Israel’s David Moment

How Iran's attack on the Jewish state could help unify a fractured Middle East
April 18, 2024
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Iran attacked Israel early Sunday morning, April 14. I had just arrived in Israel from the U.S. on Monday. As I took in the resolute spirit on the streets, my mind turned to the biblical story of David. But not the part you might expect.

When we think of David, the iconic image is of the young shepherd squaring off against the giant Goliath. It’s a stirring tale of an underdog’s triumph through faith and courage. And it’s tempting to draw parallels to plucky Israel standing against the Iranian Goliath and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. After all, tiny Israel once again faced down a massive barrage, with over 300 Iranian missiles and drones raining down, nearly all intercepted by technologies like the Iron Dome and David’s Sling.

But there’s another part of David’s story, one that speaks more powerfully to this moment. It’s what happens later, after David becomes king. He inherits a fragmented realm of quarreling tribes, surrounded by enemies. His great achievement is not slaying a giant, but uniting a coalition. David takes the throne and “reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.”

That same unifying spirit was on display in the aftermath of Iran’s assault. This attack was not just answered by Israel, but by a united front of nations standing together against Iran’s aggression and in defense of our shared democratic values.

An extraordinary alliance came together to protect Israel. Jordanian fighter jets patrolled the skies and shot down Iranian missiles. The UAE and Saudi Arabia provided critical intelligence. British and French warplanes joined the effort. U.S. destroyers intercepted missiles at sea. It was a powerful display of collective resolve.

Let’s be clear: This alliance is a historic development. For decades, the U.S. sought to foster military ties between Israel and Arab nations with little success. But in recent years, thanks in part to the Abraham Accords, we’ve seen growing cooperation against the common Iranian threat. When Israel moved under US Central Command in 2021, it enabled unprecedented coordination.

Still, political barriers remained. Wary of Tehran’s wrath, some Arab governments were reluctant to be seen aiding Israel too openly. It took intense diplomacy to bring everyone to the table. The alliance that turned back Iran’s missiles was years in the making — and battled-forged under fire.

Like David uniting the tribes of Israel, we are witnessing the emergence of a regional coalition for collective security and defense of the values we hold dear. Not a formal alliance like NATO, but a growing architecture of shared early-warning systems, joint training, and military cooperation.

Israeli technology also cannot be overlooked. Ingenious systems like Iron Dome and David’s Sling, and even more sophisticated laser-based defenses on the horizon, are not just protecting Israel — they are shifting the regional balance. Iran understands that Israel’s defensive edge is a deterrent it cannot easily overcome.

So while Israel may seem like David against the Iranian Goliath, it is not standing alone. Far from it. This attack has revealed Israel’s hidden strength — the allies and friends who will stand with her in moments of peril. The world is beginning to understand that Israel’s cause is the cause of all who value peace and freedom.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” the Psalmist tells us. As I walk Israel’s ancient streets, those words resonate. The unity on display in recent days — of faiths, nations, and peoples — is a reason for hope.

Iran’s attack was a stark reminder of the threats Israel faces. But the world’s response was a powerful demonstration that the Jewish state does not face those threats alone. In the spirit of King David, Israel is building ties that make it stronger, forging alliances to stand against the forces of aggression and hate.

That is not just good news for Israel. It is good news for the region, for the United States, and for all who yearn for a more peaceful Middle East. The road is long and the challenges are great. But in the resilience of Israel, and the unity of its allies, we can find inspiration to continue the journey.

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman is the fifth president of Yeshiva University. 

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