October 18, 2004
So, what’s the answer?
Is the magic solution a national referendum? Can we legitimately decide the fate of Eretz Yisrael in a national election? Who can participate in such a crucial ballot? May ‘leaders’ of Yesha, and more specifically, those people participating in the ‘Yesha Council’ rightfully take responsibility to claim that ‘we will accept the results of a referendum’ dealing with chopping up our land?
The only answer to these questions is an unconditional NO!
Let’s examine these questions, and their possible answers in greater detail.
First: Who has the right to take part in a referendum about Eretz Yisrael. Let’s take into account that we’re not talking about how high taxes should be, who must participate in active army service, or other such mundane issues. We are not even discussing whether or not a Jew has the legitimate right to live in Eretz Yisrael. We are talking about evicting Jews from Eretz Yisrael. We are talking about unilaterally abandoning our land to sworn enemies who have murdered, in cold blood, over 1,500 people in the past ten years, since the “Oslo piece accords” left our land in pieces. We are talking about fleeing a land area bordering Israeli cities, which will be controlled by a ‘prime minister,’ who said, only a few days ago, "Unfortunately, up to now the Palestinian security forces have not been able to control this situation and we bear a very big responsibility for this," Qurei was quoted as saying in al-Ayyam, a Palestinian daily. "There's still chaos, still killing." (Greg Myre – The New York Times – Friday, Oct. 15, 2004). \
So, who has the right to vote? There has been much talk about who can vote. For example, can hundreds of thousands of Arabs, ‘citizens’ of the State of Israel participate in such an election. Or, what kind of majority is necessary for such an issue to be decided: a regular 50% plus one majority, or sixty percent of the population?
However, I’m not referring to these questions, as legitimate as they are. My sights are set on Jews who live in New York, Buenos Aires, Paris, Johannesburg, or, even in Oslo. Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Jewish people, ALL the Jewish people, wherever they may be. Some live here, in the State of Israel, and many others, (unfortunately), still reside elsewhere. But that does not mean that these millions of people may be silenced, that their voices cannot be heard, when dealing with our land. It is theirs, just as much as it is mine. For many years I have told groups “Hebron belongs to you as much as it does to me. The difference is, we live here, and today, you don’t. We are the keeper of the keys, ensuring that Hebron will always be accessible to whoever wishes to visit here.
So it is too about Gush Katif, so it is too about Homesh and Sanur in the Shomron, so it is too about Tel Aviv and Kiryat Shemona. Citizens of the State of Israel, living in our land, are the keepers of the keys, keeping our land Jewish, for the Jewish people. But it is our land, whether we live here or not.
How can we, in Israel, leave our brethren out in the cold? How can it be decided to amputate a living, healthy limb from a healthy living body, without consulting with the patient, whose limb is to be severed? The patient isn’t only Avraham in Hebron, Yitzhak in Jerusalem, and Ya’akov in Eilat. The body, Eretz Yisrael, a G-dly possession, has been delegated to the Jewish people, including the Avrahams, Yitzhaks and Ya’akovs who live in Alaska, Melbourne, and Tokyo. What about them?
Second: Concerning the Yesha council (The Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza). Yesterday a delegation of Yesha leaders met with Sharon about the planned ‘disengagement.’ Speaking after the meeting they, labeled it a disgrace, they called the Prime Minister ‘unyielding and heartless.’ One of them men was quoted as saying, ‘either someone is controlling Sharon or he is taking Prozac or another tranquilizer.
One of the purported goals of this meeting was to convince Sharon to accept a national referendum to determine the fate of Gush Katif. One of the questions put to these men by various journalists is, “will you accept the results of such a plebiscite?” This morning, the Maariv-NRG web site quoted these men as saying, “we will honor a clear result of a national referendum.” They did not guarantee to end all protest should the referendum pass, but did promise to conduct opposition in a ‘more relaxed atmosphere.’
I have written before, and I reiterate here: Yesha council leaders have no mandate to decide whether or not Yesha residents will ‘accept’ or reject the results of such a referendum. A vast majority of Yesha council leaders are elected mayors of their respective towns or areas. They were elected to provide municipal services to their constituents. They were not elected by the general Yesha population and have no collective power to make such fateful decisions ‘in the name of Yesha citizens.’
Third and most importantly: Can the question of Eretz Yisrael be decided in a national referendum? The obvious answer: Of course not. Why? Very simply, Eretz Yisrael does not belong to us. What about our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. How can we deny them their land? It belongs to them too. What right do we have to deny them their birthright, especially when the question is not whether or not to ‘conquer the land’ rather, it is to simply stay put. How can we give away what belongs to them too.
But most notably: Eretz Yisrael is a G-d – given land, it belongs to Him, He gave it to us. One does not give away, abandon, or run away from G-d –given gifts. A week ago we began reading the Torah – the Five Books of Moses, from the beginning. The most important Biblical commentator, Rashi – Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak, living in France almost a thousand years ago, understood, even then, the controversy surrounding Eretz Yisrael. His first Biblical commentary asks why the Torah beings with “In the beginning” and doesn’t begin with the commencement of the Jewish people, in the days of Moses. His answers concisely, “Thus, should the nations of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, for you have taken by force the lands of the Seven Nations,’ they [Israel] will say to them: "All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us." For this reason will read next Shabbat how Abraham was commanded to go – to walk to Eretz Yisrael.
So, what’s the answer? No elections, no referendums, no negotiations. Rather, to know, to understand, to internalize, once and for all, Eretz Yisrael is not for sale, not even to the highest bidder, not at any cost. None of it, not now, not ever.
With blessings from Hebron.