Op-Ed: The Real Struggle - A Look at Migron as Slichot Begin
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
Where’s the Struggle?
Last week I read in amazement an article in the “Besheva” Hebrew weekly newspaper by reporter Hagit Rosenbaum, entitled “Where’s the Struggle?”
In the article, the writer complained that “the drawn-out battles in the corridors of the Knesset and the courtrooms, such as those of ‘Givat Ulpana’ and ‘Migron’, ended with a whimper, and a quiet and orderly transfer of families to alternative caravans. The residents announced and promised in advance not to take any violent actions during the course of the evacuation; it appears that the images of struggles, comparable to those from ‘Amona’, are quickly fading away.
" We sought to analyze the reason for this, with the help of some veteran organizer's of settlement struggles – past and present.”
I regretted reading this article, seeing as I had already written two halakhic articles oncerning the issue, these being the main points:
“If the demolition is because, in the opinion of the Government or the courts, it is forbidden for a Jew to live in a certain region in the Land of Israel, then we are talking about religious coercion, and it is one's duty to rebel against it, in the sense of 'ya'hareg v'al ya'avor'…In contrast, when a Jew builds his house deliberately on a public road or in an area intended for a park, or on privately-owned property – whether owned by a Jew or a non-Jew – there is no Torah prohibition to demolish his house.
On the contrary – this is the how an orderly government is maintained. Also, when the courts determine that a certain person built his house in theft of someone else's property, there is no prohibition to demolish the house. Even if it appears that the court erred in its decision, as long as it is a reasonable mistake, it still falls under the ruling tha the law of the land must be kept, 'dina d'malchuta dina'…
“And then, there are ambiguous situations, where, on the one hand, there is no decision in principle opposing the right of Jews to live in a particular region of Eretz Yisrael… In such a case, the question returns to the doorstep of the Government, which possesses the ability to construct additional houses in that area.
"If the Government gives instructions to build several houses in place of those intended to be demolished, then it demonstrates that it is not working in opposition to settling the Land, and the decision to demolish reverts to being permitted – by reason of 'dina d'malchuta dina'. Nevertheless, if there are injustices in the decision, public debate should be raised, but the order’s implementation should not be contested.
"If the Government does not exercise its authority to build, then apparently the demolition stems from a desire to harm the mitzvah of settling the Land. However, this is still not considered “public religious coercion”, because the reasoning is based on the law, and is of limited scope. Nevertheless, in such a case, seeing as the action of destroying homes blatantly violates the mitzvoth of the Torah, no policeman, soldier, or citizen should honor or obey such an order, and it is even a mitzvah to rebel against it in all commonly acceptable ways.
"The struggle should not be intensified beyond this, seeing as it is not explicitly considered religious coercion.”
The Situation Today
When the Prime Minister announces in the Knesset and in other public forums that the Government supports the settling of Judea and Samaria, and in place of every house destroyed, ten others will be built in its place, had our fellow settlers from Migron also demanded this, they most probably would have received ten new houses for each one evacuated.
However, rather than discussing with Government representatives the issue of the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel extensively, they chose to follow the route off seeking assistance from the Supreme Court. In such a situation, there is no ‘religious coercion’, and the rule ‘dina d’malchuta dina’ applies.
Therefore, the question of why there was no aggressive struggle in Migron as there was in Amona, has no place. Such a question is also harmful, just as shouts of alarm when there is no emergency cause dangerous laxity in the state of a real emergency.
True, there is a need to conduct an intense and fundamental struggle against the judicial system and its basic assumptions, however, the place for this struggle is in a public debate, and in the corridors of the Knesset and Government. Furthermore, there is a need organize a targeted campaign against the continued employment of hostile attorneys in government offices.
The Situation in Amona vs. Today
In Amona, the Government refused any solution for the settlers or the houses, and everyone understood that it was the first stage of Olmert’s mass expulsion program. The Government’s premeditated violent eviction was designed to break the backbone of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, and prepare the expulsion.
The question asked in the article is roughly similar to that of a person wondering why we do not wave the ‘lulav’ on Rosh Hashana; why we do not blow the ‘shofar’ on Sukkot; and why we drive vehicles on Tuesday, even though it is forbidden on Shabbat!
To be sure, there was an interesting proposal in the article by Rabbi Gadi ben Zimra: to leave Migron, and demonstrate in front of dozens of Arab homes built on private Jewish lands, which the courts ordered not to destroy. Such a proposal is capable of advancing the necessary public struggle against the judicial system, demonstrating to the entire public the discrimination and injustice towards the Jews.
Focus on Settling the Land
We need to focus on the main point – on the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land), with the goal of increasing the number of residents living in Judea and Samaria like “the sand on the seashore and the stars in the skies”, and to strengthen the legal status of the settlements as best as possible.
In the ‘Givat Ulpana’ incident, we made progress in terms of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’, first, with the guarantee of building ten times the number of houses, a third of which are already under construction. True, legal officials are causing difficulties – some for bureaucratic reasons, others out of spite – but government officials are trying to overcome them.
Apparently, if the Bet El Regional Council operates properly, the construction of hundreds of more houses will begin in the coming year. In practice, according to the area of land added to the community of Bet El as a result of the agreement, thirteen times as many houses can be built.
Another great achievement was reached – a public declaration of the Prime Minister in the Knesset of Israel’s right to settle in Judea and Samaria, which carries certain political weight. In addition to this, a Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs was established. All efforts must be directed towards one goal: that this Ministerial Committee approves more settlement expansion plans, and that the ‘Levy Report’ is made the guideline for the State Attorney.
Perhaps there are some who have lost all faith in the government, but we must realize that there are many Ministers and members of Knesset who want the settlements to succeed. They might not be willing to settle all of Judea and Samaria immediately, but rather, wish to promote the settlements gradually. We should cooperate with them by means of constant encouragement and motivation.
"Time is Short and the Task is Great" (a Talmudic saying, ed.
It is difficult for me to write words that might upset our dedicated, fellow settlers of Migron and all the outposts. Of course, we all appreciate their devotion for the sake of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’, and I hope that no one will regret, or be weakened, from what I have written. In any case, from time to time we must analyze the situation, so that we can continue to progress.
All three meetings of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements, which could have dealt primarily with the approval of expansion plans for dozens of ‘yishuvim’ and the partial or full approval of the ‘Levy Report’, were mainly devoted to the question of Migron and the Supreme Court petitions concerning other outposts. In other words, they engaged in “extinguishing fires” caused by the attorneys. What a shame!
If all the resources spent during the current term of government for the sake of protecting homes built in legally disputed areas – including resources invested in the ‘Regulation Law’ – would have been directed towards alternative construction plans and expanding settlements, we would have been able to absorb tens of thousands of new residents in Judea and Samaria.
We have no assurances. There are still great threats hovering over the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Let’s hope in the future, we will not be sorry for having dealt with “extinguishing fires”, instead of substantially expanding the settlements.
We should learn a lesson from the past. If the enormous resources invested in stopping the “disengagement” from Gush Katif – including the sacrifice of tens of thousands of days of volunteerism, and over 100 million shekels spent in publicity campaigns – had been invested years beforehand in absorbing another 30,000 residents in Gush Katif, it is hard to imagine that the evacuation would not have occurred.
Despite the difficulties and the familiar weakness of the government, now is a good time for building. For example, in the last year, the number of residents in the Shomron Regional Council increased by 14%. This is an impressive growth worthy of great praise.
Out of ‘cheshbon nefesh’ (reckoning) and love for the nation and the land, we will come to ‘selichot’ (penitential prayers), asking for a good and sweet New Year.