Nechemia Four: Defense

Many of the neighboring populations that hear about the reconstruction of Jerusalem get upset, and they join together to go to war against Jerusalem. Thinking about the Middle East, it’s clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Luckily in this case, the eventual war doesn’t actually manifest, but the Jews take a defensive stance regardless. “And we prayed to our God, and we stationed a watch over them day and night because of them (Nehemia 4:3).” Earlier this week, I taught a class on Israeli history and politics, and like much of history, that story is often told through wars. These various successful military campaigns are the way we construct the saga of the ongoing creation of Israel, as is the case in much of the world. And while it’s easy to list the armies that aligned themselves against the country, and the key battle sites and stats, what I like about the verse that I chose is that it seems to go beyond those bare-bones details. True defense is the constant awareness and vigilance that is expressed in this verse. It’s an ongoing watch, carried out with the hope that it’ll never come to anything. The people who watch the borders aren’t in it for glory. They’re just hoping for another quiet night, and to be able to go home. As we go into the Pesach holiday, I’m hoping that this year, freedom will be experienced in many ways, most of all by all of those who work for the defense of others around the world.

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