May 29, 2003
I recently attended a lecture given by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who was one of the warriors who partook in the freeing of Jerusalem. A couple of the lesser known elements of those historic days:
The battles had commenced. Eastern Jerusalem, including the Rockefeller museum, opposite the Old City of Jerusalem, was in Israeli hands ‘ many Israeli soldiers had died to unify Jerusalem for the first time in 2,000 years, under Jewish control. Israeli fighters waited tensely for the orders to reenter the Old City, to liberate the Kotel, the Western Wall, the Holy of Holies, site of the First and Second Temple,Beit HaMikdash.
The Israeli cabinet, a national unity government, including opposition leader Menachem Begin, sat through the night, on the verge of an historic decision. The question: whether or not to enter the Old City. A proposal had been suggested: to declare the Old City of Jerusalem an ‘international city’, and to leave without liberating it. This idea was discussed all night and only as dawn lit the eastern sky was a decision reached to retake Jerusalem. According to Rabbi Ariel, two of the predominant factors in the final decision were Menachem Begin and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Rabbi Ariel repeated other telling conversations:
1. Standing on Temple Mount, Chief Rabbi Goren suggested to Paratrooper Commander (later Chief of Staff) Mota Gur (known for his immortal words’Har HaBayit b’yadenu.’ ’ ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’) that the Israeli soldiers killed during the liberation of Jerusalem be buried on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Temple Mount and considered to be the holiest burial site in Israel. Gur responded, ‘What are you talking about’ We’ll be leaving here soon ‘ we have to bury the soldiers on Mt. Herzl so their parents will be able to visit them.’
2. Rabbi Goren urged General Uzi Narkiss, one of the senior ranking officers in the IDF, then present on Temple Mount, to blow up the mosque located over the ‘Holy of Holies’ of theBeit HaMikdash, the Temple. Narkiss refused, saying that if Israel destroyed the mosque, the State would be required to rebuild it, bigger and better than it already was. Rabbi Goren told Narkiss, ‘You’ll be able to destroy it today; tomorrow will be too late.’ Narkiss walked away, telling Rabbi Goren (a general), ‘If you broach the subject again, I’ll throw you in jail.’ (This episode was published following the deaths of both Rabbi Goren and Uzi Narkiss.)
These stories come against the background of Israel’s attempts to prevent Jordan from entering the war. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent Golda Meir to meet King Hussein, pleading with him not to open an additional combat front, promising him that Israel had no intentions to attack the Old City. Hussein’s response was to start shelling Jerusalem, leaving Israel little choice but to fight back. The result of Hussein’s decision was the liberation of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion on the 28th of Iyar, Hebron the next day, and shortly thereafter, all of Judea and Samaria.
Jerusalem was not the only victim of massive incompetence. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, visiting Hebron andMa’arat HaMachpela, met the mufti of Hebron, Sheik Jabbrai. Jabbrai, a leader of and participant in the 1929 Hebron riots and massacre, handed Dayan the symbolic keys to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, saying, ‘Now the holy place belongs to you.’ Moshe Dayan gave the keys back to the Mufti, saying, ‘what are you talking about, the keys belong to you.’ Later, Dayan ordered that an Israeli flag, hung on Ma’arat HaMachpela by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, be removed, that a Torah scroll and holy Ark placed in the Ma’ara by Rabbi Goren be removed, and ordered that all Jews entering the structure remove their shoes, because ‘it’s a mosque.’
Why cry over spilled milk’ Repetition of these tales is not an act of simple story-telling. As a matter of fact, these accounts are indicative of just about everything that has occurred in Israel ever since. And is still occurring today.
Whenever I repeat the story of Dayan and the keys to visitors and tourists in Hebron, the first reaction is one of shock and disgust. The immediate response is ‘Why’’ My usual answer is, ‘Education.’ However, that answer is incomplete. The real reason is much deeper. It is the result of two thousand years ofgalut ’ 2,000 years of exile from Israel. But the answer is not single-faceted ‘ rather it is double-faceted: one, because the Jewish people were not in Israel, and two, because the Jewish people were dispersed amongst the nations of the world. Both of these factors played a decisive role in shaping the overall character of Am Yisrael, of the Jewish people. We are today witnessing, perhaps, the climax of the disease called Galut, an infirmity diametrically incongruous with its opposite, Geula, or redemption.
The State of Israel was born, technically, on two votes. On May 12th, 1948, the ‘provisional government’ met to reach a final decision. The British mandate was to conclude only two days later. Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion favored immediate declaration of a State. Moshe Shertok (later Moshe Sharett) favored delaying the formal declaration. By a six to four vote, Ben-Gurion was victorious. The state was born.
Several days ago, by one vote, our murderous Arab neighbors were granted legitimacy by another Israeli government. True, the vote in favor of the road map, i.e., recognition of a palestinian state, was 12 to 7. However, there were four abstentions. (In my eyes, there is no greater cowardice than a minister abstaining. A minister, by his or her very position, is a decision-maker. Not only minuscule decisions, but also big, important, significant, historic, decisions. A minister who ‘cops out’ has no business being a minister, and probably should not be in politics at all.) The four ministers who abstained were certainly not in favor of the road map plan, but they feared voting against Sharon, for whatever reason. In all actuality, there were eleven votes against the road map, against Israeli acceptance of a palestinian terror state. One vote ‘ one vote made all the difference.
Why did twelve Israeli ministers vote to abandon our land and grant our enemies another base from which to attack us’ For the same reasons that Mota Gur expected Israel to immediately withdraw from the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem, for the same reasons that Uzi Narkiss refused to destroy the mosque, for the same reasons that Moshe Dayan relinquished the keys, for the same reasons that the 1967 Israeli government dared question liberating Jerusalem, for the same reasons that four people out of ten voted to delay declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948:
Because they were afraid to look in a mirror, standing tall and proud, as Jews, not of France or England, Poland or Germany, Morocco or America, but as Jews ofEretz Yisrael, Jews of the Land of Israel.
In Hebrew there is a wordcheshbon ’ literally, it means ‘account’ ‘ for our purposes, a personal accounting , or reason, behind certain actions. Perhaps synonymous with ‘excuse.’ Arik Sharon’s cheshbon for agreeing to the road map was: 1) economic ‘ we cannot improve our economy until the war is over; 2) humanitarian ‘ we cannot rule over 3.5 million Arabs; 3) American pressure ‘ we cannot say no to Bush.
There is, conversely, anothercheshbon. The considerations of the 1967 Eshkol government fell; Jordan attacked; the Old City, Temple Mount, Judea and Samaria were liberated. Dayan renounced the keys, but Ma’arat HaMachpela is in our hands, and Jews live in Hebron. Ehud Barak attempted to dump Jerusalem ‘ where is Barak and where is Jerusalem’
As tonight we celebrate Jerusalem Day, and onShabbat, Hebron Day, we revel not only in our return to our sacred cities, to our holy lands. We revel in a Divine Cheshbon, a decision to bring the Jews home, back to their land. This is a cheshbon of Geula, of redemption. Those Jewish leaders who have insisted on ignoring this DivineCheshbon, who adamantly refuse to accept Jewish dominance in their land, whose hearts and souls are still inGalut, are erased from the present, deleted from history.
There are illnesses treated by medicine. The more serious the disease, the more difficult the cure. The present ‘Oslo war’ is the medical equivalent of massive chemotherapy treatment, which will lead to the full eradication of the malignancy attempting to eat us from within and from without. Sometimes chemotherapy succeeds, sometimes it fails. But, believe me, when G-d administers an intravenous dose, it works. But it hurts. And it does hurt.
But when we look towardsHar HaBayit ’ the Temple Mount, when we observe the Jerusalem skyline, when tens and hundreds of thousands walk the streets of Hebron, when, in the midst of war, communities continue to spring up throughout Yesha, against all odds, it is obvious that the tumor is being hit from all sides. True, there are regressions, but nothing can stand in the way of reality. And the Divine reality, the true Cheshbon, will bring all Jews to all of Eretz Yisrael, in peace and security, forever.