Open Letter from the Youth - and Rabbi´s Response

The youth who struggled valiantly this summer have not yet fully recovered from the abandonment of Gush Katif/Shomron and the expulsion of the Jews therein - and some of them have surprising claims.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 16:24

The following open letter by one of these youths expresses the pain and shock of the disengagement and that which followed. The letter, and a response to it from a leading rabbi, were published in Hebrew in the weekly Torah sheet distributed by Jerusalem's Meir Institute [Machon Meir] over the past two weeks.

The letter was written by a yeshiva student who recently graduated one of the high school yeshivot in the south, and the response was penned by Rabbi Elisha Aviner, rabbi of the Maaleh Adumim neighborhood of Mitzpeh Nevo.

The letter:

"We are the youth of Summer 5765 (2005),
who instead of hiking in the rivers of the Golan Heights, cut across thorn fields in the Negev in the middle of the night,
who instead of working during our summer vacation, stood at intersections day and night.
We are the youth who planted and built, and added goodness,
and saw how all this was crudely trampled.
We are the youth that wanted to enlist in the elite units,
and saw black-uniformed IDF soldiers dragging out mothers and hitting boys and girls.
We are the youth who sat behind bars - and no, not on drug-related or criminal charges.
We are the youth whom the rabbis confused, and yet still we walked between the drops.
We are the youth who tore their cloths and recited the blessing, "Blessed is the True Judge" well before [the others].
We are the youth who, instead of laughing with our friends, cried together bitter tears.
They spit on us, they crushed us. We are broken.
We want to cry, we want to feel the pain, we want to be angry - and in truth, sometimes we want to hate.
We are "purely righteous," but allow us to complain about the evil [a play on Rabbi Kook's famous teaching, 'The purely righteous do not complain about evil, but rather add goodness'].

We are the youth of Summer 5765 (2005),
we gave our souls,
and after we were expelled, without any delay
you immediately began reminding us from every possible stage
that "we have not abandoned the State"
and that "let's remember and not get confused - this is our State of Israel."
You were busy with discussions about the "day after,"
even while the heroes among us were busy dismantling hothouses and gathering ruins and paying the so-heavy price
of having the Paradise they knew engraved in their memory as a pile of ruins.

Our Rabbis!
Instead of helping us cure our still-bleeding sores,
you are busy 'saving souls' so that Heaven forbid, may it not come to pass,
we won't stop saying Hallel [prayer of praise and thanksgiving] for the State,
or go off the path [of religious-Zionism].
From your standpoint, the main thing is that we not go to the hilltops, or become street-youth, or to a hareidi yeshiva -
but you care not about our wounded souls.
But excuse us - you are mistaken. The loss is greater than the gain.
Perhaps you will succeed, and we will continue to say the Prayer for the State of the Israel
But we will know that you care only about the knitted skullcaps on our heads
and not about the person underneath.
We will continue holding the flag, but we'll have a scratch in our hearts.

Our Rabbis!
Embrace us without calculations
and help us cry and wipe away the tears.

RESPONSE, from Rabbi Elisha Aviner:
You are right. Now is not the time for speeches and exalted ideologies. "Everything has its time," King Solomon teaches us in Kohelet [Ecclesiastes]. Now it is "time to cry." With G-d's help, we will reach the "time to heal," but we must not skip over the crying stage. Our Torah relates to crying to teach us that this is an important and even necessary response to difficult and sad events. We cry over the harm done to individuals, and all the more so over the general destruction. Our heart weeps.

"A time to cry" - but we must be careful not to fill ourselves with the atmosphere of "time to eulogize," of eulogizing our beliefs, our spiritual philosophy and our outlook. Nor is it a "time to throw stones" on our State.

You are right, we cannot just continue as usual after all that has happened. Our soul is wounded. Our hearts are filled with anger, and sometimes we feel an inner need to scream and even to kick out. But we must not allow our feelings of fury and frustration to gather up and turn into a solid ideology of despair, estrangement, inward-turning and escapism.

Your criticism must be directed also towards those who, the day after the expulsion, and even before we had a chance to absorb what had happened, already began spitting on the flag. It must be directed at those who immediately resolved that our path ever since the establishment of the State had failed or had come to its end, and that we must turn our back on Israeli society, and that "face to face" campaigns are a waste of time. [They] wish to tear the Nation of Israel into little pieces.

We do not rule on capital cases while in the midst of a storm of emotion; study requires prayer. Matters of such great import for our nation can be judged only with calmness, clarity of mind and moderation. As is written in the Ethics of the Fathers, "Be moderate in judgment."

May this coming year be one of a "time to plant, a time to build, a time to laugh, and a time to dance." May the year and its curses end, may the new year and its blessings begin.