Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem, IsraeliStock

The following commentary is based upon letters written by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to then President of Israel Zalman Shazar and then Member of Knesset Geulah Cohen.

Many have wondered at the seeming contradiction between the Lubavitcher Rebbe's rejection of secular Zionism and his hawkish positions regarding the hard line needed while facing nations coveting our land.

In truth however there is no contradiction and both positions flow from the same philosophical source.

Those who saw the beginning and end of everything in the Balfour Declaration or the UN resolution recognizing our right to the land, continued with this approach while confronting our enemies to this very day. They are still accustomed to looking up at the gentile, not to provoke him "G-d forbid", "to live as a human among humans", without raising one's voice Heaven forfend - even when the very lives of millions of Jews are at stake.

Those who base our right to the Land of Israel on gentile decision and acquiescence changed the name by which the land was known for generations - Eretz Yisrael - to "the State of Israel". A state like all other states, that must only consider balances of power and orders of battle, is bound to answer the gentile accusation "you are thieves!" with measured diplomatic restraint.

This formula led to the Camp David accords in which Israel's enemies received parts of the Holy Land, including areas the surrender of which endangers millions of Jews. After all, if the goal is to find favor in the eyes of the nations, it would be inconceivable to offer such a "primitive" answer that says "the entire Earth belongs to the Blessed Holy One; He created it and apportioned it to who was right in His eyes. He saw fit to give it to them, and He saw fit to take it from them and give it to us" (Rashi, Genesis 1:1).

Because how can you mention G-d when dealing with the nations of the world? "Like all the nations is the House of Israel", and like all states is the State of Israel; therefore we must practice "diplomacy" like the representatives of all nations.

Nimrod Castle, Golan, Israel
Nimrod Castle, Golan, IsraeliStock

What is the difference between Eretz Yisrael and the State of Israel?

All this applies when history began in 1948, but it does not represent the truth. Eretz Yisrael has been ours since the Pact between the Halves (Genesis 15); the name "Eretz Yisrael" has been established for thousands of years, both in the Torah and in the national lexicon. Just as it is impossible to change the name of the Jewish People by referendum and majority rule, so is it impossible to change the name of Eretz Yisrael to "the State of" Israel, especially when the change is not in name alone but also in content. Eretz Yisrael has been ours for thousands of years ever since the Creator bequeathed an eternal inheritance to the eternal nation. The State of Israel's history, however, began in the current era, and just as in 1948 a majority of nations agreed to this State, today a majority may oppose it, ending the State of Israel according to the principles of statecraft to which the State of Israel subscribes.

For this very reason "the State of Israel" can make do with certain parts of the land, but it is impossible to compromise on the smallest strip of this Land given to us thousands of years ago.

"The State of Israel" is a state conquered by the IDF, susceptible to Arab claims against appropriation of land by force and UN Resolution 242 mandating return of Arab lands taken by force. Not so Eretz Yisrael. Not because it was vanquished by force is it ours, but because "He saw fit to take it from them and give it to us".


Erodes youth morale

Would that Israeli leaders speak words of truth before the nations, and not mere facts, and stop waving the 1948 UN Resolution and the Balfour Declaration etc. and instead base their claim on the eternal connection between the Jews and the Land of Israel, all claims to the contrary would evaporate.

But when we announce again and again that this is a state founded in 1948 in those areas abandoned by the British, and the Haganah chased the Arabs from there and the UN nodded its approval, not only does this damage and destroy the vital interests of even the State of Israel, but it erodes youth morale, who do not understand what right we have to this land, and why our fathers chased the Arabs from here, etc.

It is known that certain circles justified Prime Minister Begin's acquiescence to the Camp David disaster with the suggestion that IDF morale was very low, with the prevalent mood among soldiers expressed in questions along the lines of "What are we fighting for?", and for this reason the Prime Minister was forced to arrive at a peace agreement.

This is not surprising when a child is drilled from the moment he enters kindergarten that the history of our "State" began on "Independence Day", and on November 28th this became possible when UN representatives agreed to "partition" thereby giving us the right to declare a new state. The child absorbs this from the very beginning, until he grows and expands his horizons enough to discover that Arabs are human beings, too, and according to the "partition" we must return them their state in Judea and Samaria, and we have no right to be thieves and conquer land by force of arms. The now grown secular IDF soldier is groomed for depression, frustration, and confusion. "For what and for whom should I sacrifice my best years? Why should I fight people just like me? It would be better for the State of Israel to behave with truth and justice and return what we took from the Palestinians. Then we can live together with our neighbors in peace and tranquility."

All this is the direct outcome of flawed elucidation, internal and external, which damages the Jewish People's faith in itself and the rightness of its way. This automatically renders it impossible to impart the just position of the Jewish People to the nations of the world, and when the gentiles see a Jew stammering while attempting to defend his right to Eretz Yisrael, it is obviously impossible to make an impression and the results are obvious.

Masada, Israel
Masada, IsraeliStock

"Bang on the table"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's approach was expressed in a letter that said "the Nation who dwells in Zion, dwells in Eretz Yisrael, a special land with none similar to it. We are not in any way discussing another state sitting between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt."

Therefore the Rebbe demanded, in his words of the above-mentioned letter, "I ardently demand that the representatives in Washington and the UN announce this - and to bang on the table while saying it. The gentiles in Washington are also of this opinion, but Israel's representatives answer they were ordered not to speak this way - certainly not to bang on tables - because they represent a state that received permission and authorization from the other countries and therefore diplomatic decorum is essential. And if it happened that Israel's representatives' patience wore thin and they uttered a tiny portion of what they were thinking publicly, within 24 hours they were censured from Jerusalem and ordered to make a public retraction. Naturally this encourages Israel's enemies and eventually leads to actual loss of life, Hy"d."

Those words were written in 1969. Since then, the approach espoused by the Rebbe has been adopted more and more by the people of Israel, and consequently by its politicians. Reports of Trump Administration willingness and eagerness to move the embassy dampened by Israeli reluctance show that although Israel has been moving in the right direction, constant vigilance is necessary to assure that our representatives faithfully express the ideal with which we are charged as a nation. The Six Day War was a miracle from the Creator, Who wants His people to be His worthy instruments to reveal the transcendent reality of a moral hand guiding history.

Let us remember on this Jerusalem Day that our mission here is greater than mere politics or military victory. It is the living, breathing embodiment of an eternal Covenant that, far from being an irritating burden, is a unique blessing that will soon include the entire world within its light.

US Consulate preparing to become Embassy, Jerusalem, Israel
US Consulate preparing to become Embassy, Jerusalem, IsraelFlash 90