Guest Columnist: The struggle continues

The continuing existence of Jews means that, wish it or not, we are all still engaged in holding on to the heel of Esau.

Breaking news (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Breaking news
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
The Torah reading tells us of the birth of twin sons to Isaac and Rebekah. The elder son, Esau, comes forth fully formed, ruddy and strong. The younger twin is named Jacob. The Torah tells us that he is holding on to Esau’s heel. In effect he is holding Esau back from accomplishing his desires and wants. The Hebrew word for heel – ekev – is embedded into the name of Jacob. It is as though his destiny in all of history is to hold Esau back, to be his moral conscience, to be the silent disapproving witness to all of the excesses of behavior and violence that so characterize Esau.
Jacob is always younger, smaller, weaker than Esau, but try as he does, Esau cannot shake free from Jacob’s hold on his heel. Christianity and Islam over all the centuries of their existence have attempted to humiliate, persecute and even eliminate Jacob from their societies and from the world. They have never completely succeeded, but they keep on trying.
Jacob is the thorn in the side of Esau, the denier of his beliefs and goals, the one who holds on to the heel and psychologically and emotionally impedes his desired hegemony over others. The Catholic Church currently has regressed once more into its traditional anti- Jewish, anti-Israel stance and policies. Pope John Paul II elevated Judaism to being the “elder brother” of the Church. But now we are back again to being the young brother holding on to the heel of the Church, the silent disapproving witness to its problems, venality and malevolence.
It is therefore no surprise that a leading Catholic prelate, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Meridiaga of Honduras, categorically states that the Jews are the cause of the current sexual scandals rocking the Church worldwide. Or that Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland regularly preaches anti-Semitism as part of his spiritual teachings.
The Church cannot let go of its poisonous past to Jews and Judaism, since in turn Jacob has not loosed his grip on the heel of Esau. Judaism’s crime is that it exists through the Jewish people, and that the Jewish people have had the temerity to build and defend successfully their own independent state in the Holy Land only adds insult to the Church’s paranoid injury.
Islam is also aggrieved by Jacob’s hold on its heel. To many in the Muslim world and to its imams and leaders, the existence of a Jewish state in territories they feel is theirs – a wakf given to them by Allah himself – is a theological impossibility. If Jacob’s hand cannot be loosed from their heel, that hand – like the hand of a thief under Shari’a law – is to be severed.
This stark fact lies at the root of the so-called Arab-Israeli dispute. It is not territory, borders, water rights and the other issues that we are allegedly negotiating over that are the main issues. It is now and has been for over a century the mere existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East that is the issue.
And this issue is then enlarged into a question as to whether Jews or Judaism itself should be allowed to exist. You will note that the Yemeni terrorists sent their bomb-laden packages to synagogues and institutions in Chicago, not to Tel Aviv. Islam wishes to be freed of Jacob’s hold on its heel so it can turn its full attention to Christianity and the West.

There are many in the Jewish world who are befuddled, misguided and frightened of their own identity when looking at themselves in the mirror of Jewish history and destiny, who therefore also resent their fate at having to hold on to Esau’s heel. So they assuage themselves with high-sounding phrases of goodness and peace and compassion for others, coupled with disdain and even hatred for their own people. Jews fool themselves bitterly if they think that Esau differentiates between Haaretz and Arutz Sheva. The continuing existence of Jews means that, wish it or not, we are all still engaged in holding on to the heel of Esau.
Judaism does not desire triumph or rule over others. It is more than satisfied in maintaining itself as a necessary moral force in the world and the survival and well-being of the Jewish people and its state. This struggle, millennia old, continues in full force today. Recognizing this truth will strengthen our hand and spirit in this struggle.