Some 400 rabbis from all over the country gathered together at a Renaissance Hotel hall in Jerusalem yesterday under the auspices of the Ichud HaRabbanim (Rabbis Union), led by former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, to protest against the plan to give up parts of the Land of Israel to foreign rule. Rishon LeTzion Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu said,

"No one, from the simplest person to even the Prime Minister, has the right to cede even one granule of the Land of Israel! The Holy One, blessed be He, gave it to us! To us alone He gave it!"

Other speakers were Rabbis Avraham Shapira, Chaim Druckman, and Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. Rabbi Lior said,

"There is no such excuse as 'the nations of the world are threatening or pressuring us.' In times of war, the [religious-national] obligation upon the nation is to absorb the threats and not give in. As an example, let's recall that in the 1930's, the British and the Arabs wanted the Jews to sign away their rights to pray at the Western Wall - and that if not, there would be attacks, etc. This was at the time when we had no army or security services, of course - yet Rabbi Avraham Kook, who is not suspected of lack of concern for Jewish lives, said, 'Our security and safety is not to be made dependent on conceding our rights to the remnant of our Holy Temple.' Today, we must say the same thing, but just slightly differently: Though we all want peace - and not just those that call themselves the peace camp - we want to ensure that it is true peace. We therefore say: 'We will not make our security and safety dependent on conceding our rights to pieces of our Holy Land.'"

Not all rabbis agree, however. Newly-elected Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said today that 'danger to life' overrides even the commandment of settling the Land. "It is a matter of great dispute," he said, "but the government is responsible for the decision." He said that the job of the rabbis at this time is to preserve unity within the nation.

Flanking the dais yesterday were two large posters of the famous words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook after the Six-Day War, in which he called upon the government to recognize the innate and Divine connection between Israel and its land, and declared that it was forbidden to give it away. Among the participants were Rabbis Zalman Melamed, Eliezer Waldman, Yaroslavsky (Chabad), Nachum Rabinowitz, Yaakov Filber, Yisrael Ariel, Moshe Levinger, and many more.

MC Rabbi Yosef Artziel of Kedumim explained that "our major goal is to strengthen our own inner national strength, but our message must be transmitted outwards as well." He therefore invited Rabbi Sholom Gold to address the crowd in English. Rabbi Gold said:

"Nearly ten years ago, we gathered here to express our opposition to the new-born Oslo Accords. We said that Arafat cannot be trusted, and that the PA would never fight terrorism, and that we must not trust the PLO to protect our lives. We warned that the PLO had not given up its plan to defeat Israel in 'stages,' and we pleaded with the government not to give them guns, and we warned that Jewish blood would flow in the Holy Land. What was the reaction? 'Rabbis, go back to your synagogues and yeshivas, and leave these issues to the people who really know - leave it to the military men, and the politicians, and the poets, and the talk-show hosts, and the other opinion-makers…' But we all now see the truth! We know now how right we were, and how wrong they were! I say to the press: Read all the garbage that you wrote in the last ten years, and realize that the rabbis were right! …

"Mr. President [Bush], you earned well-deserved admiration for your courageous and just actions in Iraq - but here in Israel, you have faltered. Deep down in your heart of hearts, you know that there is absolutely no difference between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat! Only all-out war can crush what you called the 'axis of evil.' We call on you: Don't become the George Washington of a terrorist state alongside Israel! Please, listen to the words of the rabbis. Don't repeat the same mistakes of the last ten years…

"Mr. Prime Minister [Sharon]: Don't do it! We're not occupiers - this is our very own land! Tell the world the Land is ours! Open up a Bible and read it to them - they'll respect you for it. No one has the right to give away this Land, as it is ours in the past, present, and future. Mr. Prime Minister: Don't travel that road!"

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh called upon his colleagues:

"The land is burning under our feet! Each and every rabbi must arise and rile up his community, and wake people up, and go out and call - this is the service of G-d that is demanded of us at this time. Every generation, every year, every hour, has its special challenge, its special service of G-d that is required. This is like a 'met mitzvah' - a corpse that has no one to bury it, for which everyone must drop everything he is doing in order to take care of. I just don't know if the 'met mitzvah' is the Land of Israel or the government of Israel…"

The rabbis repeatedly said that everything must be done in order to stop this plan, but emphasized that this does not include violence.

Ze'ev Chever (Zambish), the director of the Yesha settlement organization Amanah, said that the Arabs continue to build without permits wherever they feel like it, that the IDF and Civil Administration ignore this, "and the empty areas are slowly filling up with Arabs, including alongside the new bypass roads designed to protect the Jews… It's a competition between us to see who will settle the land."

Chabad hassidim conducted a series of anti-Road Map activities yesterday, including a drive-by protest that began at Mt. Herzl, continued to the Renaissance Hotel where the rabbis were meeting, and then went past the David's Citadel Hotel. They ended up outside the Prime Minister's Residence, where they called for the Prime Minister not to implement the Road Map - or to resign.