December 2, 2003
Last week I participated in the “Jewish Leadership” Conference in Jerusalem, led by Moshe Feiglin and Co. Feiglin, whose activities a decade ago with Zu Artzenu led to a conviction for ‘sedition’ because he, together with Shmuel Sackett, organized mass protests to the Oslo Accords, continues his admirable work. The hall in Biyanei HaUma – The Jerusalem Convention Center, was packed. I estimate that at least 1,000 people attended. (See – http://www.manhigut.org/english/update.html
One of the speakers was Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, son of the Rishon l’Tzion, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. Among other remarks, he told two revealing stories, both of which are very important.
Prior to the War of Independence Tzfat’s population included approximately 10,000 Arabs and less than 2,000 Jews.
Rabbi Eliyahu repeated a conversation between the commander of Arab forces in the city and one of the Jewish fighters, a conversation which occurred many years after the War of Independence. It went something like this:
Israeli: Why did all the Arabs flee from the city? We were clearly outnumbered?
Arab: Prior to conclusion of the British mandate, all Tzfat residents were urged to abandon the city. They refused. The British then offered to evacuate women and children. This offer was also rejected. Finally they suggested removing elderly Jews. This too was declined. We knew we had you outnumbered, but something wasn’t right – we didn’t understand why you refused to evacuate the city while you had a chance. It put a slight dent in our self confidence.
After the first day of battle we were sure you would leave, and when you didn’t, it bothered us. So it was, day after day, until we realized that you weren’t going to leave, that this was your land, and that G-d was on your side. You were winning, we were losing, and we didn’t want to die. So we fled.
The battle was over by May tenth, only days after it began.
That’s the first episode. But, here is a second, quite different story. This conversation took place in the early 1980s during the “Madrid Peace Conference,” the first time Arabs agreed to sit down with Israelis at the same table. Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir led the Israeli delegation. One of the Israeli representatives had the following conversation with the Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk a’Shara:
a’Shara: Why have you Israelis stolen the Palestinian’s land? It belongs to them. How can you take it away?
Israeli: It is not theirs – it is ours. It says so here in the Bible. G-d gave us this land.
a’Shara: It may be written in the Bible, but you don’t believe it.
Israeli: Of course I believe it – I believe in the Bible. I pray three times a day and put on Tefillin.
a’Shara: That may be so, but still, you don’t believe it.
Israeli: You’re wrong, but why do you think so?
a’Shara: If you really believed that Eretz Yisrael belonged to you, you wouldn’t be here. What are you doing here? You are negotiating for Eretz Yisrael? For the land sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? If you believed that the land belongs to you, you would not negotiate for one centimeter of it. If you are here, it means that you don’t believe it!
These two stories prove a point that I’ve been trying to make for a very long time. I am frequently asked by reporters for my ‘magic solution’ to the Middle East crisis. After all, if I reject out of hand the idea of a palestinian state, what can I possibly offer to resolve the conflict?
My answer is very simple: Only when the people of Israel – Am Yisrael, in Israel and throughout the world understand that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us, only then will we be able to reach a solution. As long as we question whether this land is ours or not our enemy will not desist, not even for one minute. They will continue their efforts, using all means possible, to conquer the State of Israel, all of it, from Metulla in the north to Eilat in the south. Only when we are convinced that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael will we have the same motivation that inspired the Jewish residents of Tzfat to remain in their homes in 1948, despite the grave danger facing them.
This is, of course, tied into Jewish education, education so lacking amongst Jews, especially children, even in Israel.
The foundation of this education is a full and total rejection of western liberal values, which diametrically contravene Jewish ethics. An example of these convoluted principals is the current worldwide pressure being exerted on Israel to stop building the ‘protective fence’ the length of the country. Personally I believe that this wall in nothing more than an optical illusion and will do more harm than good. However, the Israeli government has decided that this wall is essential to the security of the country. The fact that almost 1,000 people have been murdered, and over 6,000 wounded in almost 20,000 attacks in the past three years is good reason for the government to be concerned. However, almost every country in the world, from the United States down, rejects Israel’s legitimate right to choose how to protect its citizens. Today the Arabs claimed that construction of the wall constitutes a ‘war crime’ and is demanding a hearing in the international court in Hague.
An additional example occurred yesterday at the United Nations in New York, marking “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” This day is annually ‘celebrated’ November twenty ninth, the anniversary of the passing of the UN partition plan on Nov. 29 1947. This resolution, so disastrous for the Jews, was accepted by the leadership in pre-State Israel, but was totally rejected by the Arabs. That small fact is not an issue. What is an issue is, “Israeli actions – such as extra-judicial killings, use of heavy weapons against civilians, demolition of houses, continued expansion of settlements,
and the building of a barrier that cuts deep into Palestinian territory –
have enhanced misery and feelings of helplessness among Palestinians. They
have undermined efforts to curb violence and fuelled hatred and anger
towards Israel. They have pushed back the day when Israel will live without
fear within secure and recognized borders… I join with those from around the world who today express the deepest solidarity with the Palestinian people in their continued suffering. They remain stateless and oppressed.” So saith UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.”
At almost the same time, on the other side of the world, former President Jimmy Carter said in Geneva, “The present administration in Washington has been invariably supportive of Israel, and the well-being of the Palestinian people has been ignored or relegated to secondary importance…There is no doubt that the lack of real effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a primary source of anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and a major incentive for terrorist activity.”
And for dessert, the last example concerns Ehud Olmert’s pathetic decision, folding to EU demands that Israeli products to be labeled, allowing Europeans to tax and boycott goods produced ‘over the green line’ in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Perhaps commodities coming from these areas will be marked with a yellow star. It would be fitting.
There is no doubt that only when we learn to reject western demands out of hand will we begin to resolve our problems. Unfortunately it looks as if this is still a way off. The Israeli rumor mill has it that Ariel Sharon is considering an Eretz Yisrael tradeoff – Gaza for Gush Etzion. According to reports circulating late last week, when Sharon announces his decision to evict all Jews from Gush Katif, transferring them to the Negev, he will simultaneously propose to annex Gush Etzion and perhaps also Ma’ale Adumim, both of which are considered to be within the “Israeli consensus.”
Let it be known: this is not a tradeoff – it is a sellout! If Sharon succeeds in destroying even one Israeli community, it will be regarded as a ‘first step,’ a precedent which can be, and probably will be repeated with the advent of major world pressure on Israel. We can no more agree to dispose of Netzarim and Kfar Darom than we can to abandon Hebron, Beit El, Shilo and Ariel. The very thought is preposterous.
Only when we realize, all of us, that selling out our homeland is tantamount to cutting out our collective heart, will we reach the level of those 2,000 Jews who stood up for their homes in Tzfat in 1948 and rid themselves of over 10,000 Arab enemies in less than 10 days.
So be it!
With blessings from Hebron.