On the 13th of Tishrei, I merited coming full-circle in two happy occasions. Twenty years ago, standing by the side of the open grave of our friend, Yaakov Parag, may God avenge his blood, I tearfully spoke of how he had approached me, in the last week of his life, pleading that I interrupt my learning and come with him for a tour of the western-side of the community to hear his plans on how to develop the area. The Zionist Federation had dug pits there in order to take samples of the soil to be checked at an agricultural planning laboratory. He lowered himself into the pits, felt the soil, scooped-up a handful, and was thrilled by its excellent quality. He then began to dream out loud about building a house with a surrounding grove, and children and grandchildren coming to help ‘saba’ (grandfather) pick the fruits. A couple of days later he was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists while patrolling the community. He left behind three young children and a pregnant widow. By his graveside we promised to contine in his path, to ensure his children’s education, and to continue building the community.
On the evening of the 13th of Tishrei, I had the opportunity to conduct the wedding of his first-born son, who has established his home in the Shomron, and has already begun building a house on the western hill of Har Bracha, not far from the place where his father had dreamt to build his own house. Yaakov’s second son got married two years ago and already has his own first-born son.
Redeeming the Vineyard
On the afternoon of the following day, I participated, along with the Minster of Infrastructure, Uzi Landau, in the celebration of “redeeming the vineyard” on Har Bracha. The portion of land upon which we celebrated is very close to the area Yaakov Parag had dreamt to plant his grove. The small village of Har Bracha, which at the time numbered twenty young families, has developed into a thriving community with over two hundred and fifty families. In the day-care centers there are close to two hundred infants, and the kindergartens are bursting at the seams. May there be more like them!
The meaning of “redeeming” is to convert the sanctified fruits into ‘chulin’ (non-holy), so that they may be eaten. For the Torah commands that for the first three years of a tree, its fruits are ‘orlah’ and cannot be eaten. In the fourth year, they are sanctified to be eaten in purity in Jerusalem. When the distance between the vineyard and Jerusalem was far, they would redeem the fruits on coins; the fruit would become non-holy, and the coins would become sanctified in their place. With the money, they would ascend to Jerusalem to buy food which they would eat there in purity, providing food for all the ‘olei regel’ (pilgrims). Today, with the Holy Temple destroyed, since we cannot eat the fruits or their compensation in purity, the sanctified fruits have no value, and they are therefore redeemed for a ‘pruta’ (minute sum of money), thereby converting the fruit into ‘chulin’.
Let’s return to the vineyards: Many plots of land have already been planted as vineyards on Har Bracha, and exceptionally first-rate wine has been produced from their grapes. Wine from Har Bracha is sought-after by aficionados throughout the country who are willing to pay over 100 shekels for a bottle. Consequently, more and more vineyards are being planted to fill the increasing demand.
In the Larger Scope
Two thousand five hundred years ago, after the armies of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Land of Israel, Yermiyahu prophesized (31:3-4): “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin of Israel: you shall again be adorned with your timbrels, and shall go out dancing with them that make merry. You shall yet plant vines upon the mountains of Shomron: the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit”. And here, right now in front of our very eyes, vineyards are being planted in the mountains of Shomron; joyfully, and with dancing, many young couples are progressively building their houses on the desolate mountains.
The prophet Yehezkel also prophesized about the desolate mountains and valleys. “Therefore, you mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the water courses, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which have become a prey and a derision… and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places rebuilt: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit” (Yehezkel 36:4-11).
The miracle is gradually occurring. Jews are returning to the forsaken cities and desolate wastes. However, Barak Obama, President of America, is trying with all his might to breach the words of the prophets. The prophet spoke of building the communities so they would be filled with “men like a flock” as it says (Yehezkel 36:38): “Like the flock of sacrifices, like the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed times; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord” – and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, arrogantly prevents God’s son’s from filling the waste cities with flocks of men.
The prophet Amos prophesized (9:14): “And I will bring back the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” And the government of Israel, aware of this, is negligent and does not fulfill its historic task.
Strengthening the Already Strong
When the whole world is dealing with the question of continuing building in Judea and Samaria, it is a sign that indeed, there is a special importance for each and every house that a Jew merits to build in Judea and Samaria. There aren’t any other houses in the world upon which the prophets spoke about 2,500 years ago. Fortunate are the families who merit building their homes in Judea and Samaria. Since this issue is so great and holy, the wicked arise to foil and disturb. We must strengthen ourselves against them.
I presume that had we woken-up on our own, to build the land vigorously and enthusiastically, as is appropriate for such a great mitzvah, accusations against us would not have arisen. The name of God would have been called upon us, and all those who saw us would acknowledge and agree that, indeed, God inherited us the land and the words of the prophets concerning the redemption of the world are proceeding to materialize. However, since we are negligent in settling the land, and do not act fittingly for someone who merits to fulfill the great mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, and we are not full of enthusiasm and vigor as is appropriate for one who merits to perform the prophecies of redemption, the accusers arise against us. There is only one remedy – to expand the width, height, and depth of the communities. To build all existing plots possessing building permits, to add additional apartments onto houses, to prepare master plans for the expansion of the communities and cities, to spur-on family members and friends to join-in, ascend the mountain, settle the land, and enlarge the families. Until the words of the prophet are fulfilled through us (Amos 9:15): “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God.”