Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
On behalf of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies, I want to wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR of Health, Happiness, Prosperity and Security. May Eretz Yisrael rise to new heights and reach even my expectations. We must all remember that Judaism is like a three-legged stool. There are Eretz Israel (The Land of Israel), Am Yisrael (The People of Israel) and Torat Yisrael (The Torah of Israel). If any of these legs of the stool are removed then the stool falls. In honor Eretz Yisrael and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, I am sending you this essay of his, which was published in 1978.
--Bernard J. Shapiro, Rosh Hashona 5774
Defense of the Holyland
By Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
What right do we have to the Holy Land?
In the beginning G-d Created Heaven and Earth (1)....Rashi's commentary on this very first statement of the Torah follows:
"..It was not necessary to begin the Torah (whose main objective is to teach commandments) with this verse.... And what is, therefore, the reason that it begins with Genesis? Because if the nations of the world will say to Israel: 'You are robbers because you have conquered with force the lands of the seven nations (of Canaan) they (Israel) can answer: 'He created it (as described in Genesis) and gave it to whomever was proper in His eyes. Of His own will He gave it to them (the non-Jews) and of his own will He took it from them and gave it to us!'
Actually it is not necessary to use this quotation from Torah to establish the tenure rights of the people Israel for the land of Israel. This point is made strongly and continually elsewhere in the Torah - even to the extent of identifying the people and the land as one. The accomplishment of Rashi's explanation, quoted above, is to publicize the fact to all people - and to emphasize that the giving of the land is nothing less than an expression of the Divine will.
No one denies that the land of Israel was once in gentile hands. Indeed, this fact is conceded in Psalms: "The power of His work He has declared to His people in giving them the heritage of the nations." (2) By the will of the Al-mighty, the land was once the heritage of the nations, and by the will of the Al-mighty it was given to His people.
What should be the overall outlook and attitude for the Jewish statesman or diplomat in representing Israel's case before the members of any other nation?
The Right Way: The Jew chosen to represent his people must be aware that although we are still in exile, before the advent of the Messianic era, nonetheless we must not adopt a servile attitude before others. On the contrary, our representative's attitude must imply: "Listen, I am a Jew. I am a representative of the Jewish people. I am a representative of Yiddishkeit, and the following are my rightful demands."
True, we are in exile amongst the nations of the world. We do not rule over them and consequently we cannot dictate to them. The Al-mighty has seen to it that in our present Galus (exile) we do have to approach other nations for our needs. It is therefore necessary to speak their language and to address them diplomatically. But the Jewish representative does not have to ask for the Holy Land; he must declare clearly that the Land belongs to us by Divine Right.
This uniquely Jewish combination of openness, firmness, and diplomacy is an ancient heritage of Israel from our forefather Avraham (Abraham). Avraham asked the Hittites politely to give him a burying-place for his wife in Hebron. Avraham declared, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you." (3) The Midrash interprets: "If you agree to my request, you can regard me as a stranger (who is entirely dependent upon your good will). But if not, I am a sojourner (settler and citizen) and can take what I desire by right - since G-d has promised this land to me and my children." (4) Avraham's diplomacy was to be polite and to imply to the Hittites that the conditions could be discussed. If money was an issue, he was ready to pay 400 full shekels of silver. But the actual granting of the land could not be argued - for his right to the Holy Land was a Divine Mandate.
The Wrong Way: Instead of declaring firmly that the Holy Land is ours by Divine fiat, some approach the representatives of other nations in an entirely different manner. They say that there was a certain non-Jew, Lord Balfour by name, who lived in London and who issued a "paper" in 1917, declaring that the Jews should have the Holy Land as a "national home". One who presents such a claim based on non-Jewish sources automatically implies that he has no proof from Jewish sources! The statesmen from the other nation can retort, "Very well, one non-Jew indeed issued such a paper, but 140 non-Jews now say the reverse. That person (Lord Balfour) had no right to make such a declaration over the Holy Land." The statesman does not know how right he is. "That person," indeed had no rights over the Holy Land! For it was the Al-mighty's desire to give the Holy Land originally as "a heritage to the nations" and it was His Divine will to take it away from them and give it to his people Israel.
When we ask other nations for arms it is indeed necessary that we "pray for the welfare of the city," (5) and that our request be channeled through their government - for we are still in Galus. However, the content of our request dare not be couched in false terms, or based upon claims that have no spiritual validity, for two reasons - first and foremost, for this is the opposite of Torah, and secondly, because the results of such a request will be counter-productive. The above wrong approach (which, tragically, has been used in presenting our case for the Holy Land during all these years) has led to the current situation, in which the whole basis for our claim to the Holy Land vacillates. This is not all surprising, for it was built on a shaky foundation, built on a "paper" issued by a non- Jew who dwelt in London.
What kind of an overlord was he over the Jews? What kind of authority did he have over "the land upon which the eyes of G-d your G-d, gaze from the beginning of the year till year's end"? (6) Our representatives pursuing this false approach inquire of other non-Jews: "Where are the borders of our Holy Land? Up to which geographical boundary does the inheritance of the Jews extend? What are the inner allusions of the "paper" issued by the non-Jew in London?" Why follow such a weak path? We have an ironclad claim: "The power of His work he has declared to His people in giving them the heritage of the nations." (2) Why rely on diplomatic counseling? Why make compromises, plots, conspiracies? Why "Wheel and Deal" and make business transactions as regards what belongs to other nations and what belongs to Israel? The Al- mighty in His Torah has clearly indicated the borders of the Land of Israel,......This is the land etc...to its borders. (7) This is the one single approach which has until now not even been tried. All other versions of diplomacy and statesmanship have been tried and have failed. We have tried behind the scenes diplomacy and financial transactions; we have sought the confidence of influential leaders etc. etc., and today we see to what state of affairs this has led. The only approach which the non-Jews deep down really understand is one based upon our Holy Torah which they also regard with reverence as "the Bible." When a Jewish representative abandons this approach, he abandons his own wealth; he abandons the source of his strength, he abandons his true claim.
What would a sincere, strong stand accomplish?
One example of what a strong stand could accomplish can be seen from the events of the recent past, when the Premier of Egypt, Mr. Sadat , suddenly suggested a proposal of peace and came on a mission of peace to visit Israel. What was it that motivated him to suggest a peaceful approach? It was his observation that the Jews were beginning to speak with strength, and were not displaying any fear of the nations. He observed that the name of G-d was being invoked with ever-increasing frequency and intensity in statements issuing from the Holy Land. There were those in Israel who were beginning to adopt the ancient cry, "We encamp in the name of our G-d."(8) This had a profound effect upon Sadat. (Though his physical intelligence might not have perceived the importance of this renewal of attachment to G-dly values, his soul perceived it.) Sadat was aware, furthermore, that Jewish soldiers stood on the borders and had the capacity to destroy his armies. He saw that they had chariots and horses and all the implements of war. He was instilled with fear; an honest analysis of the situation told him that it would not pay for him to start a war with these Jews. This is the reason he came with a peace proposal.
From this episode - and many others - it is evident that only when we take a strong, fearless, and uncompromising stand that we can have any beneficial effect upon our relations with other nations.
What is it that instills fear into the hearts of our nation's compromisers?
We are told by the Torah that there might come a time in our bitter exile when some of our people will be possessed by an illogical fear, a "faintness of heart". They will flee - imagining that they are under pursuit by an enemy - when in reality they are fleeing from the sound of a leaf driven by the wind. (9) Today we see the unfortunate fulfillment of this prophecy. There are some of us who allow themselves to be frightened by threats issued by other nations: they stand in fear and trembling. But who is it that they fear - a torn leaf driven by the wind! For when a member of another nation attempts to rob a Jew of something connected with Torah and Mitzvos, something which is his rightful property, the person is violatining one of the basic seven Noahide laws for all humanity.(10) By this violation he severs the inner G-dly source of his own vitality. He is no longer a leaf connected to a tree, but a leaf torn from a tree, driven here and there by the wind. Yet these faint-hearted individuals are so terrified of the "torn leaf" that they attempt to instill their brother Jews with a similar fear.
Who qualifies as an "expert" to decide policies for defense of the Holy Land?
The answer to this question is crystal clear. According to the law of the Torah if a person is sick and must take advice regarding his therapy (for example whether or not he should undergo an operation) he can take into account neither the opinion of "good friends", nor of neighbors, relatives, plumbers, electricians, nor even of learned professors of philosophy, history, mathematics, etc. etc. The one and only individual qualified to give an opinion on this matter is an expert in the field - a doctor. In exactly the same way, the only person whose opinion is to be considered as regards retaining or returning parts of the Holy Land is a military expert, a general in the field. The opinion of all the politicians, diplomats and statesmen in the world carries no weight whatsoever in this question according to the Torah.
At stake in the doctor's decision is the life of one individual; at stake in the expert's decision are the lives of hundreds and thousands of our people! In the three wars that have been fought in the Middle East we have seen time and again that the military experts, the generals in the field, declared unequivocally that if such-and-such an area were given back to the enemy it would bring about loss of life. Along came the politicians and said that "because of political considerations we dare not anger other nations; we must listen to them and return this territory." Later, this dastardly action cost tens and hundreds of Jewish fatalities. This distorted attitude reached a nadir of debasement in the Yom Kippur war, when our representatives, knowing of the impending invasion by their enemies, informed Washington (knowing that this information would immediately become known all over the world) that they would not start a war! Even more, they gave assurances that they would not even make an effective mobilization before being attacked. They did not deceive Washington either; they indeed kept their word. They did not make the necessary military preparations - an act which cost our nation hundreds of fatalities!
From a Torah perspective, what is the central issue today in regards to the defense of the Holy Land?
The Issue: The issue is Pikuach Nefesh, danger to life. Make no mistake about it. From a Torah perspective nothing else is the real issue here: the interpretation, significance or wording of UN Resolution No. 242 is not the issue. The central issue is Pikuach Nefesh, the endangering of the lives of all the inhabitants of the Holy Land posed by the proposed return of certain areas of land.
Torah Law Speaks: The following is the definitive verdict of our Divine Torah law, as expressed in the Shulchan Aruch. (11) If a band of idolators have surrounded a Jewish City (on the Shabbos), if their intention is only to rob, we may not desecrate the shabbos to defend our property. If their intention is to kill - or even if their intention is unknown, but there is reason to suspect that it might be to kill - then, even if they have not yet arrived, but are only preparing their attack, we are to go forth against them with weapons and we may desecrate the Shabbos for this purpose. However, if the city in question is close to the coast, then even where their intention is only to rob 'straw and stubble', we desecrate the Shabbos to defend the city against them, for if we will not do so, they might capture this (strategic) city - and from there it might be easy for them to conquer the land.
The ruling is clear, and the current circumstances in the Middle East are far more severe than those portrayed in the above passage, for the following reasons: First, every point on the map of the Holy Land, every settlement, can be considered as "a city close to the coast (or border)" due to the extremely vulnerable nature of Israel's geography. An enemy could obviously conquer the hinterland far more easily once it has captured any strong point near the border. Second, there is no question of the invading enemies having their eyes only on despoiling "straw and stubble"; they announce their murderous goals very openly! A question could be posed about this Torah ruling. The desire is to rescue the Jews from the hands of their enemies. Since we are the "smallest of all the nations", we need the Al-mighty's help in our battle. If so, why should we take weapons and desecrate the Shabbos? Should we not better recite Tehillim (Psalms) for our deliverance, or engage in Torah Study etc.?
The unequivocal ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is resoundingly clear. The Al-mighty desires that, in this case, we should go forth against them well armed, and, if necessary, we are to desecrate the Shabbos for this purpose. The course of action mandated by the Torah is one manner of serving G-d. Just as one must study Torah and fulfill the Mitzvos so must he perform his bounden duty with regard to the prevention of danger to life.
How much of the territory of the Holy Land can we give back?
Not one step! The situation currently in the Holy Land is strange; it is exceedingly worrying; it is completely incomprehensible. Everyone knows that to return areas on the West bank of the Jordan River to the Arabs is a danger to life. We do not need to hear this from the greatest expert. All we have to do is look at the map and see how close the west bank of the Jordan is to the sea, and to note who is present on the eastern side of the Jordan and who is to be found on ships in the Mediterranean ... It then becomes immediately obvious that this is a situation of real imminent danger to life. (When Jewish representatives unrolled a map in the Oval Office of the president of the United States and pointed out to him the distance of the territories in question to the sea, and the ease with which an enemy could cut through those areas, the President agreed that return of those areas to the enemy constituted Pikuach Nefesh--endangering the lives of the inhabitants of the Holy Land.) Yet, in spite of the clarity and obviousness of the danger, on which issues do we hear discussion today? The discussion centers around such irrelevant issues as the U.N. Resolution 242 (which was unfortunately signed by those of our people who were "fearful and faint-hearted"). What difference does the interpretation of this piece of paper make? The issue here is DANGER TO LIFE. The issue is Pikuach Nefesh.
There is not a single expert who disagrees with the analysis that return of the territories under discussion involves danger to life. In such a circumstance, when the lives of three million Jews are in danger, what possible difference does the "meaning" or "interpretation" of the resolution make? The simplest person understands that if his wife and family are in circumstances where their very lives are endangered, such a situation overrules and overrides ALL other considerations.
Some claim that a "promise" was secretly made to return some areas. This claim is totally without meaning - for no-one can promise to give away something which does not belong to him! The Holy Land - all of it - belongs to the Al-mighty. The Al-mighty has given it to every individual Jew and to all of us together as a nation, but He has given it to us "in trust", in a manner that it must remain OUR eternal inheritance. How could anyone have "promised" to give any of it away? It was not his to give.
What should be done now to protect Israel?
To establish defensive Jewish settlements along the entire eastern border!
First Duty: Our very first duty is to prevent enemy infiltration of our borders, and there is no other effective way to do this than to close and protect those borders. The situation has deteriorated so badly, that for lack of a proper response to this demand of Torah, the authorities have come up with the following ridiculous explanation: Since the ultimate intention is to eventually build cities in the west bank area (the area of Judea (Yehuda) and Samaria (Shomron)) such construction and planning will take a long time; we cannot rush into it; it must be done slowly and deliberately, and eventually, at some unspecified time, these cities will be built.
This is a total evasion of the issue; "cities" or "villages" are not the issue. In fact, the nature of any building per se is not under discussion. What is at issue here is the DEFENSE of all the people who dwell in the Holy Land for which purpose we do not need cities, we need lines of defense! We must post a sentry, arm him, and give him all the encouragement and support necessary to show him that he is doing the greatest Mitzva - that of protecting our sons and our daughters.
CLOUDING THE ISSUE: Let not anyone confuse and cloud the issue with talk of what "was promised" or what was "not promised" All this is irrelevant discussion. The Land of Israel is an eternal inheritance given to the eternal people by the Eternal G-d Who is the supreme King of Kings of all countries of the world (subconsciously, members of all the other nations realize this too). Let us immediately settle the entire land of Israel to its borders without a storm of publicity or news. Quietly and resolutely let it be done, and then we will be on the road to true peace, for through this action we will frustrate and annul all the pressure being brought to bear upon us. The nations of the world will see that an action has been taken, a concrete action, and "the actions of a Bais Din (Court of Torah law ) are final; nothing can be done to change them post facto." (12)
With whom could Israel sign a valid peace treaty now?
With no one! There are some who are foolish enough to declare that if we will return areas of Judea and Samaria (on the west bank of the Jordan river) we will attain peace. Those who cry for "peace" and "peace now" center the discussion whether it is worthwhile to take such-and-such a step "for peace" or not. Is it worthwhile to "trade territory for peace" etc. and other such meaningless discussions - meaningless because the supposed "peace discussions" are to take place with one, upon whom (everyone knows) peace does NOT depend on at all. Is he then supposed to persuade Saudi Arabia to make peace? He has no say WHATSOEVER in their opinions. Is he supposed to conclude a peace agreement on behalf of Iraq or Jordan or the P.L.O.? What nonsense! They despise him! Yet in order to attain this illusory and non-existent possibility of "peace", some are ready to bow and prostrate themselves before Egypt's Premier in order to "find favor in his eyes." They are ready to persuade him that he should take back everything which can be returned to him in the Sinai, in Judea and Samaria etc. They are ready to make concessions which will place the lives of millions of Jews in mortal danger!
They say, "Why are you not ready to give back territory for peace?" We must reply that NO ONE CAN OFFER A VALID PEACE TREATY. IT IS SIMPLY NOT WITHIN HIS POWER. It is not within the power of Washington. It is not within the power of Egypt. It is not even within the power of Arafat yemach sh'mo (may his name be erased). For even he has severe problems from those to the right and to the left within his organization.