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The march on gush katif

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Over the last number of months I have received a number of requests to express my thoughts regarding the "hinatkut", detachment, from the Jewish settlements in Gush Katif and in the Northern Shomron. I chose not to write about such subjects because I am hesitant to express my opinions in such a public forum where such sensitive issues may not be understood well enough. That lack of understanding may stem from the difficulty in elucidating thoughts on issues that are so delicate or from an inner bias that I imagine most of us have on this most important subject.
However, there have been recurring requests and this past week in particular I find myself very involved in the subject so I have chosen to write this essay for those who wish to read it.
I am not writing here as an authority, neither political, military nor halachic. For those who wish to read my thoughts, I present you with them.

Jewish settlement is of great value. That statement is true not only in Eretz Yisroel but in Chutz La'aretz as well. Jewish settlement provides a framework for a community that binds Jews one with the other and offers protection against outside influences. In our day and age, even a non-religious community has the social value of Jews meeting other Jews and decreasing informal social relationships and intermarriage. Thus, Jewish neighborhoods have such an advantage. Of course, if it is non-religious the binding aspects of Torah and Mitzvos are absent and in a mobile society one isn't limited to one's geographical community.

This idea of Jewish settlement is important in the case of the yishuvim in Gush Katif because there is certainly a Halachic issue of where the borders of Eretz Yisroel are located. Even if the present location of those communities does not have all the halachos of Eretz Yisroel, in our modern Eretz Yisroel which contains Medinat Yisrael, the importance of border communities has Torah significance. We are told in Masseches Sanhedrin that the laws of destroying the Ir HaNidachas do not apply to border settlements. That is because border settlements are a key to the protection of the entire nation within the borders. That is the settlement is important not only for its residences but for all as well.
Of course, if the area of Gush Katif is Halachically Eretz Yisroel than certainly it has its own inherent value. [The settlements in Northern Shomron are most certainly part of Halachic Eretz Yisroel, in addition to being on the border.]
I am not in the position to discuss the principle of returning land for peace. The greatest of Gedolim say that it may be done. The greatest of Gedolim say it may not be done (included in that list is my Rebbe Rav Aharon Soloveichik ZTL). What is clear that no one is saying that the present hinatkut will bring peace.
What are some of the issues at hand?

  • The right of a government to relinquish parts of Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael

  • The right to evict Jews from their homes

  • The way to express disagreement with decisions that the government makes

  • The role of the soldier who is called upon to execute the disengagement orders

Of course, the starting point of the discussion is the obligation of a Jewish government in Eretz Yisrael/ Medinat Yisrael to follow Halacha. That is an indisputable principle. The Ran in Masseches Nedarim attributes the source of 'Dina d'Malchusa Dina, the Halacha that says the fairly administered law of the land is binding, to the tacit agreement between the ruler of a country and his Jewish "guests". He expects them to follow his rules as a condition for their being granted permission to reside in his country. Of course, this doesn't apply to Eretz Yisrael where the Land was given to us as a Divine promise. [There are other explanations of Dina d'Malchusa that would apply in Israel.]

Even if Dina d'Malchusa doesn't apply, no one argues that the society should be anarchical. We learned in Pirkei Ovos that we need a malchus so that everyone doesn't swallow up everyone else. Thus the question is not ultimate legitimacy. It may be the source of the legitimacy which certainly is an important subject. However, the issue is the decision itself, since a government is an inherent necessity.
Now, the eviction of a person on an individual basis would be allowed. A government can build a highway and confiscate property. That is a general principle of Halacha learned from the description of monarchial rights expressed by the Novi Shmuel and is in general codes of law as well, referred to as Eminent Domain. Presumably, on the other hand, such rights are very limited and do not authorize uprooting entire villages on a wholesale scale.
Thus, we return to the issue of giving up land for peace and the fact is that no one says that the direct results of the hinatkut will be peace. That is why the Gedolim who say that returning land for peace is permissible in principle have not applied it to the present situation at all.
Certainly there is an inherent right to express disagreement. That expression has limitations. It cannot cause bodily or emotional harm. It cannot be expressed with blows. It cannot be done by name-calling either.
One of the clear aspects of what occurs today in Israel is the prominent, if not overwhelming, presences of teenagers. Now the Halacha tells us when Chilul Shabbos must be performed due to issues of Pikuach Nefesh that it is done by those whose presence indicate a full understanding of the actions undertaken. The Chilul Shabbos is performed by those of whom it is clear that their judgment was thoughtful and authoritative. Davka the chachamim should perform the Chilul Shabbos (of course without delaying necessary treatment) in order that the message of true necessity and import is clearly given.
There is no doubt that while the motivation of these young people often stems from the injustice they perceive, it is just as clear that mixed into these activities is a sense of adventure and a seeking of "action" combined with judgment that is usually not mature enough to deal with the extraordinary confrontations that are taking place. There is a large dosage of reaction to the betrayal they sense and that, too, interferes with clear judgment.
This last thought is not limited to the question whether these young people, idealistic and inspired, should be there; it extends to far greater issues.
Precisely because of the motivation and dedication is the threat of trauma made greater. The world we live in is not pretty. There are many disappointments that stem from disillusionment. We may be crushed when someone whom we respect acts in a way that is unbecoming. That being crushed may not be limited to our attitude towards the individual. It may extend to the values that we admired and respected. We may have a diminished respect towards the values. That is precisely what Chilul Hashem is.
Thus, the concern over crisis that may befall our young people should be no less in our minds than our concern for Eretz Yisrael. Literally thousands of young people are confronted with the fact that the values that they cherish dearly are being shaken. Those whose world-view attributes a large amount of inherent theological importance towards the government in Israel, particularly towards a government that a few short years ago they supported wholeheartedly, find that world – view being questioned. There is an inherent contradiction in saying that the government of the State of Israel is the beginning of the fulfillment of Hashem's promise of Redemption bimhera byomeinu and saying that the very same government is negating all it is to stand for.
For better or worse, older people who have witnessed the limitations of people, have experienced disappointments and who do not attribute too much faith in political leaders, can absorb the terrible blows that are being meted out. Young people are literally stunned.
The state of being stunned has effects that are far more than political. The effects are theological since the basis of their ideology is theological. We may have, chas v'shalom, a crisis of faith in Torah and Sh'miras Mitzvos. It is wrong not to look ahead and anticipate what the terrible crisis may precipitate. The harm may be irreparable!
And this takes us to the question of soldiers. I think it is wrong to tell soldiers to disobey orders. [I was careful not to write that I think it is wrong for soldiers to obey certain orders. The discussion here is to tell, encourage and pressure the soldiers to disobey.]
Army service in general, and in Israel in particular, can often present situations that are halachically difficult. The principle that is often expounded (though it itself needs to be examined more carefully] is the assumption that the commanding officers have taken issues into consideration (such as maneuvers on Shabbos] in determining the orders they issue and one should follow their orders. Such is the prevailing attitude even when it appears that some activities are not so necessary on Shabbos. If that is so, if the attitude conveyed by the leaders of a community is that army orders are most significant, it is not right to abrogate them in this situation only. If the principle is to give credit to commanders, then it is wrong to tell soldiers to disobey. It is wrong to tell soldiers to risk imprisonment and a record that may accompany them throughout their lives. That is not fair. They do not deserve to be put in that situation.
Now, it stands to reason that the soldier who will be most prone to being affected by the calls to refuse orders will be that soldier whose personal values already question or oppose the activities that they are undertaking. By calling on the soldier to refuse orders and, even worse, by taunting him a conflict of enormous weight is being put on the shoulders of this young man. It is not fair. They do not deserve to be put in that situation. That lack of fairness will cause a crisis to many young men that will leave scars that may remain with them for many years.
I admire the people who wanted to walk to Gush Katif and present a populous opposition to the hinatkut. I admire the tens of thousands of people who spent the last two days in Kfar Maimon in the intense heat and most difficult physical conditions Israel's summer can give them. I admire the restraint that they demonstrated in which the goodness of those involved shone forth with no reports of violence and many heartwarming reports of kindness and concern bein odom l'chaveiro.
I feel terribly sorry for our soldiers who are there, particularly for the ones for whom their orders present them with grave and terrible conflicts and pains of conscience.
I think that when a struggle is undertaken one must know the boundaries of that struggle. I think that if the present struggle will continue without greater foresight than we are endangering something far more priceless than homes. We are endangering our youth in a most real manner. That price is too high.
B'ezrat Hashem my personal hopes are that the hinatkut will not be executed. I hope that something appropriate will cause the situation to change. I do not have an answer of what will be if the hinatkut is rescinded. I, too, know of the political issues with the United States and the Arab countries. However, I am convinced that one does not suffer when doing that which is correct.
We are on the eve of "Bein HaM'tzarim", the three-week period in which the calamity of Churban is to have an ever-growing presence. So sadly, this year provides us with the atmosphere to make that awareness easier to come by. Chazal taught us, "kol hamisabel al yerushalyim sofo lir'os b'hi'b'no'soh". If you truly mourn for Yerushalayim one can merit seeing its rebuilding.
Particularly for those in Chutz La'aretz, the events taking place in Israel today should be very close to your hearts. It should be a source of motivation for tefilah. We can take this terrible event and use it, bdi eved, to unite us in prayer and hope for the Geula Shleima.

B'vircas Nechemas Tziyon,

Rabbi Pollock

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