The Binding of Ishmael

In their war against Israel, the Palestinians send their young children to participate in acts of violence.  In many instances, Palestinians fire their guns or throw firebombs at Israelis from behind the backs of young children, using them as shields.  It seems that from the Palestinians’ point of view this is a win-win strategy.  Usually, the Israelis refrain from returning fire, to avoid shooting the children, and the human shield idea is successful in protecting the Arab shooters.  However, when the Jews are forced to defend themselves and children get hurt, the Arabs score public opinion points: sympathy abroad and increased rage within their own population.


In many ancient cultures, human sacrifice was a common form of worship.  The ancient Canaanites used to worship their idol Molech by passing children through bonfires in front of the idol.  The Torah explicitly forbids this horrible worship:  “Any man … who shall give of his seed to Molech, shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:2).  The destruction of the Kingdom of Israel in the hands of Shalmanesser, the King of Assyria, is attributed in the Bible to a wide spread immorality, including:  “they passed their sons and their daughters through fire …” (II Kings 17:17).  How bad was that destruction?  The Assyrians exiled the inhabitants of Israel, who are forever known as the Ten Lost Tribes.


In the communal Jewish memory, the binding of Isaac has provided the powerful experience of a father – Abraham – preparing to sacrifice his son – Isaac – until God’s angel stops him: “Do not stretch out your hand against the boy and do not do anything to him …” (Genesis 22:12).  Parents must protect their children, not sacrifice them.  The binding of Isaac teaches us our moral obligation to the lives of our children.  This is not the kind of sacrifice that God wishes.


Unfortunately, the binding of Ishmael, Isaac’s brother, never occurred.  Sadly, for our Arab cousins, the descendents of Ishmael, sacrificing their young children is not reprehensible.

Judah Ari-Gur


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