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    This week’s Haftara
    (Chukat) feels like it
    could be taken from
    a modern-day
    newspaper, as it
    addresses the Jewish
    people’s right to the
    land of Israel, particularly in relation to
    Ishmael. It discusses the impending war of the
    nation of Ammon against the Jewish nation
    and the appointment of Yiftach as their leader
    and general.
    Let’s first introduce the nation of Ammon. We
    find Ammon in the Torah in the prophecy of
    Bilaam regarding the end of days before
    Mashiach comes, where he prophesies about a
    nation called Keini (Bamidbar 24, 21). Rabenu
    Bechayei writes that Keini are the descendants
    of Ishmael. The Chizkuni points out that the
    Keini nation is the same as Ammon, proving
    this from the event of the Brit Ben HaBetarim,
    where Hashem promises Avraham the land of
    ten nations but gives him only the land of
    seven. Rashi (Bereshit 15, 19) explains that
    the remaining three lands will be given to us at
    the end of time. These three lands are Edom,
    Moav, and Ammon, which is referred to as
    Keini. We can see that the story of Yiftach
    involves the nation of Ishmael, and upon

    closer study, we observe that history repeats
    itself in an exact duplicate.
    I urge everyone to open Sefer Shoftim (chapter
    11 with the Malbim) and read what I’m about
    to write, as this is exactly what it says there.
    Then, compare it with recent events. In the
    story of Yiftach, when he is appointed leader
    and sees that Ammon is preparing to declare
    war against Israel, he first sends messengers to
    the king of Ammon, asking why he is coming
    to fight. The king of Ammon replies that Israel
    has conquered territory belonging to Ammon,
    and if Israel does not return the occupied
    territory and withdraw the settlers, he will
    proceed with the war until Ammon’s land is
    free from the river to the sea (Jordan River by
    the Yabok River to the Salt Sea, bordering the
    Arnon River).
    Claim #1: Israel mind their own business
    Upon hearing this, Yiftach sends back
    messengers to tell the king of Ammon that he
    is wrong, as that land belongs to Israel. The
    Malbim draws from the psukim that Yiftach
    used four different logical arguments to
    support his case. The first claim he made was
    that when Israel came to the borders of the
    land of Canaan, they avoided the settled areas.
    Even when they asked Edom for permission to

    pass through their land and were denied, Israel
    respected this and made a detour to avoid
    them. Therefore, Israel never sought to
    conquer anyone.
    Claim #2: Losing Wars, Losing Land
    The second claim Yiftach made was that when
    Sichon, the king of the Emori, saw that Israel
    was coming to the area, he went out to fight a
    war with them. Unfortunately for him, he lost
    that war and also lost territory. When you
    initiate a war against others and lose, you
    can’t complain about the consequences, as
    that is the risk you take when you declare war
    against another nation.
    Claim #3: Hashem’s Deed Over the Land
    Thirdly, Yiftach argued that the fact that a
    single nation, which had emerged from
    oppressive slavery and was few in number,
    weak, and tired from travel in the desert, with
    little armament, was attacked by all the nations
    who were many, strong, and well-armed, and
    still emerged victorious, is a clear sign and
    indication that Hashem was fighting their
    battles. Since Hashem granted the Jewish
    people the land of Israel, this divine gift
    cannot be denied.
    Claim #4: presumption of ownership
    Finally, Yiftach told him that until now, when
    Ammon decided they wanted the land, no one
    had denied that it belonged to the Jewish
    nation, and no one had tried to take it from
    them. This creates what we call in Halacha a
    “chazaka.” Chazaka means that if someone
    settles on land without anyone challenging
    their right to hold it, it indicates that the land
    belongs to them.
    All of Yiftach’s claims fell on deaf ears, and
    Ammon started a war, which they lost to
    Yiftach’s brave army.
    Today’s Battle Over the Land of Israel
    Let’s now move forward in time and see if the
    above story rings some bells from recent
    events. When the Jewish people returned from
    a long and bitter exile, having faced much
    persecution, they were granted parts of the
    land of Israel in areas that were not settled by
    any Arab villages.
    The establishment of the State of Israel in
    1948 was a result of the United Nations
    Partition Plan for the land, which was
    approved by the UN General Assembly on
    November 29, 1947. The plan proposed to
    divide the British Mandate of Palestine into
    Jewish and Arab states. Following the
    withdrawal of British forces, the Jewish
    community declared the independence of the
    State of Israel on May 14, 1948. This
    declaration was supported by the United
    Nations and subsequently recognized by
    many countries.
    The areas given to the Jewish people were not
    occupied by any Arab villages, and they could

    have lived happily as neighbors side by side if
    the Arabs had agreed to the UN partition plan.
    However, the very next day after Israel
    declared Independence, all surrounding Arab
    nations declared war, leading to what is known
    as the War of Independence. This aligns with
    the first claim of Yiftach, that the Jews did not
    intend to take any neighboring land but rather
    to settle in empty areas.
    The second claim of Yiftach is that if you
    declare war and lose, you shouldn’t complain
    because you took the risk and played your
    cards poorly. Arab nations have declared war
    on Israel several times, and each time they
    lost, resulting in land being taken by the young
    Jewish country.
    Thirdly, Yiftach argued that even if you don’t
    agree with the previous two claims, you can’t
    deny that the victory of the Jewish people
    defies logic and reason. This can only be
    explained as a divinely granted gift. Since
    Hashem is the owner of the universe and holds
    the deed to the land of Israel, He decided to
    give it to the Jewish people (see first Rashi on
    Finally, the land of Israel was known to be
    Jewish land for 2,000 years, and no other
    nation established a state there during this
    long period. This proves that it is Jewish land
    with chazaka (a presumption of ownership).
    But just as Ammon, the nation of Ishmael,
    didn’t accept any logic and went to fight an
    unjust war against the Jewish nation, so too
    does their nature remain unchanged today.
    They defy any logic, claiming the land as
    theirs. The truth is that their own claim to the
    land is the biggest proof that it is Jewish land.
    They argue that Israel occupies their land
    because they were there first, and the passage
    of time doesn’t change that, as the right of first
    settlers doesn’t expire. By that same logic, the
    Jewish people settled in the land before the
    Arab tribes, and our ancient right to it doesn’t
    expire either.