The follwing essay was first published in 1978
From a Torah perspective, what is the central issue today in regards to the defense of the Holy Land?
The Issue: The issue is Pikuach Nefesh, danger to life. Make no mistake about it. From a Torah perspective nothing else is the real issue here: the interpretation, significance or wording of UN Resolution No. 242 is not the issue. The central issue is Pikuach Nefesh, the endangering of the lives of all the inhabitants of the Holy Land posed by the proposed return of certain areas of land.
Torah Law Speaks: The following is the definitive verdict of our Divine Torah law, as expressed in the Shulchan Aruch (Shulchan Aruch Admur, Orach Chayim 239:6). If a band of idolators have surrounded a Jewish City (on the Shabbat), if their intention is only to rob, we may not desecrate the shabbat to defend our property. If their intention is to kill, or even if their intention is unknown, but there is reason to suspect that it might be to kill, then, even if they have not yet arrived, but are only preparing their attack, we are to go forth against them with weapons and we may desecrate the Shabbat for this purpose. However, if the city in question is close to the coast, then even where their intention is only to rob 'straw and stubble', we desecrate the Shabbat to defend the city against them, for if we will not do so, they might capture this (strategic) city, and from there it might be easy for them to conquer the land.
The ruling is clear, and the current circumstances in the Middle East are far more severe than those portrayed in the above passage, for the following reasons: First, every point on the map of the Holy Land, every settlement, can be considered as "a city close to the coast (or border)" due to the extremely vulnerable nature of Israel's geography. An enemy could obviously conquer the hinterland far more easily once it has captured any strong point near the border. Second, there is no question of the invading enemies having their eyes only on despoiling "straw and stubble". They announce their murderous goals very openly!
A question could be posed about this Torah ruling. The desire is to rescue the Jews from the hands of their enemies. Since we are the "smallest of all the nations", we need G-d's help in our battle. If so, why should we take weapons and desecrate the Shabbat? Should we not better recite Tehillim (Psalms) for our deliverance, or engage in Torah Study, etc.? The unequivocal ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is resoundingly clear. G-d desires that, in this case, we should go forth against them well armed, and, if necessary, we are to desecrate the Shabbat for this purpose. The course of action mandated by the Torah is one manner of serving G-d. Just as one must study Torah and fulfill the Mitzvot so must he perform his bounden duty with regard to the prevention of danger to life.
How much of the territory of the Holy Land can we give back?
The situation currently in the Holy Land is strange. It is exceedingly worrying. It is completely incomprehensible. Everyone knows that to return areas on the West bank of the Jordan River to the Arabs is a danger to life. We do not need to hear this from the greatest expert. All we have to do is look at the map and see how close the west bank of the Jordan is to the sea, and to note who is present on the eastern side of the Jordan and who is to be found on ships in the Mediterranean...
It then becomes immediately obvious that this is a situation of real imminent danger to life. (When Jewish representatives unrolled a map in the Oval Office of the president of the United States and pointed out to him the distance of the territories in question to the sea, and the ease with which an enemy could cut through those areas, the President agreed that return of those areas to the enemy constituted PIKUACH NEFESH, endangering the lives of the inhabitants of the Holy Land.)
Yet, in spite of the clarity and obviousness of the danger, on which issues do we hear discussion today? The discussion centers around such irrelevant issues as the U.N. Resolution 242 (which was unfortunately signed by those of our people who were "fearful and faint-hearted"). What difference does the interpretation of this piece of paper make? The issue here is DANGER TO LIFE. The issue is PIKUACH NEFESH.
There is not a single expert who disagrees with the analysis that return of the territories under discussion involves danger to life. In such a circumstance, when the lives of three million Jews are in danger, what possible difference does the "meaning" or "interpretation" of the resolution make? The simplest person understands that if his wife and family are in circumstances where their very lives are endangered, such a situation overrules and overrides ALL other considerations.
Some claim that a "promise" was secretly made to return some areas. This claim is totally without meaning, for no-one can promise to give away something which does not belong to him! The Holy Land, all of it, belongs to G-d. G-d has given it to every individual Jew and to all of us together as a nation, but He has given it to us "in trust", in a manner that it must remain OUR eternal inheritance. How could anyone have "promised" to give any of it away? It was not his to give.
What should be done now to protect Israel?
First Duty: Our very first duty is to prevent enemy infiltration of our borders, and there is no other effective way to do this than to close and protect those borders. The situation has deteriorated so badly, that for lack of a proper response to this demand of Torah, the authorities have come up with the following ridiculous explanation: Since the ultimate intention is to eventually build cities in the west bank area (the area of Judea (Yehuda) and Samaria (Shomron)) such construction and planning will take a long time; we cannot rush into it; it must be done slowly and deliberately, and eventually, at some unspecified time, these cities will be built.
This is a total evasion of the issue; "cities" or "villages" are not the issue. In fact, the nature of any building per se is not under discussion. What is at issue here is the DEFENSE of all the people who dwell in the Holy Land for which purpose we do not need cities, we need lines of defense! We must post a sentry, arm him , and give him all the encouragement and support necessary to show him that he is doing the greatest Mitzva, that of protecting our sons and our daughters.
CLOUDING THE ISSUE: Let not anyone confuse and cloud the issue with talk of what "was promised" or what was "not promised". All this is irrelevant discussion. The Land of Israel is an eternal inheritance given to the eternal people by the Eternal G-d Who is the supreme King of Kings of all countries of the world (subconsciously, members of all the other nations realize this too).
Let us immediately settle the entire land of Israel to its borders without a storm of publicity or news. Quietly and resolutely let it be done, and then we will be on the road to true peace, for through this action we will frustrate and annul all the pressure being brought to bear upon us. The nations of the world will see that an action has been taken, a concrete action, and "the actions of a Bais Din (Court of Torah law ) are final. Nothing can be done to change them post facto" (Baba Metzia 17a).
With whom could Israel sign a valid peace treaty now?
There are some who are foolish enough to declare that if we will return areas of Judea and Samaria (on the west bank of the Jordan river) we will attain peace. Those who cry for "peace" and "peace now" center the discussion whether it is worthwhile to take such-and-such a step "for peace" or not. Is it worthwhile to "trade territory for peace", etc. and other such meaningless discussions. Meaningless because the supposed "peace discussions" are to take place with one, upon whom (everyone knows) peace does NOT depend on at all. Is he then supposed to persuade Saudi Arabia to make peace? He has no say WHATSOEVER in their opinions. Is he supposed to conclude a peace agreement on behalf of Iraq or Jordan or the P.L.O.? What nonsense! They despise him! Yet in order to attain this illusory and non-existent possibility of "peace", some are ready to bow and prostrate themselves before Egypt's Premier in order to "find favor in his eyes." They are ready to persuade him that he should take back everything which can be returned to him in the Sinai, in Judea and Samaria, etc. They are ready to make CONCESSIONS WHICH WILL PLACE THE LIVES OF MILLIONS OF JEWS IN MORTAL DANGER!
They say, "Why are you not ready to give back territory for peace?" We must reply that NO ONE CAN OFFER A VALID PEACE TREATY. IT IS SIMPLY NOT WITHIN THEIR POWER. IT IS NOT WITHIN THE POWER OF WASHINGTON, IT IS NOT WITHIN THE POWER OF EGYPT, IT IS NOT EVEN WITHIN THE POWER OF ARAFAT YEMACH SH'MO (MAY HIS NAME BE ERASED). FOR EVEN HE HAS SEVERE PROBLEMS FROM THOSE TO THE RIGHT AND TO THE LEFT WITHIN HIS ORGANIZATION.
It is worth emphasizing that point again and again: Currently no one is able to offer a real peace. All they can offer is the willingness to sign a piece of paper; they say quite openly that the significance of the signature on this piece of paper is that if and when... If everyone concerned will be in the proper mood... if.... if... then we will begin to speak about peace, and we will begin to ask all the various enemies of the Jews what their conditions are. And we all know very well what their conditions are. May Heaven protect us against them!
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