Rabbi Joseph GerlitzkyThe writer is the Rabbi of Central Tel Aviv and Chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace.
There is a popular joke about a man standing trial for the murder of his own parents. After he is unequivocally proven guilty, the judge turns to him and asks: “Do you have anything to say in your defense?” The defendant replies, unhesitatingly: “Yes. I beg the court to show leniency due to my unfortunate situation. I was recently tragically orphaned of both my father and mother...”
Today, regrettably, this is no longer a joke, but a fact of life. We are constantly being bombarded by claims that Israel is “stuck” in the current political situation. That our inability to quash the murderous wave of terror now sweeping our streets leaves us no option but to return to the bargaining table; in other words – to surrender, to retreat, and to offer our enemies ever more gifts, beyond the capitulation and weakness we have already shown by freezing settlement construction, evicting Jews from their homes, and more.
The absurdity of the situation screams out to heaven; for it is the Israeli governments that created the current situation – by promoting the warped idea that by “giving up a little here, giving up a little there, we will gain a little peace and quiet.”
We ourselves have convinced the Palestinian Arabs that they can defeat us with their rocks and knives and guns.
We ourselves have given them weaponry, money and power, self-identify and a seditious media.
We ourselves have granted the Arab citizens of Israel the “equal right” to identify themselves as Palestinians and to teach their children to seek the destruction of Israel, all the while enjoying “affirmative action,” and other benefits, while we foot the bill.
We ourselves have convinced America and Europe that the Palestinian Arabs are a “peaceful and enlightened nation,” who deserve their own country, rather than showing them the sad truth – that they are one anti-Semitic entity. And now, we announce:“There is nothing to do! We have to stop ruling over them. And don’t forget about for the demographic threat!” – and all the other empty slogans we have been hearing for thirty years.
And all the while, those clever pundits, with their dangerous slogans, shoot back at us: “Nu, so what is your solution? Should we just leave this awful situation the way it is, with innocent Jewish blood being spilled day after day by those murderers, while our security forces stand helpless?”
G-d forbid! The Torah forbids us to say: “That’s how it is,” or (as we hear from some of those in the media and Israeli security forces) “We have to learn to live with it.”
There is an authentic Jewish answer. Maimonides writes, at the beginning of the Laws of Public Fasts, “It is a positive Torah commandment to cry out and sound trumpets over every misfortune that threatens the community... this is one of the paths of repentance – that when misfortune strikes, and the people cry out [to G-d] and sound trumpets, everyone will realize that these tragedies occur on account of their misdeeds. This [repentance] will bring an end to the misfortune. However, should the people not cry out [to G-d], or sound the trumpets, but rather, claim that ‘what happened to us is simply a natural phenomenon, and this misfortune is a mere chance occurrence,’ then he is being cruel...”
If a person says: “Sorry, there is nothing to do. There will always be one ‘wave of terror’ or another,” or offers some version of Maimonides words: “this misfortune is a mere chance occurrence” – he is, in the eyes of the Torah, being “cruel” and heartless.
For over four months, Jewish blood has been spilled in our streets on a daily basis. Men, women and children have been attacked and killed in our shops, our homes and in all places. We must think deeply about the situation and fight against it with all our strength.
We don’t have to be anthropologists or intelligence agents to find an answer. It’s enough to listen to every terrorist who has been caught, every Palestinian protester, and even the Arab members of parliament. The Israelis are scared, they have lost faith in themselves and no longer believe that the land on which they live was given to the Patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov – that Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, actually belongs to them. Proof? They have already folded up their tents and retreated from large tracts of Eretz Yisrael, and they plan on doing so even more. All we have to do is keep exerting pressure, keep striking them, killing and wounding them, frightening them and causing them to despair. For the more pressure they feel, the more they will give up and give in – until (as the Jewish Code of Law writes) “the land will be easy to conquer.”
This is just one of the ways the Palestinian Arabs rationalize their actions and at times, it’s the actual motivation inspiring a terrorist who kills Jews with rock or knife, gun or missile. The Oslo Agreement, the Hevron Agreement, freeing prisoners, political negotiations, the “ranch,” the disengagement, the construction freeze, and the goal of “two states for two peoples” – all of these are deeply etched in the consciousness of every single Arab who wants to feel part of the historic victory over the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. This is more than simply a “tail wind” to terror; it is both the fuel and the gas pedal that drive it.
As much as forty years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke precisely about our current situation. Even his own hassidim didn’t always understand what he was so adamant about and wondered at his heartfelt cries because things didn’t look so grim back then. Today, however, everyone realizes that the Rebbe simply saw everything. And that by merely reading the well-known laws in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 329), he foresaw the pain that is now being etched into our very flesh. He cried out as though he beheld, with his own eyes, the knife plunged into the heart of an innocent Jew merely walking down the street.
The Rebbe said explicitly, in his famous talk with Rabbi Elimelech Naimon. “I see with my own eyes the danger hovering over all who dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem, in Ein Harod, and in Tel Aviv, by handing over parts of Eretz Yisrael to the goyim. Therefore, I will in no way change my mind about this.”
The Rebbe foresaw how even the mere suggestion – not an official declaration – of withdrawal and concession in the face of pressure and terrorism would lead to more terrorism, more suicide attacks, and more innocent blood being spilled.
In thirty years of terrorism, have we ever seen the residents of an Arab town evicted? In the midst of various confrontations, have we ever seen the general Arab public suffer from the violence or terrorist attacks that they themselves initiated? Never! Yet, we have seen dozens of Jewish settlements cruelly dismantled, synagogues demolished, and Israeli soldiers retreating under fire. What does the Palestinian Arab stand to lose with his wars and his cruelty? After all, he continues to receive our aid (or from the rest of the world, through us), as well as electricity, money, weapons, and more. It is a win-win situation, and they stand only to benefit further, by increasing their attacks.
This brings us to an even a more difficult question: everyone has seen where the Oslo agreements and the disengagement brought us – Palestinian incitement, the tunnels that continue to be dug from Gaza, the monstrous increase in the strength of our enemies, and the Jewish blood that is being spilled like water. Has any of the architects of Oslo and the disengagement ever been brought to trial? Have we ever heard a word of regret from any of them? Have they ever shared some soul-searching with the public? Just the opposite is the case. They continue crying out “We are orphans! The situation is unbearable! There’s no way out but to concede!”
The time has come to stop living with these lies and to start living with the truth. There is only one way to stop this cycle of blood and it is to uproot the main incentive and goal of all the terrorism and bloodshed. It requires those who formulated the Oslo Accords and the disengagement who continue to work in key positions in the Israeli government, to stand up before the entire world and declare: “We are guilty, we have acted wrongly... this whole long road of negotiating and concessions has been one awful mistake from the offset. We take responsibility for all the innocent blood that has been spilled due to our egregiousness. Henceforth, the entire Land of Israel will remain under Israeli control, unconditionally, and in spite of
There is only one way to stop this cycle of blood and it is to uproot the main incentive and goal of all the terrorism and bloodshed.
anything the rest of the world has to say. This is not up for negotiation.”
It is clear that neither the right-wing government nor the slogans of a “war against terror” will actually stop the murder and incitement. Only a clear and historic pronouncement that the period of negotiations has ended, the false equation of “land for peace” will no longer be tolerated, there will never be a Palestinian state and the Oslo Agreement and everything it implies is thoroughly annulled.
One of the ways to accomplish this, according to the Rebbe, is to publicize, by every means possible, the psak din (halakhic decision) of the great Rabbis of Israel, that any negotiations concerning the handing over territories are a threat to the Jewish people (as the Shulchan Aruch states, OC 329), and forbidden.
Today, even the blind can see just how true this is – to our great misfortune. Each and every one of us must publicize this psak din and to do all that is in his or her power – for the sake of our lives, the lives of our children, and the lives of all Jews who live in the Holy Land.
Our lives depend on it, and with G-d’s help, we will be victorious.