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ARAFAT: JUST ANOTHER PHARAOH
A weekly column tying current events into the Torah portion

by Joseph Cox
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

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The story of Pharaoh is a fascinating tale of resistance and pride in the face of an unconquerable foe. My mother recently wrote a play that was produced that was about the battle between Pharaoh and God. Pharaoh was a man who could not back down and God knew that. Pharaoh preferred being defeated to denying that he, and not God, was God. He went down in waters, so to speak.

The conflict between God and Pharaoh grew over time. Initially Moses asked Pharaoh for only three days in the desert, but neither he nor Pharaoh were fooled by that request. To grant the leave to a man representing a God other than Pharaoh would have been a tremendous defeat for Pharaoh, even if the monetary loss totaled just three days of labor. Pharaoh knew that the stakes were higher than just three days and so did Moses. Once the Jews could leave for three days under the protection of their God, they could leave at any time.

So God introduced the plagues. The initial plagues were a pretext and a challenge to Pharaoh's power. With each plague the stakes were raised, the divine nature of the plagues became clearer, and their intensity grew. During each plague, Pharaoh gave in. Soon after he admits defeat and promises to grant the Jews their wishes, the plague is ended. The Torah states that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. It is possible that God's mere existence hardened Pharaoh's heart -- Pharaoh, at the end of each plague once again was faced with God directly. And Pharaoh can't give in to such a foe, so he returns to his old game. It is beyond his power to give in, to do so would be to sacrifice his very character. In response, God raises the stakes again and again.

Pharaoh gives in one final time only when his life is threatened. With the final plague, the murder of the firstborn, he relents long enough for the Jews to flee Egypt. However, as soon as the Jews are gone, he relents. He chases after the Jewish people in what he must have known was a doomed pursuit. And God destroys his army. In the end, God proves incontrovertibly that he is God and that Pharaoh was nothing but an obstinate man with only divinely inspired willpower.

Today, we have a parallel story.

This time we once again have the Jews. Today, we have freedom. Today, we want peace. This time our opponent is not Pharaoh, but Arafat. And this time, the plagues are being visited not by God, but by the State of Israel. This time, the story is still being written. We have a conflict with our Pharaoh, a man of tremendous willpower who is devoted to our destruction. In the past year, this conflict has continually escalated. In the beginning, we retaliated for their violence with minor discomfort to them -- we blew up empty buildings and closed towns. Slowly, we are graduating to greater punishments, or plagues if you will. Today, we completely close towns, attack buildings that may be occupied, and routinely use deadly force against terrorists in the act. We even restrict the movement of our Pharaoh, Arafat.

Each time we bring a plague, Arafat promises peace. He arrests militants. He forswears violence and agrees to negotiations. And each time, just as soon as we relax our hold, Arafat releases militants from prison, bombs our cities, and resumes their attacks as if their previous promises never meant anything.

Arafat has the same problem Pharaoh did. He can't stop fighting. Pharaoh was defined by his claim of godhood and Arafat is defined by his dedication to the destruction of Israel. As in Egypt with Pharaoh, it is beyond Arafat's power to give in -- to do so would be to sacrifice his very character.

Today, we stand in the middle of the plagues. We have seen that Arafat will not give in to our existence. The question remains, how will the story end? Will the plagues and the war continue on and on? Or will we eventually do what we must and destroy Arafat politically and physically?

His very spirit is fighting against the existence and acceptance of Israel. Eventually the two must collide. And Israel must demonstrate her superiority.

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Joseph Cox, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the founder of givedaily.org. He writes a weekly column tying current events into the Torah portion

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