The Holy Jews who Sacrificed Their Lives for Israel

With All Your Soul

The appalling murder in Itamar shocked everyone – all of the settlers, and every Jew without exception, because it wasn’t the Fogel family alone who they wanted to murder, but rather, each and every one of us. In the neighboring communities, which are situated on the frontlines of Jewish settlement, many residents are picturing in their minds what if it had been them, how they would react, and if, God forbid…what will happen to…, and the children and parents are finding it hard to sleep at night.

Nevertheless, we must not be weakened. The fears and worries must be elevated to the mitzvoth of ‘kiddush Hashem’, or sanctifying God’s name, and we must remind ourselves of what we are strict to say everyday, both morning and evening, in the reading of the ‘Sh’ma’ : “And you shall love Adonoy your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your possessions.”

In the Mishna (Berachot 9:5), the Sages said: “With all your soul – even if He takes your soul”. This is what every Jew must think of when reading the ‘Sh’ma’ – if it was required, he would be ready to die for ‘kiddush Hashem’.

It is brought down in the name of Rebbe Elimelech from Lizhensk: “…a person who lies on his bed and can’t fall asleep, should contemplate the positive commandment of ‘I must be sanctified among the Israelites’. He should imagine to himself as if an awesome and great fire is burning in front of him, rising all the way to the heavens, and for ‘kiddush Hashem’, may His Name be blessed, he shatters his natural inclination and throws himself into the fire. God includes a good thought to the actual fulfilling of the mitzvah, and thus, he is not just idly lying around in bed, but rather fulfilling a positive commandment from the Torah. One should also contemplate this thought in the first verse of ‘Sh’ma’ and the first blessing of the ‘Shmoneh Esrai’… (Tzetl Koton 1-2).

Connecting to Eternity

This awesome mitzvah is what connects every Jew to eternity. It detaches him from the temporariness and pettiness of life, and connects him to the world of truth and good, to the vision of the redemption. This is also the idea of the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel in our times, which is the only positive commandment in the Torah that obligates the Jewish nation to endanger their lives in order to conquer the Land and settle it. True, there are three severe mitzvoth – idol worship, illicit sexual relations, and murder – for which a Jew is obligated to give-up his life, for if he is threatened: “Either you transgress one of them, or you will be killed – he must sacrifice his life”. However, there is no mitzvah to purposely enter such a situation which would obligate one to sacrifice his life in order not to transgress one of these three mitzvoth. On the other hand, the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is the only mitzvah that obligates the Jewish nation to enter, on its own initiative, a life-threatening situation, in order to conquer and settle the Land (Minchat Chinuch 425; Mishpat Kohen, pg.327).

The Mitzvah of Settling the Land

There is no mitzvah comparable to that of settling the Land of Israel, through which even the seemingly insignificant actions that one does during the course of the day, receive profound and divine meaning. A person can breathe, eat, sleep, or walk – and in his mere presence in a location whose settlement requires strengthening – he fulfills a mitzvah. And the more one strives to improve the quality of his life, both spiritually and physically, the greater the mitzvah becomes, for through the revelation of divine values within everyday, happy living, the entire world sings the praise of the living God. It turns out that one’s house, job, family, social life – are all partners in the revelation of the word of God in this world. This is the great message to the world emanating from the Land of Israel, that there is no schism between the heavens and the earth, and precisely within everyday life, it is possible to reveal the word of God, bring redemption, and improve the entire world. “For from Zion will go forth the Torah and the word of Adonoy from Jerusalem.”

Facing the Evil

We do not strive for private vengeance; rather, we seek national vengeance, with the I.D.F. and all the official government agencies leading the way. We have not returned to our land in order to banish the Arabs from their houses. However, after having risen up to destroy us, we demand that anyone who wanted to kill us, be killed; and anyone who wanted to expel us from the land, be expelled. With the rest of the Arabs, we will live in peace.

Security Concerns and Internal Criticism

Together with the readiness to sacrifice one’s life, security requirements must be taken care of as best as possible. It would be desirable that the person who fills the position of Minister of Defense would be someone who understands why the Jewish nation is in its land. Instead, Mr. Netanyahu appointed Ehud Barak, with all the familiar problems of this man. The I.D.F. soldiers carry out their tasks with self-sacrifice; they know who the enemy is, but their hands are tied by the Minister and the senior commanders, who have forgotten the goals for which they were appointed.

The judicial system must also be criticized, for just as every other negative event that takes place in the country, here too, they play a part. The electronic security system of the settlement of Itamar remains on a low level because the legal advisors decided that the route of the security fence, which was paved in coordination with the I.D.F., does not justify seizing land. The land in question is unclaimed. Thus, the settlement of Itamar is left with minimal means of defense – way less than the accepted level of security in the area. I was told that Talia Sasson, while working in the State Attorney’s office, was the one who made the decision. Today, she is a candidate for the Knesset from the radical left-wing Meretz Party.

The Question of Security and Settling the Land

We stand on two foundations: on the principle of the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel, and on the principle of security – that if, God forbid, we retreat from Judea and Samaria, the danger to the State of Israel will be greatly increased. From the outset, we should settle the land in order to make the desolate areas blossom and to inhabit the land. When we don’t merit doing so – tragedies occur, and for security reasons, we are forced to come to Israel and settle the Land.

The Spies in the desert were afraid to enter the Land of Israel because of security reasons, and only after God decreed that they were to die in the desert, did they attempt to ascend, but it was too late. The entire generation died in the desert, and their children entered the Land to settle it.

Had we merited, we would have ascended to the Land of Israel in order to care for its soil, to build the destroyed cities and blossom the desolate hills, as was the call of the Vilna Gaon, and after him, Rabbi Kalisher, Rabbi Gutmacher, and Rabbi Alkaly. However, we didn’t merit this; the majority of Jews were afraid to ascend to Israel, refraining from moving because of ‘pikuach nefesh’ (saving one’s life from danger). Our tragedies then grew in the Diaspora, and we were required to ascend because of security reasons. The first Jews were able to overcome the fear of the pogroms, and only after the Holocaust did the last ones escape to Israel. There were rabbis who said that even if one Jew had to be killed in order to build the Holy Temple, it would be better not to build it at all. As a result of this, they also feared the Arabs, and thus believed it was better to stay in the exile. Then the Holocaust occurred.

The liberation of Judea and Samaria during the Six Day War also occurred due to security reasons. After the war, the government of Israel wanted to retreat in order to achieve some type of peace agreement, but due to security reasons, it wasn’t possible. Had we merited settling Judea and Samaria because of the mitzvah – our present security problems would be immeasurably less significant.

To My Brothers, the Settlers

I woke-up before sunrise, and went to my study to write this article. In the middle, I stopped to pray ‘shacharit’ (Morning Prayer) in the early 5:40 A.M. ‘minyan’, and observed the people who rise early in the morning to pray: engineers, a banker, an architect, handymen, and academic researchers – white and blue-collar workers as one. Afterwards, the 6:00 ‘minyan’ arrived, and following them, others. In the meantime, the women arise, waking-up their children, preparing them for kindergarten and school. The majority of the mothers will then leave for work. Parents begin to bring their little ones to the day care centers and kindergartens, and the school children gather at the bus stops. Chaim Fogel, the grandfather of the Fogel family murdered in Itamar, has a share in all of this; for many years he accompanied the development of the community ‘Har Bracha’ in his work for the ‘Amana’ settlement movement.

I thought to myself: Dear settlers, who can convey to you just how significant your trivial actions really are! In your daily routines, you are building the Land and rectifying the Sin of the Spies. You are fully aware that those who choose to live here accept upon themselves additional dangers, and nevertheless, you continue to live here, establishing families and working to improve the world.

And if we have slightly forgotten the enormity of the mitzvah, we must constantly remember the slaughter of the five members of the Fogel family. Perhaps in the merit of our genuine acceptance that, for the sake of defending the nation and the Land we must be ready to offer sacrifices, God will have mercy on us, and we will merit dwelling in the Land of Israel securely, without having to die for it.

Isn’t it Dangerous to be a Settler?

Quite often people ask: Isn’t it dangerous to live in Judea and Samaria? Indeed, it is; there is an additional danger living in a settlement, and this is precisely the reason why we are here. Nevertheless, in the merit of the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel on its highest level, the chances of increasing and elevating one’s life is also greater. The fact is that if we compare the families of the settlers to those of people with similar qualities who live within the ‘Green Line’, the settler families are much bigger. Self-sacrifice for the settling of the Land strengthens one’s life. Usually, in this world, this is manifested by an increase in the number of children and grandchildren, in Torah and mitzvoth, and spiritual creativeness. Sometimes, it is revealed in the world of truth – as immeasurably sacred people, with no creature being able to stand in their company. One thing depends on another.

People die from accidents and illnesses, finding various ways to destroy their lives. Many of them can’t find love, and don’t raise families. Global suffering is great. Someone who flees the nation’s mission because of the dangers it entails, usually finds himself faced with other bigger and more difficult dangers or risks. Fortunate is the person whose suffering has value, for through these trials and tribulations, he is purified and refined, and his life flows in its proper path.

In not too many years, with God’s help, the remaining children of Rabbi Udi and Ruth Fogel, may God avenge their blood, will stand under the wedding ‘chuppah’, will have son’s and daughter’s, grandson’s and granddaughter’s, great grandson’s and great granddaughter’s, multiple as the stars in heaven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.