Our Priority Is Peace
Yael Eckstein | August 31, 2022
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. – Deuteronomy 20:10
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shoftim, which means “judges,” from Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9.
Living in the Holy Land for over a decade, one of the things that I have become accustomed to is the lies and attacks on Israel in the media. To tell you the truth, it can be very tough. It’s not easy reading the headlines and seeing your own people demonized and made to appear as the unjust aggressor when you know that the opposite is true.
The bottom line is that God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people in an eternal covenant. We were exiled from our land centuries ago. We never gave up our claim to our homeland.
And now, with God’s help, we have returned. Of course, as any Israeli will tell you, we have great respect for those who were living here when we came back. And there’s nothing Israelis want more than to have peace with our neighbors.
Still, the hostility Israel faces from our enemies is ongoing. We must always be on our guard. Thank God, Israel has a powerful and well-trained military. But our priority is peace. As former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “If our enemies put down their weapons, there would be peace. If Israel put down her weapons, there would be no Israel.”
Our Priority Is Peace
We see the peace as a priority with our neighbors in this week’s Torah portion when we read, “When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.”
While it’s true that God promised the land to the nation of Israel, that did not mean that the individual rights of those of other nations living in the land were to be completely ignored. Anyone from those nations had the option of peacefully accepting the rule of Israel and remaining in the land.
This is an important point. The ideal Jewish society in the land of Israel as outlined in the Bible is not a nation of only Jews with no one else in the land with us. People of other nations who wish to live in peace with the Jewish people are to be welcomed and respected.
Israel, then as well as now, does not seek conflict. While we are ready to fight to defend ourselves and the land that God gave us, our hope and our priority is peace with all our neighbors.
Psalm 122 calls on us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Please pray for Jerusalem and the Israeli people today!