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Unity in Time of Trouble—Israel’s Hidden Strength

March 11, 2024

by: Janet Aslin, BFP Staff Writer

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In every culture there are unique expressions, words that help paint a picture of the character of the members of that people group. For the Jewish people, “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek” is just such a phrase. Translated, these Hebrew words mean: “Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened.” And strength has certainly been necessary to ensure the survival of the Jewish people over the thousands of years since they were forcibly removed from their homeland.

Repetition Equals Emphasis

At the sound of this phrase, the listener’s attention is drawn to a repetition of words. This is a linguistic tool often used for emphasis. The characteristic we are considering is that of strength or hazak, not only physical but also inner steadfastness. So why is the word hazak repeated?

Rabbi Avi Weiss offers this explanation: “Most interpret these words to speak first to the individual, and then to the collective whole. Hazak is a singular term. When uttered twice it creates a sense of community. Hence, ve-nithazektogether we will gain greater strength and prevail” (emphasis added).

Our phrase thus begins with the individual, acknowledges his or her role in the community and then concludes that the group will be strengthened by those who make up the collective whole.

Where Did the Saying Originate?

Although the complete phrase, “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek,” is not found in Scripture, the concept is definitely biblical. The word hazak appears 290 times in the Bible and is primarily defined by Strong’s Concordance as “strong (48 times), strengthened (28 times) and strengthen (14 times).”

The first time we see the word hazak used in the form of a command is when the Lord spoke to Joshua as he prepared to lead the people into the Promised Land, “Be strong [hazak] and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6a). Another example is found when Joab, one of King David’s mighty men, encouraged the Israelite army which was facing a much larger force, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong [hazak] for our people” (2 Sam. 10:12a).

Distinctly Different

The Jews have been a distinct people, set apart by God Himself, since Abraham lived in Canaan. Shortly after their exodus from Egypt, Moses acknowledged this fact as he spoke to God. “So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Exod. 33:16b emphasis added). It requires backbone and determination to be different from everyone else—an inner strength.

The word hazak is a command, the imperative form of that verb. Over the millennia since their dispersion, the Jewish people have had no choice but to be strong and resolute as they have faced a world that has often rejected their existence. It is a strength that has baffled many, as this group of people—comprising no more than 0.2% of the world’s total population—has survived intact. In the words of Natan Sharansky, a former Prisoner of Zion (Jews who suffered imprisonment or deportation for Zionist activity in countries where such activity was prohibited), “There is no power in the world that can stand against us when we feel a part of our history, part of our people and part of this historic struggle.”

In a War for Survival

Today, Israel is in a war for its survival as a nation, and the strength and unity of its people is critical. Much of the world chooses not to believe the truth about the terrorist organizations that are seeking to remove any and all Jewish people from Israel. Anti-Semitism is increasing dramatically and many Jews in the Diaspora (Jewish population outside of Israel) live in fear of displaying any evidence of their heritage. Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a group undergoing training to become commanders in the Israel Defense Forces. He told them, “Each one of you carries on your shoulders the destiny of the people of Israel and of the State of Israel. This is no exaggeration.”

Strength in Action

Pomegranate harvesting in the south was a success thanks to Israeli volunteers.

The Israeli population living along the Gazan border paid a heavy price on October 7. In addition to the unspeakable horror of that day, there were aftereffects as well. Much of Israel’s food supply comes from farms in the area, which was now the frontline of a raging battle for the nation’s survival. Without the foreign workers as well as the Palestinian laborers, the agricultural sector faced a crisis of its own. Who would work the fields and bring in the harvest?

Faced with the prospective loss of his pomegranate crop due to the lack of workers, orchard owner Assaf Tzur put out a plea on social media for help. Later, he told Voice of America in an interview about the response, “We were really surprised and really excited that so many people, all around Israel, just came and asked to help us—us!” Assaf’s story is not an isolated incident.

During the weeks after the war broke out, countless Israelis spent time working on the rich farmland of the south. They were not experienced farmers, but they came anyway. Young and old, from fashion designers to high tech workers and more, all took time away from their daily routines and came to help strengthen Israeli farmers as they worked to save the crops. This is just one example of “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek” in action.

Foundation of Hope

This is the “Good News” page and we will therefore end on a positive note. One of my favorite Scripture verses, a solid promise of God which lays a foundation for the hope expressed in the words “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek” reads, “‘I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,’ says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:15 emphasis added).

Whatever the situation, whoever the enemy, God’s Word is the best reason for the Jewish people to encourage each other with the words: “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek.”

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