Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Asserting Our Rights To the Land of Israel

Saying Shema on the Temple Mount (Jewish Press)
These are the kinds of stories that make my blood boil. One was in the Jewish Press and the other in Mishpacha Magazine last week  (not available online) .

The Jewish Press story is a short video of a Religious Zionist Jew going up to Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) and reciting the Shema. He is promptly arrested and hauled away by the police. The Mishpacha story is about a Shul demolition just outside the city of Kiryat Arba near Chevron. Chevron is currently a city populated by Arabs. In both instances these people are made out to be heroes, while the government is portrayed as Reshaim- evil people. And both stories could not be further from the truth.

In both cases, the police were doing their job. And the so-called heroes were breaking the law. But that is not how the authors of those 2 articles portrayed it.

The Jewish Press story that accompanied the video is very short.  Above the video it says:
This is what happens to a Jew if he dares pray “Shema Yisrael”, one of the Jewish People’s oldest and most central prayers, if he is on the Temple Mount… 
Below the video it says:
If I were an Israeli policeman, I would be so embarrassed. 
The Mishpacha story portrays the illegal structure as merely a Shul where Jews wanted to pray. They even talk of an Arab Sheik from Chevron that supported them. (Needless to say, he was a minority view in that area.)

But in both cases we have people whose disregard for the law is based on their Religious Zionist fervor. So fervent are they that they believe  their actions in service to those beliefs supersede the law. Even if it means inciting Arabs in that area to even greater hatred and violence than they already have. This does not concern them because their beliefs inspire them to do it. They are doing it for God.

Before I continue, let me be clear. The land of Israel is ours. All of it. It was titled deeded to us by God Himself. Rashi in Bereishis tells us that this is the reason why the Torah begins with the creation story instead of with the first Halacha. The point being that God created and therefore owns the universe and he can give it to whomever He chooses. He chose us.

This is a true statement. If you are a believer in God and the bible, you have no alternative but to admit that the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

So what’s the difference between me and those Religious Zionists that do these kinds of things? Religious Zionists belief that the return of Israel into Jewish hands is the first flowering of our redemption and that Moshaich is at hand. I do not. If one believes as they do, it is a small step from there to taking matters into your own hands and breaking the law in pursuit of the messianic goal of retaking all of the land God gave to us. And caring little about the consequences.  In that context, they see themselves as heroes and martyrs. Anyone that thwarts them is seen as a Rasha - thwarting God’s will.

They try and elicit sympathy from the reader by implying that a Jew was arrested simply for saying Shema – as did the Jewish Press article. Or as Mishpacha did - saying that the police destroyed a Shul for no reason. Reading this without knowing the context, how can you NOT have sympathy for these Jews? How can you not paint the police as anti religious Reshaim?!

What they don’t tell you is the real reason they are doing these things. They are asserting their right to all of Israel. They want to make it clear to the Arabs and the entire world that they are simply reclaiming their own land. If the Arabs want to live there too, fine. As long as they acknowledge who's the boss.

Problem is - like it or not, those areas are solidly Arab. For reasons beyond the scope of this post, they don’t want us there. They want that piece of real estate for themselves without any Jewish presence. They feel threatened when settlers start asserting themselves in those areas making statements like building a Shul.

Or is the case of saying Shema on Har Habayis, they will say that this is the Makom HaMikdash and we have every right to pray here as you do. More, in fact!  While that is true as explained above, the Arabs are not about to give up the mosque was built centuries ago, nor their belief that that place is the 2nd holiest place in all of Islam and rightfully theirs. 

They believe that we have no business there. They see any attempt to pray as an assault on their rights and the beginning of a possible takeover by force. Especially when they see Religious Zionist militants that have on various occasions promised to do so. So of course they get upset when they see a Jew praying up there.

Even if there is no Issur in ascending to the Temple Mount (which is far from clear), what these Jews accomplish is nothing except inciting the Arabs to more violence. The State of Israel has wisely forbidden them to do things like that. Now is not the time to assert those rights because we are not in the era of the first flowering of our redemption.

I know that my view is not a popular one with many religious Zionists that agree or at least sympathize with what these people do. But in my very humble opinion, these people are misguided. They may be sincere and believe that they are doing God’s will. But the price for allowing them to act on those beliefs is too high. They are exacerbating Arab anger and inciting them to violence. Which increases the chances that more Jews will get hurt.  And it increases hostility from the international community.

They might answer that the Arabs hate us anyway and would harm us the same if they didn’t do it. They may also say that the hostility the international community would be there – with or without them. But incitement like theirs cannot be rationalized away. The more you poke at a hornet’s nest the more they will come out to sting you.

We have to wait for Moshiach to do those kinds of things. Then we will have God on our side. Until then, I’m glad that the Israeli government is doing what they can to stop them. We have a country now. And we ought to do whatever it takes to convince the world about the righteousness of our cause. Inciting Arabs and world opinion against us is not the way to do it.