Remembering Sinai, 23 Years Later

Yeshivat Yamit, uprooted by the Begin Gov't and moved to Gush Katif in 1982, held a commemorative session Monday to recall the uprooting of yesteryear - and compare it to the one it faces today.

, | updated: 16:37

by Arutz-7's Gush Katif correspondent

The speakers included:
* Rabbi David Gavrieli, who currently heads the hesder yeshiva in which students combine Torah study and army service;
* MK Rabbi Benny Elon (National Union), who spoke of the significance of "remembering" as something that must have practical ramifications;
* Avraham Bar-Ilan, a builder of the city of Yamit and a planner of the community of N'vei Dekalim;
* and Rabbi Tzvi Schwartz, a teacher in the original yeshiva in Yamit, and who now teaches in the current Yamit Yeshiva as well as in Yeshivat Torat HaChaim - the two post-high school yeshivot in N’vei Dekalim.

Rabbi Schwartz began by noting that there are two very misunderstood concepts in today’s public discourse: the Land of Israel and peace. “In some circles,” he said, “the State of Israel has taken the place of the Land of Israel - and this is wrong. The state is a political entity, while the Land has eternal spiritual significance.” Nevertheless, he emphasized later in his remarks that this coming Independence Day must be celebrated as a religious holiday.

The second misunderstood concept is ‘peace,’ Rabbi Schwartz said. “Peace is not the end-all of Judaism. Rather, keeping the Torah’s values and commandments is the most important thing - and if we do so, then we are promised that we will have peace. We need not run after peace with the nations at the expense of keeping our Torah. The Torah will help us reach the peace that we seek.”

In honor of this week’s 27th anniversary of the uprooting of the Yamit region in northern Sinai to make way for the peace treaty with Egypt, Rabbi Schwartz provided a quick historic overview of what led up to that traumatic event. He explained that Menachem Begin came to power in 1977, becoming the first non-left-wing Prime Minister in Israel’s history. A few months later, then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made a significant gesture by visiting Israel, knocking Begin off-balance by suddenly offering Israel peace for the first time in its history. The price, however, was the complete return of the entire Sinai Peninsula, including the flowering Yamit region of over a dozen Jewish communities.

“Begin was distraught over the situation,” the rabbi said, “but in Camp David, closed off with Jimmy Carter and Sadat - and with the 'help' of Ariel Sharon by phone - he came to the decision that since Sadat was not giving in, Israel would have to give in. Begin thus made the turnabout, bringing Israel to its lowest point, and setting the precedent that modern Jewish presence in the Land of Israel need not be permanent. He made it clear that the road was now open for further concessions, saying that further peace agreements with other Arab countries could be on their way and would require a similar price. He even granted autonomy to the people he called the Palestinians. The Arabs understood that via war, they might get nothing or less, but by talking ‘peace,’ they could demand everything.”

Rabbi Schwartz noted that Begin did not have to work hard to convince the nation that peace with Egypt was worth the price of giving up some communities in far-away Sinai. “Today,” he said, “speaking even from a pessimistic point of view, we can still see that the situation is totally and completely different. Prime Minister Sharon has had to struggle on every single step of his plan, and there is far from a consensus over it…"

"More significantly" he continued, "the strength of the religious ‘faith’ public is ever-increasing. Rabbi A.I. Kook once gave an approbation to a commentary on Rashi that was written by a farmer who worked during the day and wrote at night. Though the author was not quite the biggest rabbi in the country, Rabbi Kook’s approbation was brimming with praise, in light of the fact that the author worked the land during the day and was able to study and promote Torah at night.

“If that’s how Rabbi Kook related to such a man, we can only imagine what he would think of our public today - which is devoted so totally to the combination of Torah and work, and is constantly getting spiritually stronger, and is always working on itself in Torah study and Hasidut and dedication to the Land and to the community and in keeping the Torah’s commandments down to their last details… If the spiritual growth that I have seen in this country over the last 40 years continues, then in only a few years we can be sure that everything we have lost, we will regain - and then some.”

MK Elon, of the National Union party, is a former yeshiva head himself, and combined his political and rabbinical backgrounds to shed light on the current situation. He emphasized that though a security-based outlook on the importance of the Land of Israel has its importance - “witness the Jewish law that states that we may even desecrate the Sabbath if our enemy comes to rob our border towns, because that will leave the country open to more dangerous attacks” - it must not be devoid of a Torah perspective.

The proof, he said, lies with Ariel Sharon himself. “He always spoke to us in the language of security considerations, and we sufficed with that – and that was our mistake… He was one of those who conceived of the plan of ‘fingers’ - building Jewish clusters of settlements amidst Arab population centers so as to prevent an Arab state from forming. Such a plan has its disadvantages - it works only when the enemy is not attacking, but today, it no longer applies, in my opinion - but at least those who formulated it should adhere to it…”

Elon feels that one of the main dangers of the disengagement plan is that it “gives the Arabs the impression that the Jews are the wanderers here, as the Koran says, when in fact it was the Arabs who invaded and are temporary.” The main problem that must be dealt with, he said, “is that of the refugee camps. Even the refugees themselves will tell you that they don’t belong here, but rather, ‘Ana min Majdal, ana min Yaffa, etc. - I’m from Ashkelon, I’m from Jaffa.’ The whole world recognizes that this is a problem, but yet no one from either the left or the right has ever done anything about it. They do not belong here, and a permanent location must be found for them, preferably in Jordan. This is urgent.”

Elon’s peace plan can be seen at

“The basic of basics,” Elon concluded, “is to remember the simple truths of the Book of Genesis: The Land was promised to Israel by G-d, and His people are coming home, and no one can truly disrupt this process.”