By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 25, 2009

In his landmark address at Bar Ilan University last week, Israel’s Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, said that any future Palestinian state must be demilitarised. The word he used, meforaz, is biblical and refers to unwalled cities.

Thus under Moses’s leadership, the Israelites conquered Og, King of Bashan’s fortified towns and arei haperizi, unwalled towns The verb lehafriz means to exaggerate or overstate — to break through the walls of restraint.

When Moses instructs the spies before they set off, he tells them to check if the inhabitants live in open camps or in fortified cities. Rashi explains that those who live in perazim will necessarily be strong, as they have the confidence to rely on their own strength for protection. They have no need for extra fortifications. The word appears also in Megillat Esther (9:19), where the perazim towns celebrate Purim on the Adar 14, as opposed to walled cities that observe it the day after.

Zechariah is told that Jerusalem will be as “a city without walls (perazot) so many shall be the people and cattle it contains”. Because of increased population and livestock, Jerusalemites will forego walled protection and rely on God.

How will the Palestinians view a meforaz state: as unacceptable weakness or as an expression of peace and prosperity?

Last updated: 1:24pm, June 25 2009