"Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To the more thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance." (Numbers 26: 53-54)
In principle there is no problem with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's proposal to privatize state-held land.
The Land of Israel is also considered the private property of the Children of Israel.
The problem is strictly personal, a problem with those who initiated the proposal: Ehud Olmert and Netanyahu. An initiative proposed by a man who attempted to give Israel's Bank Leumi to a close friend for free should make us all extremely suspicious.
Netanyahu is not a swindler like his predecessor. He rightfully explains the importance of simplifying the process of closing a porch on one's private home. But all too often this type of rhetoric has led to privatization of national assets for controlling monopolies instead of for free commerce among the general public. Similar to what took place in the former USSR, unchecked "privatization" in Israel has given rise to oligarchy instead of to free economy. We must always be on guard for power-capital monopolies.
Property rights are a basic value in the Torah. Our forefathers were all wealthy men. Jacob even endangers himself and re-crosses the Yabok stream to retrieve some small belongings. Our sages teach us that righteous people hold their money as dear as their bodies. An entire Talmudic tractate deals with the minute details of a "strange" law that does not exist in any other legal system; the laws of returning lost property. While non-Jews may turn in items they have found to their local police station, they do it out of a healthy sense of ethics - not because it is the law. For Jews, though, the connection between a person and his property is holy. Returning lost items rectifies the world and is a Torah obligation.
The Land of Israel is also considered the private property of the Children of Israel. It is divided equally on a sliding scale to every person aged 20 and up. That is the directive of the Creator of the world. Land is personal property. It is so linked to its owner that even if he loses it in a bad business deal, the land will be returned to him in the Jubilee year. Land and personal property are meant to help the Nation of Israel fulfill its lofty purpose. The Jew who uses his personal property according to the Torah's instructions elevates the land and his belongings to a state of holiness. Even small items forgotten on the other side of the Yabok are worth the effort and danger involved in retrieving them.
It is a pity that some leaders in the faith-based public do not understand this fundamental principle. It is a pity that certain rabbis are captivated by populist socialist cliches that theorize that property and economic success necessarily testify to a low ethical standard.
"The Land of Israel belongs to G-d," a well-known spiritual leader explains, "and so we must oppose privatization of land." People speak in the name of Judaism while they actually promote state-supremacist, paternalistic values at the expense of personal liberty. It is a soft form of fascism, diametrically opposed to Jewish values. Afterwards, these same people cannot explain what the problem is with destroying settlements. After all, if the State built
Certain rabbis are captivated by populist socialist cliches.
them, it can also destroy them. It is this very same distorted perception that led the same rabbis to instruct their students not to refuse orders to expel the Jews of Gush Katif from their homes.
The foundations of socialism can be found in Christianity. The Christian deity kicks over the table of the money-changer near the Temple in Jerusalem. Communism is a distilled form of socialism. Without a "god", Communism descends into the murderous atheism of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Those who nullify the sanctity of property ultimately nullify the sanctity of life. Capitalism tempered by the Jewish cultural values of modesty, faith and loving-kindness is the Jewish economic method.
Land in the entire Land of Israel should be divided among its children. We must diligently prepare a legal foundation that will register free plots of land in Israel to young couples after their army or national service. This must be done carefully and wisely, to prevent the serious flaws that we have suffered in previous privatizations. But the driving principle behind the land reforms should always be: "Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance."