Monday, January 25, 2016

The Galus Mentality

Jewish children at play in Chevron (Jewish Press)
The Jewish Press has honored me with a rebuttal. I should first thank them for publishing a highly critical essay about their strong support for the settler movement. In my essay I found that those settlers that insert themselves into the heart of Palestinian areas like Chevron is the height of irresponsibility. As is the support the Jewish Press gives to them. I think it is safe to say that Chevron is where one can find more hostility towards us than any other place inside of Israel. Chevron, one might recall is where Jewish students of the Chevron Yeshiva along with other Jews were massacred in 1929.  

One may notice on the page where my essay was published that there is an advertisement for the works of Rabbi Meir Kahane on the Parsha. Rabbi Kahane was a columnist for the Jewish Press until his death by assassination. Not that every settler is a Kahanist. But it is his views or those very similar that seem to be at the core of the settler movement. That should tell you right away where Jewish Press sympathies lie. (I’m sure the Jewish Press does not support those extremists but they support the man who these extremists base their actions upon).

Bearing this in mind, it is not a surprise to have been responded to so strongly in an attempt to both marginalize my views and refute them. I was offered an opportunity to respond to that ‘rebuttal’ and after thinking about it for a few minutes; I have decided to do so. If only to clear up the misrepresentation of my views. I fully expect though - that the Jewish Press will have the last word. Can’t blame them. It’s their paper.

The rebuttal was written by David Israel. The gist of which can be reduced to one word: Galutiut, a new Hebrew word he says defies translation, And yet he blames it for my views. I don’t think it’s so hard to ascribe meaning to it. I have heard a version of that word used many times:  Galus mentality. The idea being that those of us that do not live in Israel do not understand what it means to live there. By ‘there’ I mean Eretz Yisrael – the land of Israel. Biblical Israel. The ‘Promised Land’. All of it. The love of country that these settlers have for Eretz Yisrael is so strong that they cannot fathom not trying to settle it all.

They believe they are following Halacha by doing that. We are after all commanded in the Torah to inhabit the land. And once we have it, we are supposed to keep it even if it means going to war to do so.

Those of us who are opposed for reasons of safety are therefore said to have a Galus mentality. Meaning that Pikuach Nefesh is trumped by the positive commandment to settle the land.  ‘Where is your faith in God?’ …they might ask. They will often cite biblical sources (as did David) to show how wrong we are. 

David compared us the biblical Meraglim  -  the spies who went out to survey the land of Israel before inhabiting it. They returned from that mission convinced they could not win a war with the indigenous population. So they agitated for a return to Egypt. The Meraglim were killed for their insubordination and lack of faith in God. The ancient Israelites that were convinced by the Mergalim were punished with 40 years in the desert - with all Jews over the age of 20 dying out before reaching the Promised Land.

But is it fair to compare the Jewish people of today with the Meraglim of biblical times? We are not the Dor HaMidbar (the generation of the Exodus from Egypt) to whom God performed open miracles. We are not now in a time of prophecy whereby God tells us through His prophets what to do - and which we are rebelling against.

We are now in fact living in Galus. All of us. Including those of us living in Eretz Yisroel. We have not yet been redeemed. There is no evidence at all that we are anywhere near messianic times. And we certainly  have not been told by God or one of His prophets to put aside our safety and the safety of our families and fellow Jews to settle all the land of Israel.

Furthermore, David’s comparison of America to the pre Holocaust Germany of Hitler is insulting in the extreme. I can’t think of a more odious comparison.

(I should also mention that accusing me of spelling Chevron like the name if a gas station is truly a cheap shot. I spell it phonetically the way I do all transliterated Hebrew - using the letters ‘ch’ to mean the Hebrew letter Ches or Chaf, which has no English equivalent. But that is besides the point.)

As part of his rebuttal, David cites another biblical passage to show Jewish ownership of the land. Something I never disputed. Of course the Promised Land belongs to the people God promised it to!

He then criticizes my citation of Rav Shach who said that he would give up the Kotel if it meant a true peace. It is obvious that he respects Rav Shach. But he does not refute him at all. He only makes an irrelevant comment about the fact that the entire Temple Mount is not in our hands anyway. I agree with that. But the Kotel is in our hands.

After mentioning my reason for opposing the settler movement, Pikuach Nefesh, he doesn’t bother refuting that either. He only mentions my using it in order to malign ‘fellow Jews, libeling them, dubbing them murderers and thieves’.

And finally he reminds us of the virulent antisemitism on some university campuses in America and about the psychopaths who were randomly punching innocent people in the face a while back – implying that they were targeting only Jews. He ends by telling me in so many words to stay out of Israel.

There is one thing I wish to make clear. I am 100% opposed to giving up a single inch of Eretz Yisrael at this point in time. But in theory I still believe in ‘land for peace’. This is in opposition to my own Rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik. When I told him this, he asked me why? I answered that I felt like Rav Shach and many other rabbinic leaders who held that Pikuach Nefesh trumps Yishuv Ha’aretz (the Mitzvah of settling the land).

He did not disagree with me. But he said that giving land to the Arabs was the greater danger. Israel would be safer if we hold on to what we captured. In the end, he proved to be right. We gave them Gaza and look what happened. Giving Palestinians the West Bank now would make Gaza look like Disneyland. 

But that doesn’t mean we should support actions that exacerbate Arab hatred against us with acts like taking over buildings in a hotbed of animosity. To the settler the danger of doing that doesn’t matter. Because they believe they are doing the will of God. And that in the end, He will protect us. Unlike those of us with the Galus mentality who see the danger as real.

One more thing. I was accused of smearing the entire settler community by calling them murderers and thieves.  I did not do that. If that is how I was read, I apologize for not being clear. I still strongly oppose the movement. But only a few actually end up being aggressive like those taking over buildings in Chevron. And fewer still become mass murderers like Baruch Goldstein. But it is also true that a lot of settler types especially in Chevron worship at his grave site. Or make up scenarios that justify what he did.  

I do not have a Galus mentality unless it means believing that we are not yet in the era of redemption. I know what Ertetz Yisroel means to the Jewish people. I am just someone that sees clear and present danger inherent in the philosophy of a group of people like the settlers of Chevron who are determined to carry out what they believe to be the word of God. And I am therefore opposed to them. We do not live in biblical times. Using the biblical passages to make your point is irrelevant. We are required by Halacha to put Pikuach Nefesh ahead of all other considerations. And I will always oppose anything that endangers the Jewish people.