The New Jewish Congress was launched in Jerusalem on Tuesday - the same day as the Annapolis summit, whose defeatism it seeks to fight.
Organizations, speakers and supporters from across the spectrum of nationalist and religious thought were present at the Renaissance Jerusalem Hotel to take part in the opening sessions.
The plenary session was chaired by Congress co-organizer Prof. Hillel Weiss of Bar Ilan University. Others responsible for organizing the Congress were Katy Cohen and Prof. Arieh Zaritzky, while a fourth co-organizer, Dr. Gadi Eshel, read aloud the Congress charter, entitled: "The Eternal People in an Eternal Covenant in the Land of Israel." Excerpts:
"G-d commanded the land of Israel to the People of Israel as a heritage - to settle it, to walk through it, to love even its dust, to know it, to observe the Torah in it, to long for it throughout 2,000 years of Exile. And when the time of the Return to Zion came, we were to ingather our dispersed exiles into it, take the barely-alive remnants of Israel and revive them upon it, raise pioneers in it, settle it with brides and grooms, children, families and communities, build upon it towns and factories, preserve it, rejoice in its rebuilding, build in it a national home that would be a light unto the nations - and to establish G-d's Holy Sanctuary in its heart, Jerusalem, Zion, on Mt. Moriah.
"Everything is interwoven and inseparable - the tradition of Israel, the holiness of the Land, the unity of the Jewish People in Israel and abroad, defense and security, and life of creativity and deep bonds with the land.
"Every community that we plant throughout the land strengthens the roots of the Eternal Nation's Eternal Covenant here - while at the same time preventing it from being bound by 'Auschwitz borders.' Let us not fool ourselves: 'Auschwitz borders' invite Auschwitz - not only for the Jews in Israel, but for Jews everywhere, and for all of humanity!
"It cannot be that a temporary rule in the State of Israel will steal from the People of Israel its land, will conspire to expel them and give it away to a foreign nation - our bitterest enemy...
"Any traitorous or anti-Semitic declaration that emanates from the second Munich conference, wherever it is held, has no value whatsoever. The Nation of Israel and its State must shred it into the trash bin of history.
Those who take upon themselves, seemingly in the name of the State of Israel, to commit national suicide, lose their right to rule in the State of the Jewish Nation.
"No Jew will abandon his home, give up his inheritance, freeze construction in his land or pave the way to Auschwitz borders in order to fulfill that evil decree.
"A group of people who take upon themselves, seemingly in the name of the State of Israel, to commit national suicide, lose their right to rule in the State of the Jewish Nation.
"We hereby determine that IDF soldier and members of the Israel Police are forbidden to take part in the crime of expelling Jews from their homes and inheritance, of transferring parts of our Holy Land to our enemies, and endangering the Nation of Israel - in any form!
"We call upon all those who are loyal to the Land of Israel and the Nation of Israel and every Jew who loves life, to arise, unite, remove the decrees "from our people and from the cities of our G-d," and emplace Jewish sovereignty over the entire Land. In the words of Joshua and Caleb when Moses sent them to scout out the Land, 'Let us ascend and inherit the Land, for we can overcome it.'"
Rabbi Dov Lior
Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior said that the Jewish People are required to both settle the Land and conquer it, and that the latter command "involves military force, with all the associated risks. For many years we did not have the ability to fulfill this Torah commandment, but now we can - and so we must! We must not fear the threats of the evil ones, but we must rather persist, and not allow the weakness of our government to become a 'weeping for generations.'"
Rabbi Lior praised the Congress as "a welcome attempt to prevent our destruction and to return to real Zionism. The Land of Israel is something that can unite all sections of the nation - but not when our students can go through 12 years in our educational system and then feel they have to take off for India to 'find themselves.' ... We are in a situation that I would not describe as a dead-end, but rather one in which we do not currently see the way out. When in such a predicament, we learn from our forefathers that we must be strong and emphatic, as Joshua and Caleb were, about our rights to this Land!"
MK Aryeh Eldad
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) took a slightly revolutionary approach: "Yes, we had a large protest rally yesterday, but the tone was one of conciliation and loving everyone - to the extent that even members of the coalition government were able to come and speak of the dangers of Annapolis, even though they themselves are sitting in the government and building the scaffolding on which will be built the gallows on which we are all to hang, Heaven forbid! During the Disengagement, we called for civil disobedience, and it didn't happen; we called for refusal of orders, but only a few responded; we called to cut the fences in Kfar Maimon, but the public-minded leadership didn't allow it... When Olmert returns from Annapolis and will start paying his debt to the Americans by destroying outposts such as Migron or Assaf [43 and 17 families, respectively, both of them in critical locations north of Jerusalem - ed.], if we don't use the tools of this Congress to make a real fight and to capture the leadership, then we will become irrelevant."
If we don't use the tools of this Congress to make a real fight and to capture the leadership, then we will become irrelevant.
Dr. Yossi Ben-Aharon
Arab affairs expert Dr. Yossi Ben-Aharon: "The test of this generation is the Land of Israel. Uprooting a Jew from his home or his land is a crime against the Jewish people's link with the Land, and this is therefore the challenge we face... A true opposition, if we had one, would announce clearly that it is not obligated by whatever is decided in Annapolis. We must declare with a loud voice: This government's vows are not our vows, and its obligations are not our obligations!"
Chabad Rabbi Shalom Wolpe
Rabbi Shalom Wolpe, a Lubavitcher who heads the Task Force to Save the Land, surprised some with his remarks: "The Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson] said that saving lives is more important than the sanctity of the Land, and that if giving away the Western Wall would save even one life, we should give it away. But the bottom line is that giving away even a small part of the Land is itself dangerous to our national existence here, and is therefore forbidden... Some say that we are not Zionists. I say that if Zionists are those who wish to give up the Land, then we are truly anti-Zionists... If Olmert returns from Annapolis with a promise to establish a Palestinian state, we must establish our own new state in Judea and Samaria. We must fight Amona-style; we must refuse orders to expel Jews; and we must make it clear that if Olmert wishes to expel Jews from Judea and Samaria, no one leaves in one piece!"
Attorney Elyakim HaEtzni
Attorney Elyakim HaEtzni, a long-time ideologue of the Yesha Council and now one of its strong opponents, said, "Forty nations were invited to Annapolis - but one people who was not represented was the Jewish People! Yes, Israel was there, but not the Jewish People. I do not mean this lightly. Both the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate spoke of the bonds between the Land and the Jewish Nation - but today, such a formulation would not be accepted by Israel's Supreme Court! The State of Israel no longer carries out reverse discrimination in favor of the Jews, as it was created to do, but rather expels Jews, wants Arabs on the Jewish National Fund board, and the like. Who will defend the Jewish Nation?!"
I say that if Zionists are those who wish to give up the Land, then we are truly anti-Zionists.
Architect and Temple Mount expert Gideon Charlop: "The Temple Mount and the idea of the Holy Temple do not appeal to the public; we need new, modern methods by which to 'sell' these concepts..."
Botanist Mordechai Kislev
Botanist Prof. Mordechai Kislev of Bar Ilan University enthralled his listeners by speaking of the discovery of a grassy growth called "smoke raiser." He explained that when it is added to burning incense, it causes the smoke that arises to do so in a straight column - precisely how the Talmud describes the smoke emanating from the incense in the Holy Temple. The discovery was made in Jordan, and he is about to depart for Egypt to corroborate reports of a similar discovery there.
JNF, Fenton, Davidi
Naftali Karni of the Jewish National Fund and Elad city planner Aya Greenfeld spoke of their program to "sell" the entire Holy Land as a historic and holy site, for both internal-educational and international-tourism purposes.
Jerusalem City Council member Mina Fenton discussed the dangers of missionary Christians in the Holy City.
Alon Davidi of Sderot reminded the participants that the ideals of the Land of Israel cannot be taught in a vacuum: "My neighbors are mainly concerned about Kassam rockets landing in their homes; you cannot come and talk to them right now about the Land of Israel."
Prof. Paul Eidelberg, speaking in English, said that the main problem in Israeli public life is its undemocratic political system: "The MKs are not directly elected by the citizenry, and are therefore not accountable. Ben-Gurion himself realized this after about two elections, and deplored the system. The people of Israel are not apathetic; they're simply powerless! We are unable to have influence. We need just one person who will be strong enough to lead this revolution and effect the change!" His impassioned speech swept up at least one woman, who asked, "Why don't you lead us?"
The people of Israel are not apathetic; they're simply powerless!
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz of Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim, a well-known expert in many fields of Torah who has written over 200 books on Jewish law and thought, shared several thoughts:
"We must believe in ourselves and in our ability to effect change. This is why on Chanukah we are not permitted to light torches, but rather simple, individual candles - to show the power of the individual....
"Those who live outside Israel must either move to Israel, or else perpetuate their bonds with Israel by setting aside a charity box in which they place a dollar or two every day for each family member, that they will then use either to fund their Aliyah [immigration], or for some other Israel-related use. This will be their daily reminder and link with the Holy Land...
"Why is it that public trust in the law system in Israel drops from year to year? It's simply because it's not our Jewish law system; it's not what we received at Mt. Sinai, but something put together from foreign sources. We must revive Jewish Law in our modern State of Israel. But how can this be done? After all, the Torah says that a thief is punished only by paying back double - and one who commandeered property must only return what he took! What will be with all the gangsters under such a system? The answer is that in the Jewish system, children learn these laws from a very early age - first from the Torah, then the Mishna, then the Gmara. They are steeped in the idea that one must be more careful not to cause damage than to be caused damage. When a society is steeped in such values, there is barely any need for all these laws - because people simply don't steal! Only when a society is taught foreign values is there a need for such strict laws. The Torah, too, allows us to enact different regulations when there is a need...
"The Seven Noachide Commandments must be taught, disseminated, and encouraged throughout the world. Both Christians and Moslems understand their importance; a leading Moslem sheikh in Italy is in favor, and I have translated my book on the importance of the Noachide Commandments into Arabic - and I have been told, though I don't know it for a fact, that two terrorist attacks have already been prevented because of this book..."
Rabbi Dov Stein of the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin secretary Rabbi Dov Stein said, "It would appear that one is not allowed to ask Halakhic questions on the topic of state-and-politics, such as refusal of army orders, of any rabbi who receives his salary from the government - for he is, unwillingly, beholden to those who pay his salary, and therefore may not be able to answer correctly."
Other speakers included philospher Ohad Kamin, military historian Uri Milstein, Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev, Prof. Menashe Harel, Rabbi Yishai Baavad, former MK Sha'ul Yahalom, VAT founder Shifra Hoffman, Honenu legal rights organization founder Shmuel Medad, Rabb Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, Moshe Feiglin, Esther Pollard and Nissan Gan-Or of the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization, and many more.
Respondents are asked to list the five issues or problems they feel require urgent attention and for which they would be willing to be active.
Tzibur Bnei Yisrael
An organization called Tzibur Bnei Yisrael (Community of the Children of Israel) was also present, seeking to advance its newest project, entitled The Top Five. Respondents are asked to list the five issues or problems they feel require urgent attention and for which they would be willing to be active. Issues could include corruption in government, widening socio-economic gaps, education, apathy regarding the Land of Israel, decreasing religious awareness, lack of Gentile awareness of the Noachide commandments, and more. The results will then be compiled, and persons will be asked to attend discussion and action groups on their "pet" issues. For more information, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. .