May 29, 2005
I spent this past Shabbat with my wife in Beer Sheva. We answered a newspaper advertisement calling for volunteers to speak about Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron during a special Shabbat labeled “Standing Tall.” People spoke in cities throughout Israel, focusing on Sharon’s expulsion program, and what to do about it.
My talks centered around several topics: 1. Why is settling Eretz Yisrael so difficult; 2. Why should people outside of the ‘endangered areas’ care about Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron; 3. Why it’s not too late to prevent the decree; 4. What to do now.
1. Why is settling Eretz Yisrael so difficult? Our sages teach us on the fifth page of the first volume of the Talmud (Brachot 5a) that G-d gave ‘three good presents’ to Am Yisrael, to the Jewish people, and all of them are received only via suffering and hardships: Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the next world. One of the most important Rabbis of the past hundred years, Rabbi Yosef Chaim, known as the “Ben Ish Chai” asks why these three ‘good presents’ can be obtained only following suffering and hardship. His answer is, on the face of it, quite simple. He says that G-d is trying us. He wants to know if we really and truly want them. If so, our dedication should be so great that even suffering won’t prevent us from desiring them, at virtually any price.
Concerning Eretz Yisrael he asks if we want the land because it’s comfortable for us, i.e., to enjoy its fruits, or rather, in order to perform the mitzvot (commandments or positive precepts) which are dependant on our being in Eretz Yisrael? Is our desire for Eretz Yisrael superficial, or can we, and do we recognize and appreciate the sanctity of the land?
If our love of Eretz Yisrael is authentic, we will pass the test with flying colors. We will be willing to suffer whatever hardships G-d bestows upon us. If our love is superficial, we will give up when the going gets rough.
It is clear to me that we are still being tested. We haven’t yet proven our dedication to the land, and our belief that Eretz Yisrael is an integral element of our essence. In reality, the test of our endurance hasn’t taken too much of a break since 1948, or even earlier, going back to at least, the beginning of the twentieth century. Then too settlers were willing to pay a very heavy price to live on the land. Yet, over the years, for many, that enthusiasm has dwindled. Today we must continue to raise the flag, not surrendering to the shallowness of comfort and despair.
2. Why should people outside of Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron care? Speaking in Beer Sheva, this is a very easy question to answer. In December, 1998, now PA prime minister Abu Ala, (a.k.a. Ahmad Qurei) said in an interview printed in the official PA newspaper ‘Al-Hayyat-al Jadida’ “…International legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions) recognized [the existence of] a Palestinian State alongside Israel through the partition resolution [of 1947]. This means that Israel’s legitimacy remained dependent and conditional upon the existence of the Palestinian State based on that same resolution, Resolution 181 of 1947.” Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the [Palestinian] state has internationally recognized borders, which are the borders set in the  partition resolution…”
“…There is no doubt that all the UN resolutions that recognized the creation of the Jewish State, on the basis of [UN] Resolution 181, included an inherent recognition of the boundaries of that Palestinian State, whose legitimacy still exists although it was not established at the time 
Any Beer Sheva resident taking a good look at the map of the above-mentioned 1947 boundaries will quickly realize that according to that agreement, the capital of the Negev would have the same status as Gush Katif following the Israeli retreat; i.e., Beer Sheva would be under full Arab control.
I asked my audiences, “if Beer Sheva were placed under siege, with all roads leading into the city blocked off, with an ultimatum of ‘everyone out,’ what would they expect from the rest of the country: that people would watch television, have a drink, and cry along with them; or would they expect everyone to join forces in trying to prevent mass expulsion from their homes?”
So too it would be with Hadera, Afula, Eilat or Tel Aviv.
The battle today is not for Gush Katif – it is a war for all of Eretz Yisrael. That is a main point which must be understood.
3. Why not despair? Can we really annul the decree? Of course we can. There’s no question about it. If Jews fell into the pit of despair, we would have disappeared from the face of the earth a millennia ago. Only faith and hope, prayer and determination kept the Jewish people’s collective head above water. Even during the darkest hours, (and there were many of them,) we never gave up. Why should today be any different?
The story is told of Rebbi Akiva, who lived some two thousand years ago. An illiterate shepherd, married to the daughter of the wealthiest Jew in Jerusalem, Rebbi Akiva thought that he was beyond all hope, destined to a meager life in this world. One day Rebbi Akiva, watching water drip from above onto a rock below, realized that the water was boring a hole in the stone. “Ah,” he thought to himself, “if a substance as soft as water can bore a hole in a substance as hard as a rock, then maybe there is still hope for me too.” Rebbi Akiva left home to study Torah, and twenty four years later returned as one of the greatest Torah sages of Jewish history. The pillar of Rebbi Akiva’s legacy is ‘never lose faith and never give up.’
4. What to do today? Remember, every little bit helps. First, don’t forget to pray. That’s very important. Follow the Gush Katif web sites: www.katifund.org
and www. katif.net
in Hebrew and English. Various activities and programs are posted and these sites will keep you up-to-date. (For those of you who read Hebrew and live in Israel, see http://www.katifund.org/katifund/index.html
to participate in an extremely significant project). Do whatever you can – donating time or money or both. Everyone who can get to Gush Katif, this is of paramount importance. Anyone who can plan on being here this summer, participating in various protests, or if and when the need arises, to be on the road to Gush Katif or the Northern Shomron on D-Day, can only be commended.
One of the things we’re doing here in Israel is to fill the country with orange. Gush Katif leaders chose the color orange to represent the struggle against expulsion and abandonment of our land to the enemy. As a result, people are flying orange flags and ribbons from their car windows and antennas. Everyone is wearing orange Gush Katif shirts. You can do the same.
In Judaism, orange is a very interesting color. In mystical Jewish thought, orange is associated with an attribute representing “the power to continually advance, with the determination and perseverance born of deep inner commitment, toward the realization of one’s life goals.” [http://www.inner.org/sefirot/sefhod.htm
] What could better describe the people of Gush Katif?
The Torah verse symbolizing this attribute is in Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks uprightly (innocently), walks securely;”
The people of Gush Katif are walking a path of purity and innocence. The result of such righteousness is Divine protection – total security. Despite the bombs, bullets, mortars and missiles, they remain steadfast in their faith, not willing to budge, not one inch. They are the “Vitamin C” of today’s Judaism, filling us with faith, strength and energy. They are the genuine ‘Orange Jews’ of the Jewish people.
With blessings from Hebron.