In his recent speech before a joint session of congress, the most prominent representative of “The People of the Book;” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made some striking references to the Book. The biblical account he referenced first was a most timely one. He highlighted the parallels between the situation of the Jewish people today and the time, 2,500 years ago, when they faced similar danger at the hand of another Persian leader. Citing the story of Esther was particularly appropriate given that the day of Netanyahu’s speech was the day before the day Jewish people worldwide celebrate the holiday of Purim and its incredible story of providential deliverance from an evil murder plot.
At that time, Persian King Ahasuerus ruled over 127 provinces, which was the known world of his day. His viceroy, Haman, had a burning hatred for the Jewish people; and he manipulated the otherwise peaceful Ahasuerus into permitting him to order the deaths of all Jews in his empire. And were it not for the bravery of the Jewish Queen Esther, who risked her life to bring Ahasuerus’s attention to Haman’s wicked plans, the Jewish people would have been wiped out on this very day.
All these events took place in the region that is modern-day Iran. And, in Esther like fashion, Netanyahu risked his political life to bring America’s attention to the Persian plot to destroy Israel and all the Jewish people. A nuclear Iran poses an existential danger to the State of Israel, as Iran’s leaders on many occasions have expressed a desire to wipe the Jewish state off the world map.
Also, just as it was not enough for Haman to take down only his Jewish enemy Mordechai, (for Haman plotted to wipe out all of Mordechai’s people); the destruction of the Jewish state is not enough, for Iranian-backed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has expressed, “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”
During the conclusion of his speech Netanyahu made use of another biblical narrative. In the aftermath of a 400 year period of Egyptian slavery, Moses led the Israelites on a forty year trek through desert wilderness toward the Land God had promised to His covenant people. In his farewell speech to these people, Moses encouraged the Israelites to be brave and strong, to have faith in God and not be intimidated by the enemies they would inevitably face. Drawing attention to this critical juncture in Israel’s history, Netanyahu appealed to US Congress which sits under an image of Moses himself, to stand with Israel, to be brave and strong, and not be intimidated by the common enemy the US and Israel face: a nuclear Iran.
Regardless of whether or not this speech inspires any meaningful diplomacy, the Prime Minister articulated what needed to be said with compelling moral clarity. And that in and of itself was inspiring.