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Machshavot: Parashat Vayera

November 06, 2017 Andrew Shaw
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Yesterday, I got my PhD.

Let me explain how this happened.

The 2nd of November 2017 was a historic day; it was the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The document that began the process that led to the monumental event of the rebirth of Israel in 1948, which we will celebrate 70 glorious years of this April.

Last night there was a banquet to celebrate this occasion in Lancaster House where Theresa May gave a wonderful speech https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-mays-speech-at-balfour-declaration-centenary-dinner/. She opened with calling the declaration ‘One of the most significant letters in history, a letter that gave birth to a most extraordinary country. And a letter which finally opened the door to help make the Jewish homeland a reality’.

Last night there was also an LBC show linked to the 100th anniversary – topic of discussion – ‘Why is Israel still so divisive?’ – I was made aware of this show by a rabbinic colleague, and I decided to call. It was the third time I had called LBC in the last year and the third time I was put through – guess when I say Rabbi to the producer, it puts me up the list!

Anyway, I had a good five minutes to speak to Ian Collins and we covered a fair amount of ground. Mainly discussing the history of the region since the start of the 20th century and how there were no ‘Palestinian people’ living there and there was just Arabs and Jews living in the land of Palestine, controlled first by the Ottoman Empire and then by the British. We also spoke about the struggle to make peace with people who make suicide bombers martyrs and name streets after them. Everything that I had said were simple facts garnered from history books and known to all….or so I thought.
Just before the programme ended, Ian read out an email from Ahmed who said ‘Your Rabbi was wrong, wrong, wrong, talk about blinkered, talk about biased, talk about one sided, talk about revisionism – this man had a PhD in the lot’.

So please call me Rabbi Dr Shaw.

However, seriously this goes to the heart of the problem. This week in New York another 8 people were murdered in another despicable terrorist attack by a radicalised Muslim. That is the one that we heard about – on that same day there were five other Islamic terror attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and Cameroon – where a total of 23 people were killed – the Cameroon attack was 5 children – killed by a young girl suicide bomber. So far, in 2017 there have been 1764 Islamic terrorist attacks in 57 countries, in which 12498 people have been killed.

The hate is everywhere – it fuels Hamas, it fuels Hezbollah, it fuels ISIS, it fuels Islamic extremists everywhere and somehow the world still thinks that Israel is the cause of the problem!

Avraham over the last two weeks of Parshiot can help us with these issues – he is commanded to journey to Israel and the eternal covenant between Hashem, the Jewish people and the Land is forged. One that 3500 later, Lord Balfour agreed to facilitate to establish the third commonwealth in our homeland.

Then this week, he has to deal with the Akeida. Of course, we know it was a test, but for Avraham it challenged every fibre of his being. A man of chesed, a man of love, of compassion – how could he be ask to sacrifice a child?

In the end, the lesson was clear– Jews do not kill to serve God.

The State of Israel is a nation that venerates life. As Golda Meir said ‘Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate ours’. In the 70 years of the States existence and the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, we are acutely aware there are many out there who want to hate, to vilify, to destroy. Who want to make a state of death where there should be state of life.

Balfour reminds what goodness can come from the creation of a state, a state that is there for the Jewish people but has also given so much to the world. We see what happens when the enemies of the Jewish people and the western world get what they want; they bring terror, death and destruction.

I thank God daily that the Torah extols us to ‘Uvcharta b’chaim’ Choose life, because that is what I believe the Balfour declaration did and the State of Israel does – every day.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dr Andrew Shaw BEng MA Phd

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