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
Even as the Yifrach, Fraenkel, and Sha’ar families sit shiva, I cannot refrain from expressing my deep admiration of the noble way they conducted themselves. Like public representatives aware that the eyes of the entire nation were lifted up to them, they stood humbly and upright.
Inside their houses, they cried – you could see it on their faces. But when they went out to speak to the media, they dressed suitably, in honor of the Jewish nation, so as not to cause faintheartedness, and so the Arabs wouldn’t mock us in Gaza, ‘lestthe daughters of the Philistines rejoice, and the pagans laugh in triumph (from David'e eulogy for Saul, ed)’.
They stood husband and wife, three families together, bearing their private grief and sorrow as a public sacrifice for all of Israel. Calmly, they strengthened the security forces and encouraged the public, who, along with them, were stirred, prayed, and anticipated a miracle.
Moreover, their hearts were filled with concern that perhaps the disaster had already occurred, and the public would feel disappointment that their prayers were not accepted. And thus, we found one of the mothers take special pains to convey that prayers are helpful even if they do not bring about the desired result. Thus, the public at large was exposed to the exceptionally beautiful side of the religious community; ordinary citizens engaged in Torah and work, dedicated to the nation and the Land.
May it be God’s will that from now on their future will be only one of good and blessing, and they merit to raise their children to Torah and mitzvoth, to the wedding canopy and good deeds, and be privileged to see from them grandchildren and great-grandchildren, settling the length and breadth of all of the Land, and be comforted in the building of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
The Feeble Response
How sad and humiliating it is to hear how the Government of Israel’s Security Cabinet repeatedly convenes, but cannot reach a comprehensive conclusion that can change, even minimally, our strategic situation. It is their obligation to do so, seeing as the abduction and murder of the three youths openly expressed the attitude of the Arab enemy towards us.
We had nearly three weeks to see just how deep the murderous hostility of the majority of the Arab population is towards us, among both the leadership, and the masses. It was proven once again that this is the position of the majority of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria and a significant percentage of Arab citizens of Israel. This was no surprise, witness the systematic incitement in the media, schools, and mosques.
This hostility is reflected in all forms of contempt and humiliation towards the Jews – their people, and religion. Arabs danced and handed out candies, gloating all the while. On the Temple Mount, groups of children in contempt of the police and the Jews mockingly pointed three fingers as a sign of victory. And when Abu Mazen, out of vested interest, expressed opposition to the abduction, he was declared a traitor by a member of Knesset, a representative of the Arab public.
Lacking a vision for settling the Land of Israel, the Government is helpless. It instructs the army to shell empty houses in Gaza hoping to appease Israeli public opinion, but in effect, humiliates our national honor – the most important asset in the Middle East.
What a Responsible Government Should Do
With the knowledge that the whole war against us is over our right to all of the Land, the Government should have understood that with the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land) we will win the war, and in its abeyance, we will lose. Therefore, the first response should be the approval of the construction of 30,000 housing units throughout Judea and Samaria.
Furthermore, in the exact same place where the holy boys’ bodies were found, a new settlement should be established in their memory – ‘Yad Ha’Sholsha‘, while allocating enough land to build 3,000 apartments. Halakha (Jewish law) determines that a met mitzvah (an unattended corpse) whom someone finds and has to bury acquires the right to be buried on the spot where he was killed, without having to pay the landowner (Bava Kama 81a). In our context, the halakha should be broadened, determining that a met mitzvah acquires the right to establish a new community in the Land of Israel where he was killed. This was the reason the boys were murdered, and therefore the proper response is to establish a new settlement in their memory.
The Levy Report which determines the legal status of the Jews in Judea and Samaria as having equal rights to those of the Arabs, should be adopted, thereby fundamentally changing the attitude of the judiciary system concerning the rights of Jews in Judea and Samaria. It is impossible to demand national respect from our neighboring Arab counties, when we ourselves are not concerned about resolving the legal status of the Jews in their own country.
After these actions, which clarify and implement our rights to our Land, the roadblocks, whose removal allowed the abduction, should be returned; we should pursue the return of released prisoners to jail, since they violated the terms of their release; the conditions of confinement for security prisoners should be more severe, and family visits should be reduced to the minimum required under international law; the internal organizations within the jails should be dismantled, and their privileges revoked; the Temple Mount should be completely closed to Muslims, since they used the sacred mountain to incite, destroy, and defile any trace of Jewish history; and all the illegal construction of mosques, squares, monuments, and soccer fields on the Temple Mount should be removed.
At the same time, preparations should be made to impose law and order in all of Judea and Samaria, including the demolition of all illegal construction in East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and announce the commencement of a withdrawal process from the delusion of establishing a “peaceful” Palestinian state. In place of this, the Arab population should be allowed to form municipalities and regional districts, with each such entity having autonomous administrative rights, subject to Israeli rule.
The Benefit of Presenting an Alternative
A reader of this column might ask: There’s no chance in the world the current Israeli government will do all this, so what’s the point of writing an imaginary proposal?
There are a number of reasons for this. First, who knows? Perhaps in the face of the shocking murderous actions which were supported by a broad population, even this Government will come to its senses. What’s more, a significant part of the suggestions I’ve written are required by law, which the Government negligently does not implement.
Who commissioned the Levy Report? Who declares loyalty to the rule of law? Shouldn’t the law be imposed in Judea and Samaria, and all the more so, on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem the capital of Israel, as well? Moreover, who declared loyalty to the Land of Israel, if not the Likud government? Shouldn’t this be expressed in extensive construction in Judea and Samaria?
Apart from that, the situation, unfortunately, is not going to change for the better, despite all the hopes and fantasies of the dreamers of “peace in our time” (as Chamberlain said after the Munich agreement in 1938, where it was agreed that the Nazis would not initiate any more wars). If we do not take these steps now, we will have to do so in the future – after more disasters and worse conditions.
What’s more, there are quite a few ministers and Knesset members from the Likud, Yisrael Beyteinu, and of course the Bayit HaYehudi Party, who are all-ears for these types of suggestions, and for that reason it is very important to express them.
The Painful Question
At this point in time, it is impossible not to present the painful question to all those who supported and pressured for the release of terrorists in all the various deals: Are you regretful? Can you look us in the face and say publicly: We were wrong?
By the hands of one of the released terrorists in the deal you promoted, Deputy Major General Baruch Mizrachi, hy’d, was murdered, while leaving behind a widow and orphans, wounded in body and soul. Can you admit that the motivation to kidnap and murder Jews increased due to the release of terrorists in exchange for living soldiers, or for dead bodies?
The question is directed specifically to the security personnel who arrogantly preached for the release of terrorists. At present, they are required to render an accounting of their souls and consciences’ before the public.
The prayers for the holy youths were helpful, in that their bodies were found by Jews, and brought for Jewish burial, without a single hair falling from the head of a Jew as a result of agreements to release murderers in exchange for their bodies, as the killers had planned.
The Laws of Redeeming Captives
This is the fitting opportunity to reiterate the words of our Sages on the redemption of captives, a statement which possess both wisdom and morality. They said: “Captives should not be redeemed for more than their value because of tikkun olam” [for the good order of the world] (Gittin 45a). The main reason for this is to avoid creating an incentive for thieves to kidnap increasing numbers of Jews, after realizing that we are willing to pay any price for their release.
Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are of the opinion that when a captive is in a life-threatening situation, it is permitted to redeem him for even more than the usual ransom. However, the majority of poskim wrote that even in a life-threatening situation, the captive should not be redeemed for more, because of the danger it will cause to the rest of the Jews (Ramban, see Pitchai Teshuva, Y.D. 252:4).
All this is refers to ordinary thieves. However, when it comes to war, any surrender to blackmail is prohibited. And even if the thieves came to steal straw and hay from a town located on the border, we must go out to war against them, because if we capitulate to them over straw and hay, in the end, they will come to murder (Eruvin 45a). We have also seen that Israel went to war to redeem one woman captive (Numbers 21:1, Rashi). Therefore, it is forbidden to ransom a captive for more than their value – namely, one captive in exchange for another.
Closing the ‘Kol Yisrael‘ Radio Station
Recently, ‘Kol Yisrael‘ has been conducting a campaign against the closure of the I.B.A. (Israel Broadcasting Authority). Secular, left-wing personalities have been preaching to us about the importance of public broadcasting.
Besides the fact that the I.B.A. is mismanaged, it also has failed its primary function. Instead of expressing the views of the public in all its diversity, it serves as a tool for the positions of the secular, Left-wing. People like me have no chance of expressing their views on public broadcasting. The closing down of the I.B.A. is essentially the closure of an authority that worked to promote the positions of the secular Left with our tax money. Perhaps in a new framework they will be able to create a more balanced broadcasting system.
This is the occasion to strengthen Minister Gilad Erdan for his courageous action. Presumably, his public standing will be strengthened thanks to his justified position, and we hope that it will be for the glory of the Torah, the nation, and the Land of Israel.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.