Syria.

A year later during the Six Day War, Israel captured the Golan Heights. In the Yom Kippur War, Syria tried to regain the Golan, but was unsuccessful. With Damascus then in Israel’s crosshairs, Syria signed an agreement that left the Golan in Israel’s hands. In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights.

Interesting fact: Syria’s present civil war has created a humanitarian disaster. In 2016, the IDF launched Operation Good Neighbors which to date has distributed over 25,000 containers of medical equipment and medicine, 1,500 tons of food, 250 tons of clothes, a million liters of fuel and countless children’s toys to Syrian refugees in a buffer zone outside of Israel’s control. The civilian Golan Regional Council explained their involvement: “These are our neighbors and we see this as a mitzvah to help them in times of trouble.”

This very Jewish attitude is based on the ancient Talmudic dictum: Whoever saves a Jewish life is considered to have saved an entire world.” (Sanhedrin) This construct is not a theoretical truth, but as a practical directive that has inspired all governments: Protecting life is our fundamental role.

To apply this to the Golan, we ask only one question: What actions will protect Jewish lives?  The Golan Heights commands control of Israel’s entire north.  Thus maintaining possession of this area is an absolute necessity.

So why do some consider concessions? They are willing to take a risk for the sake of peace. But when questions of life and death are involved, does one take risks?  Have concessions to the Arabs ever led to peace? No! Concessions communicate weakness. 

Let us be honest and claim for all to hear: “This is our land. We have always lived here and we are not leaving. Not because of Trump (though we appreciate his vote), but because of G-d’s Torah.”