Friday, July 13, 2018

Israel's settlement and sovereignty--and Judaism

(Last update: July 15, 2018)

Warning. This essay makes reference to Judaism. It also references the writings of  Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Such references may offend. Reader discretion advised.

The nations of the world don't like to see Jewish settlements in parts of Israel which these nations call, 'the West Bank'. These nations say Jewish settlements in this 'West Bank' are illegitimate because this 'West Bank' belongs to 'Palestinians'. 

The nations of the world reject the idea of Jewish sovereignty over this 'West Bank'. They say such explicit national Jewish control of this 'West Bank' is illegal. Legally, the nations say, this isn't Israel's land. 

The nations of the world reject the idea that there could anything Jewish or Israeli on this 'West Bank'. The nations accuse Israel of "occupying" this piece of land. They say this 'occupation' is illegal because this land belongs to someone else--'Palestinians'. 

The world is very clear about this 'West  Bank' (its real name is Judea-Samaria). The world demands that Jewish Israel must surrender this land so the self-identified 'Palestinians' can create a new Arab-Muslim state there called, 'Palestine'.

The world claims peace can only be possible when Jews have been removed from Judea-Samaria. Peace will be possible, they cry, when 'Palestinians' replace Jews on this land.

The nations have a perennial rallying cry: if you want peace, get rid of the Jews. 

This talk of Israel's illegitimate settlements, illegal sovereignty and illegal 'occupation' isn't just a political matter. According to one of the greatest teachers in the Orthodox Jewish world of the 20th century, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993; referred to as 'the Rav'), it's also a religious matter. 

Such criticism of settlement and sovereignty in Israel, he suggests (see Chumash Mesoras HaRav , sefer Bamidbar, compiled and edited by Dr Arnold Lustiger, the Neuwirth edition, OU Press, New York City, 2017, pp. 264-5), speaks to the central ideas of Judaism itself--and represents a pointed assault against Judaism's basic beliefs.

The occasion of these remarks is the appearance of Rav Soloveitchik's commentary on this Shabbat's (July 14, 2018) Torah reading, Mattot/Massei. We might do well to listen to his words.

Let's begin our look at Rav Soloveitchik's comments with a quote from the Torah. This Shabbat, in sefer Bamidbar, (33:53), we read the following words, spoken by HaShem to Moshe, whom HaShem instructs in the following manner: "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: when you cross the Jordan [river] into the land [where Israel is to be]... "You shall possess the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to occupy it" (33:51-53) [emphasis mine]. 

This one Posuk (verse) (33:53), like many others in the Torah, spells out the religious importance of Israel to Judaism. For example, G-d Himself tells the Jews this land is theirs ( B'reisheet, 13: 14-17). He tells the Jewish nation it is the Chosen people (Devarim, 14:2). He identifies the Land of Israel as the Chosen Land for this Chosen people (Soloveitchik, ibid, p. 256). HaShem now instructs His Chosen people to possess, to occupy and to settle this Land.

We know that this match-up of the  Chosen people with this Chosen land is at the core of Judaism because one look at the 613 commandments Jews are required to observe reveals that the overwhelming number of these 613 commandments can only be done inside the borders of the Land of Israel.

Judaism was never designed to be observed, celebrated and observed wherever Jews planted their family roots. Judaism's basic design was specifically created for the Jewish people to live its Jewish life in the Land of Israel only. 

Unfortunately for Jews, these call to possess, settle and occupy have become the very same concepts which nations absolutely reject. Of course, this isn't a new idea--nations rejecting what is at the very core of Judaism. They've been rejecting Judaism for more than 2,500 years.  They've been killing Jews over their Judaism for more than 2,500 years. 

There's nothing new about this rejection of 'possess-occupy-settle-dwell' on the Land of Israel. It's just the most modern iteration of an ongoing rejection of Judaism itself.

This quadruple connection in Judaism between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is not unique to Rabbi Soloveitchik. The connection is made explicitly in the Jewish Talmud--the Oral portion of our Written Torah, where the words of our Written Torah are explained. In the Tractate, Kiddushin (37a), we learn that the Written Torah tells us to 'dwell' in the land of Israel. The Oral Torah--the Talmud--then explains what this word means: in order to 'dwell', the Talmud says,  the Jewish nation must first 'possess/occupy it, and then 'settle' it (here).

With regard to the words, 'possess' and 'settle', Rav Soloveitchik says the following: these two words contain "the imperatives: 'settle' means colonization of the land, while 'possess' means governing and controlling the land. The  mitzvah [commandment] of settling the land is not limited to colonization. It requires conquering and governing as well--that is, maintaining political power and sovereignty" (p 265). He argues that governing and controlling the Land are part of Judaism itself because 'governing' and 'controlling'  cannot be separated from 'settling'. He suggests a rather simple proof for this: "none of the contenders for sovereignty of the Land today would allow such colonization of the Land of Israel by the Jews" (ibid). 

Only through Jewish sovereignty can 'settlement' be accomplished. One look at how aggressively the world claims so much of Israeli settlement on Israeli land is illegal and illegitimate tells you how accurate this connection is between sovereignty and settlement. 

The Rav's bottom line is clear: if Jews cannot exercise political power over the Land of Israel today--through sovereignty-- then Jews could not fulfill the command to settle there (ibid). 

The  nations of the world and the enemies of the Jewish people take these central connections between Land and Jews within Judaism and turn them into a weapon to attack both Judaism and Israel: Israel is an 'occupier'. It is a 'colonizer'. Its settlements are illegitimate. Its sovereignty over Judea-Samaria is illegal. 

All of these words, so common in our Torah, are, for the nations, dirty, filthy words. The nations use these words, in essence, to curse Israel as a rogue state. 

How's that for respecting another's religion?

The world respects Islam. When Islamists claim that their god will help them destroy Israel, no one in the world cries, 'foul'. When Islamic clerics call to exterminate Jews, no one shouts, 'that's illegal'.

There's something else from this week's Torah reading you should note: this week's reading is where HaShem describes the borders of Israel. In short, those borders extend 'from the River to the Sea' (Bamidbar, 34:1-12)--the very words which the replacement-minded and Supremacist Islamic 'Palestinians' say about their 'Palestine'. 

For 'Palestinians', a new state for themselves doesn't mean a 'Palestine' side-by-side with Israel. It means the disappearance of the Jewish Israel. You see that in the maps 'Palestinians' print showing their 'Palestine'. The new Arab state pictured on these maps has the exact same profile as Israel. It is Israel--after it's been conquered and renamed.

No one calls that 'illegal'. They respect Islam too much to say that.

Conquering Israel isn't 'peace'. It's 'replacement'. it's called 'being conquered by a Supremacist' enemy who says his god is greater than yours--and his conquest of your land will prove that.

No one argues with that. Apparently, the world respects Islam too much to object. 

As in days of old, today's nations--and our Islamic 'Palestinian' enemy--reject the words of the Jewish G-d. They reject the Jewish Biblical borders. They reject the words of the Jewish Talmud. They reject the centrality of the Land of Israel to Judaism.

They reject Judaism, period. They reject Jews. They reject a Jewish Israel. The 'peace' they want is a peace without anything Israeli or Jewish.

You can't get any more anti-Jewish than that.

The goal of our enemies to to destroy us--our people, our religion, our customs, our language and our land. This is why, in the Arab-Israel conflict, they cry out in anguish only when Jews say, 'this land is ours'. 

Let them cry. We do not trust them. We put our trust only in HaShem. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting dichotomy regarding the respect for different religions. I wonder if once Western peoples decided Christianity, Judaism just got thrown in too. חזק וברוך