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As thousands of Israeli pioneers are about to be forced to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip for the sake of peace – or the hope for peace – it might be informative to compare their situation to the fate of Gaza’s Jews in the time of Samson.
If ever there were a modern Samson, ripping off the gates of Gaza like his biblical predecessor, it is Ariel “Samson” Sharon. He is about to carry those gates over to the Erez border terminal, where – after the completion of his disengagement plan this summer – residents of the Philistine Authority will be able to cross into Israel.
Did I say Philistine? Some say the Palestinians come from the Philistines, who did rule Gaza a long time ago, when they had some trouble with the Jewish leader, or judge, of the time, Arik Samson of the Likud tribe. The biblical Samson was picked by God to free the people of Israel from the Philistines. Some say Sharon was chosen to free Israel from the Palestinians.
As he was walking on the road to Gaza one day, Arik Samson had an unusual encounter: He met a Burning Bush. And out of the Bush came a loud voice: “I am Dubya, the leader of the free world, and I bring you news from the future.”
“Speak, Mr. President,” Samson urged him.
“Listen carefully. New realities on the ground make it unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
“What does that mean?”
“I can’t make it any clearer,” the Bush replied. “But I’m looking forward to dialoguing with you on this issue.”
Some say Samson used the jawbone of an ass left behind by Bill Clinton to fight his way out of trouble in Gaza. Others point out that the “jawbone of an ass” is an expression used to describe a politician justifying the Oslo Accords. In fact, our Samson grabbed the jawbone of an Apache helicopter and slew dozens of Philistine terrorists.
He was doing fine and the Philistines were beginning to fall into line, when a woman appeared who threatened to bring about his downfall. As indicated in Judges 16:1, “Samson went to Gaza, and saw there a secretary of state, and went to her.” Condelilah Rice would not let Samson rest, pestering him for the secrets of his strength and ability to reverse his policy on settlement.
At first, Samson tried to put her off by telling her his strength lay in Jewish settlements, and that without them he would have no power, but Condelilah quickly saw through this ploy. She scoffed at him and accused him of expanding settlements all over the place. Before he knew it, Samson found himself agreeing to leave the Philistines to run Gaza and preparing to move the Jews out, just so he could follow Condelilah’s “road map” back to what was left of the kingdom of Israel.
In fact, biblical Gaza was heavily fortified and the Israelites could never capture it. Although Gaza was assigned to the tribe of Judah, they could not take possession. Nevertheless, Samson coped with this situation and had a long political career: he “judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for 20 years.” (Judges 15:20)
Some 3,000 years ago, Samson sacrificed himself and brought down the Philistine Temple of Dagon in Gaza. This summer, Gaza stands a good chance of bringing down the Sharon government, for Arik Samson’s mission was not only to defeat the Philistines, but to re-establish communities in the land promised to Israel by God as an everlasting inheritance. After all, two of the original Philistine cities, Ashkelon and Ashdod, have been part of Israel since 1948. They are just up the road from Gaza.