The Samson Dilemma
Recently, I watched the movie “Samson” on video on demand.
It was the traditional story of Samson and Delilah that I have loved since I first heard it as a child.
Samson the strong, the national Jewish hero, of 3,000 years ago, the Nazir, the Judge, who with his extraordinary G-d given strength fought the Philistines, and helped save the Children of Israel from under their oppression.
As we have learned, everything is in the Torah—it is a historical blueprint for all our history.
It is impossible to me that it is sheer coincidence that Israel fought the Philistines of yesteryear, and today modern Israel tries once again to extricate itself from the Palestinians.
Similarly, the Philistines lived in Gaza of old then and still today the Palestinians live in Gaza and also now the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
Then the Philistines subjected and oppressed the Israelites with constant war, and today since the founding once again of the State of Israel in 1948, the Palestinians have fought us and been determined to throw every last Jew in Israel into the Sea.
The PLO charter has called for the “liberation of Palestine”—no longer limited like the Philistines to just Gaza, but now to all of Israel, and for decades we have seen the surrounding Arab nations march in unison with the Palestinians to the drums of war, the explosives belts of homicide bombers, and the boycott, divestiture, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Even as I write this article, the Palestinians (Philistines) burn tires, riot, and march on the border fence in Gaza to enter Israel and do you know what to you know whom.
No matter how the Israelis try to resolve the crisis with the Palestinians, nothing seems to work—they keep coming against us — “B’Chol dor v’dor”—in every generation to kill us on land blowing up our buses and pizzerias and brutally murdering civilians, in the air hijacking our planes and shooting missiles, at sea attempting to infiltrate, and even underground with terror tunnels.
Samson of old, had a dual love-hate relationship with the Philistines, his frenemies. On one hand, his fought them with every once of his superhuman, G-d given strength killing 1,000 with a jawbone of an ass and on the other hand, he loved not once, but twice Philistine women.
Today as well, Israel has a bipolar relationship with the Palestinians—but always walking a fine and limited line in each approach. It has allowed hundreds of thousands to become citizens and live in Israel proper, it has established joint schools and programs to try to integrate the two peoples, it has offered peace with security agreements, and even voluntarily left the Gaza strip, but at the same time, it has built walls to separate from them and fought them with incredible restraint.
In those times, Samson had the unbelievable passion when he loved and when he fought—he did it with all his heart and might, whether he slaughtered them or married them and gave himself and the secrets of his strength to them.
In the end, in Samson’s case, eventually by loving too much, he was captured, had his eyes thrust out, was paraded in shame and defeat. Nevertheless, in one final stroke, he still brought the house down on his enemies.
Today, we do not have the option, as the Israel military says of losing even a single war, nor as we have seen can we kill our enemies with love—they will still hate us whether we leave the buffer zone in Lebanon, Gaza or relinquish self-rule in the West Bank, and I venture to say even if we were to vacate every home, village, and city and jump into the sea ourselves.
Samson’s strength was his lifetime vow of being dedicated to G-d as a Nazir. Perhaps, G-d is calling to us to look once again to the Heavens for an answer to this unanswerable war of attrition and of two peoples that fought 3,000 years ago and today.
Even with that stunning defeat of the Palestinians, still they vexed and fought the Israelites for generations whether against King Saul who brought up the holy ark to the fight, his son Jonathan where G-d caused a panic in the Philistine camp, and even with King David and the miraculous slingshot against the giant Philistine, Goliath.
Always, the Israelites prevailed when they stood up for themselves and when G-d fought with them. Perhaps, Jonathan said it best: “It may be that the L-rd will work for us, for nothing can hinder the L-rd from saving by many or by few.” (I Samuel 14: 6)
In the Bible, the Philistines fought and tested the Israelites until they were absorbed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE.
Today after the Holocaust killed one in every three Jews in the world, not only are we few, but we are fewer. Yet with the IDF and the yeshivas and synagogues, we are not only strong, but we are stronger.
Still, Israel is surrounded on all sides and by the multitudes who would seek their destruction even now with existential threats from the Iranians. Yet, with the passion and strength of Samson, and with the devotion to G-d of the lifelong Nazirite, we too will once again prevail, whether on the battlefield and/or in Camp David, to continue the legacy of our heroic ancestors for the Jewish people to survive and thrive—in their own land and under G-d’s historical watchful eye.
Originally posted in The Jewish Week