Wednesday, August 24, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The period of Jewish, Zionist, settlement of Gaza has ended. There are no longer any Jews living in the Gaza strip. A basic tenet of religious and revisionist Zionism has been demolished. Eretz Yisroel Hashleimah is no longer seen as a viable national dream.

The man on which so many pinned their hopes spurned them, threw them out of their homes and snuffed out their dreams.

The media dispatches from Gaza are full of tears. Rarely are articles so replete with descriptions of emotional outpouring. Women cried, men cried, children cried, soldiers cried. Reading those articles, one senses something unusual. When was the last time articles about current events sought to capture and convey so much sorrowful, gut-wrenching emotion?

What were those tears all about? When did you last observe people crying so openly and unabashedly? After all, no one had died. It was not a funeral.

Let us probe the history of this sad debacle in an effort to understand what has happened. Decades ago, at great risk to their lives, the settlers moved to a forsaken desert. They made it bloom, building beautiful houses and farms. They believed that building Jewish settlements would help hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They felt they were keeping the enemies of Israel at bay by living in the midst of so many bloodthirsty Arabs.

Their savior turned on them, their celebrated hero decided to expel them from the paradise they carved out for themselves. In spite of herculean efforts, they were unable to stave him off. The gates of Heaven seemed to remain closed to their prayers. No miracle intervened to reverse the dreaded evacuation and to halt the people who carried out the prime ministers’ orders. The Tisha B’Av deadline came and went and then the soldiers were at the door, ready to carry them out of their homes.

The tears gushed as cameras snapped their shutters, their lenses recording the grief for posterity.
To be thrown out of your home is devastating; to be homeless is a nightmare. To have fought dearly for something and lost is very sad, but I think there is an even deeper dimension to the tragedy.

I think they were crying because their dreams were utterly destroyed. They were crying because their life’s mission, the very raison d’etre, was uprooted.

They cried because they believed they were doing G-d’s work and they think G-d turned them down. They were fighting for Zionism and they lost. In the words of one settler quoted in The New York Times as he was being dragged from his home, blue and white flag held high, “This is not about our house. We are fighting the battle for Zionism.”

The Mizrachi religious Zionist movement was founded in 1902 in a bid to work together with the secular Zionists to settle the Holy Land.

Talmidim of the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov had preceded them by a hundred years, putting their lives at risk to settle the Land of Israel. Their followers who continued their dream of yishuv ha’aretz would have nothing to do with the secular Zionists.

The Mizrachi believed that it was possible to cooperate with the secularists and build a state to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. The Chareidi community, led by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and the Lishcha HaTehorah, on the other hand, believed the secularists were driven by a desire to separate Jews from their religion and to substitute the state for the Torah. They fought them tooth and nail.

The old yishuv of Yerushalayim split with Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook over this issue, the vast majority siding with Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.

The old yishuv did not see the need for a state headed by secularists who sought to strip the holy land of its special character. They refused to work with them and fought them every step of the way.

Following the wars of 1967 and 1973, followers of Rav Kook’s son, Rav Zvi Yehuda, saw an opportunity once again to help speed the arrival of Moshiach. They teamed up with the secular Ariel Sharon and planted settlements of Jews all across parts of Eretz Yisroel and Gaza which had been captured in the Six Day War of ’67.

The settlements exerted a powerful emotional pull and religious Jews in Israel and around the world supported the movement. In the wake of the demoralizing losses of the Yom Kippur War, the growing settlement movement infused new hope and optimism. The settlements morphed into complete towns, with yeshivos, factories and beautiful houses—like a gan eden in olam hatachton.

During the heady days of their founding, Rav Shach would speak against the settlement activity at almost every opportunity. He would say that we have no need for them. He would say that since the nations of the world were opposed to them, it was forbidden to establish them. When Menachem Begin annexed the Golan to Israel, Rav Shach said that we existed as a people for thousands of years without the Golan and our nationhood would not be diminished without the Golan.

Needless to say, his position was far from popular. He was vilified and ridiculed for it. Refusing to back down, he continued to speak publicly against the settlements.

A talmid of his couldn’t take the flak anymore and approached him, “Rebbe, why are you doing this? Why do you keep on repeating this mantra against the settlements; you’re not accomplishing anything,” he pleaded.

Rav Shach answered that he had no faith in the country’s leaders and knew that the day would come when they would relinquish the land they had liberated, and return it to the Arabs. The settlers invested so much religious zeal into those settlements that he said he feared their loss would be so devastating it would shatter their emunah.

He said that though his message was having no immediate effect, he felt compelled to repeat it so that when that future time arrives, the settlers would remember that there was once an alter Yid in Bnei Brak who stood and darshened that the Jewish people don’t need settlements— and that the settlements were not destined to last. Let them remember that, and when the day of betrayal comes, they will not be entirely disheartened and won’t forsake their faith in the religion of our forefathers who clung to their belief through all the travails of the Diaspora.

Alas, that day has come. The day the alter Yid foresaw and worried about arrived. And now it is our duty to stand up and call out to our sorrowful brothers who were turned out of their homes.

With brotherly love, with sympathy and compassion, we cry out to you to come home. Come over to our settlements. Come see what we have built and join us. The settlements of Ponovezh, Mir, Brisk, Chevron and Slabodka are ready to absorb you. The settlements of Bnei Torah reach out to you with hearts full of love, urging you to rejoin us. You’ve seen how the secularists treat you; you’ve seen where their path leads. Part ways with them, once and for all, and come over to our place.

Let us join forces. Join the army of the yeshivos; we can work together building Torah communities. Help us reach out to the tinokos shenishbu and bring them to lives of Torah.

Our hands are outstretched. We are not triumphal.

You who have seen and experienced the bitter truth of the Brisker Rov’s words, that the Tzionim zenen chashud oif retzichah, should join with us to help bring Moshiach through other means.

We empathized with you as you battled for your homes. We felt your pain, we sympathize deeply with you. But now that you have been unceremoniously dumped across the country with nothing but the clothes on your backs, while your homes are bulldozed into oblivion, perhaps it is time to take stock on where this partnership has led you. Perhaps the state and its army do not deserve the religious awe and respect you have honored them with.

The Zionist dream has failed the Jewish people; it has neither ended anti-Semitism nor engendered respect for our nation.

Your blood, sweat and tears mean little to Sharon and the secularists; your years of army servitude and sheirut leumi are spat upon. You are vilified and mocked. You are coddled as long as you are useful to their cause. Oorah, wake up and realize that following the path of Torah-only without cooperation with the secularists-will lead us to the redemption.

The words of Rav Saadya Gaon echo: “Ein umaseinu umah elah b’Torah,” Torah is what binds us and defines us, not land, not a flag, and not the settlements.

We live in historic times; Moshiach is knocking on our doors. Can’t we join together and do what needs to be done to let him in?


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