When Land is God

Rabbi Arik Ascherman being assaulted by a masked West Bank Israeli settler with knife in his hand in response to Ascherman’s attempts to prevent further uprooting of Palestinian olive trees by the settlers. "YouTube"

 

MY WIFE REMEMBERS huddling in a bomb shelter in 1967. Whatever revisionist historians may tell us today, many in the bomb shelter were asking whether Israel was about to be destroyed. When we not only survived, but ended up with most of the Biblical land of Israel under our control, this “miraculous” victory was incredibly intoxicating. Einat and her family were among the thousands who lined up to get to the kotel (Western Wall) when it was opened for visits for the first time on the Shavuot holiday. If we were already saying in our prayers that the creation of the State of Israel was reshit tzmikhat guelateinu (the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption), this was God’s hand in history and one further step towards full redemption. Those warning that this could be a moral disaster for us were lone voices in the wilderness.

At the time, the main question was nevertheless security. Were we more secure returning the Occupied Territories for peace (as our first prime minister, Ben Gurion, originally advocated), or with territorial depth? The proclamation that there would be no recognition, no peace and no negotiations with Israel expressed by Arab leaders at the Khartoum Conference shortly after the war didn’t help.

Today, many generals would say that even if there is a military justification for maintaining a military presence in the Occupied Territories, the need to defend settlements is a security liability. However, those powerful messianic forces filled the vacuum. They believed—and believe—that it is our God-given obligation to settle and “redeem” the Land by any means possible. Not to do so would be a sin.

There is no denying that, if one takes the Torah seriously, God promises the Land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity, as a sign of the Covenant between us. However, that same Torah tells us time and again that we have not received a blank check. The amount of the Land we will live on at any time in history can expand or contract according to our moral behavior. While there is a huge debate within the Jewish world as to what moral behavior is, arguably the very acts required to rule over another people make us unworthy to hold onto the Land in God’s eyes.

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the full article.

Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:48-49

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