My Opinion is Unchanged

Why the Switch in Your Ulpana Response?

Rabbi, I really enjoy reading your articles and learning from your books, which are exceptionally written. However, since I read your column two weeks ago concerning the Ulpana houses in Bet El, something has bothered me.

How are we to understand your change of opinion (and, of course, your father’s) in regards to the evacuation of houses in Judea and Samaria?

Rabbi, you might say: “We haven’t changed our position. I simply explained at length why in certain cases the rule ‘dina d’ malchuta dina’ (the law of the land is the binding law) does not apply, and why, in the case of the Ulpana houses, it does apply”, and so on. I read the article very carefully. Rabbi, I can also find all sorts of hairsplitting differences in halacha. At times, this is what I do most of the day in ‘kollel’.

Nevertheless, I find it extremely difficult to be convinced. In the Torah world it is customary that if one conceives a ‘chiddush’ (novelty) in halacha, if the ‘chiddush’ was stated before the incident occurred, we accept it; but if it came after the fact – it is not accepted, rather, the halacha remains the same as it was beforehand.

There are two things that really bother:

  1. What has changed? Rabbi, in the case of Amona (and other incidences), you were amongst those who called not to concede. You spoke out against those in favor of negotiations. A number of times you quoted the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, that concerning Eretz Yisrael, one must be willing to give his life (this also appeared in your last column). Even after the grueling results in the evacuation of Amona, you wrote that the protest achieved its goal, and that from now on, the government would fear evacuating settlers, realizing they are not ready to give up so easily. What has changed? Definitely, the reason isn’t the change of Prime Ministers, because you know as well, there is no difference between them. Is it because of the willingness of the public, or of the rabbis? Perhaps because the nation has matured to a certain extent?
  2. If it is a change of attitude, there is no problem in saying: We do not always have to fight till the end. Negotiations over Eretz Yisrael are permitted. When there is no choice, it is better to gain what you can, than lose everything. But if this is the case, then you must say with all honesty – we were wrong! Not to start searching for precise accuracies and hairsplitting differences – that’s good for a class in Gemara. Indeed, Rabbi, in your writings, you always attempt to simply difficulties in halacha. It ought to be announced that in certain circumstances, it is okay to negotiate with the evacuating regime. True, this is not what we said previously, but this is our present opinion seeing as we are shrewder now, and realize the power of the monarchy, and it’s not worth banging our heads against a brick wall.

Such an approach would have greatly helped unite the various factions amongst the settler community, and could have brought to an end, once and for all, the rift created between the “mamlachtim” (state-religious), and those who aren’t. We do not always have to emphasize the differences, especially when the dividing line needs to be moved just slightly to the right.

This is how I feel. Perhaps I’m wrong, and in truth, this was always your opinion – including the Oslo Agreements, Amona, and other incidents. I would appreciate it very much if you could clarify your position published two weeks ago in relation to what I have written. Yashar koach, and keep leading us with your wisdom.

Answer: I am astonished at your question. You do not see the difference between Amona and the Ulpana Hill? In Amona, did the government propose to build houses for every one they destroyed? Is this what you call ‘pilpul’ (fighting over precise accuracies)? And in any case, how can a person who learns in ‘kollel’ slight the importance of ‘chilukim’ (halachic differentiations)? To begin with, illogical ‘pilpul’ should be abolished! Even in yeshiva, it has no place. Our entire lives are built on ‘chilukim’. Up until Shabbat enters, one is permitted to do any type of work, and afterwards, it is forbidden. And in the case of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the land), the delineation is as clear as the sun in midday: when the law is directly and publicly aimed at contradicting the mitzvah – one is obligated to oppose it, in the sense of ‘ya’hareg v’al ya’avor’ (‘let him be killed rather than transgress’). When the demolition order is aimed at guarding the private ownership of an Arab – the law is obligatory. In an unclear situation, judgment and examination of the government’s position must be made, and when hostility is detected, as was the case in Amona, it is a mitzvah to resist and refuse the order, but not in the sense of ‘ya’hareg v’al ya’avor’.

Nevertheless, thank you for your frank question. It never crossed my mind that people who read my articles and study my books would think that in my last article there was something novel, or a change in my position. I was sure that my long-standing readers were familiar with my basic position, and the only novelty in the article was its scope.

Relating to the Events at Amona

You mentioned my position in relation to the events at Amona. Here is what I wrote in my article ‘Revivim’ on the 11th of Shvat, 5766 (2006):

Question: Is it true that from now on, we should oppose any destruction of houses in Judea and Samaria, as we did in Amona?

Answer: Absolutely. Under the present circumstances, resistance is the proper action. It is impossible to let such evil decisions pass quietly.

Question: In such cases, is it correct to offer a compromise, such as transferring the houses to a different place, or perhaps there is no room for any type of compromise with a government whose intentions are evil?

Answer: I am personally in favor of compromise. Therefore, if a solution can be found, according to which the houses will be transferred to an adjacent area without significant financial damage, it is better to accept a compromise and avoid conflict. For this reason, it was good that they came to a compromise in Hevron. In such instances, members of Knesset and the Yesha Council can be relied on, for they often work in channels of lobbying and compromise. But, if the authorities are not willing to reach a fair compromise, then the destruction of houses must be resisted vigorously, while maintaining the required moral boundaries (this not being the place for details). By no means should the boundaries of the struggle be coordinated with the army and police. The hideous act of expulsion and destruction must be the complete responsibility of the authorities, without any assistance or coordination on the part of leaders or rabbis.

The serious error of the leaders in Gush Katif was that they coordinated the nature of the expulsion with the expellers and the destroyers – senior army and police officers, and thus, the expulsion ended in disgrace. They thought that if they avoided a rough struggle, “the people will be with us”. In fact, according to the polls, before the expulsion, close to fifty percent supported us, and after the expulsion, we remained all alone, while the “Expulsion Party” (Kadima), soared in the polls.

Prime Minister Netanyahu

If anything, you should be surprised why in Bet El they didn’t act ‘l’chumra’ (stringently) – accepting a compromise of only one new house for every one destroyed! The reason for this, however, is also clear. As I explained in my previous article, when the official justification for demolition does not harm the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land), but involves injustices and hostilities towards the settlement movement, then we must protest. And the greater the injustice, the stronger the protests should be.

The Prime Minister was elected because of his pledge to support settlement in Judea and Samaria, and apparently, the position of the State Prosecutor’s Office calling for the destruction of the houses, stems from a hostile attitude towards the settlers, against the will of the people, as expressed in the general elections. In such a case, the Government bears the responsibility of correcting the injustice, using all the tools at its disposal, and must declare explicitly that the courts will not determine settlement policy in Judea and Samaria. If the Government does not act in this manner, the injustice and humiliation is even more scathing.

However, it must be noted that after the important announcement of the Prime Minister in the Knesset, and his promise to build ten houses in exchange for every house destroyed, there is no justification for physical resistance to the evacuation and demolition of the houses. Indeed, it is worthwhile to protest against the legal system, but the place of this outcry is in another location.

Moreover, in the agreement to evacuate Ulpana Hill, additional gains were achieved – the establishment of a Ministerial Committee for settlement, whose decisions obligate the Minister of Defense, and a commitment for a review and modification of the State Prosecutor’s position.

The Halachic Basis

I have already written my halachic opinion on this issue in “Peninei Halacha: Ha’Am v’Ha’aretz” published in 2005, in chapter five, dealing with the “Laws of Protecting the Land”, paragraph 7. I explained there, according to the Talmud and Rambam, the government has no authority to give an order that contradicts halacha, and I concluded by saying: “If a government forbids Jews to live in a certain area of the Land of Israel, such an order is invalid, because it contradicts the mitzvah of settling the Land. However, if Jews came and sought to settle in a particular place, the government has the authority to determine that they not settle in that specific area, but rather, in a nearby area, when the reasons are of a public nature – i.e., the area is designated for a road, or planting trees. But if the government declares not to settle an entire region because it does not agree that Jews should live there, such an order contradicts the mitzvoth of the Torah and the God’s promise to give the Land of Israel to the Jewish nation, and is invalid.”

Indeed, in the book I did not point out that a government is permitted to prohibit settling in a specific place for legal reasons of private ownership, whether Jewish or Arab, because I thought this was obvious. For if in order to plant trees or build a road the government can prohibit building in a certain place, all the more so can they prohibit construction in a place that, according to legal orders, belongs to another person.

Practice What You Preach

Not only have I written this position a number of times, but I have also expressed it in classes, and determined actual halacha, accordingly. For example, when asked by the residents of Ramat Gilad whether they should accept the government’s proposal brought about by Minister Binyamin Begin, I suggested that they accept the offer. Although beforehand, when the Minister of Defense cunningly sent military forces to destroy Ramat Gilad, in an attempt to prevent Minister Begin’s agreement, I supported the youth who demonstrated at the army base.

Also concerning Migron, from the outset I supported any proposal of an orderly, alternative settlement in a nearby place. True, I opposed the proposal of moving to the ‘yishuv’ Adam because it is far from Migron, to the point where re-locating there would have indicated the position that the area surrounding Migron should be empty of Jews, so that it could be handed over to foreigners.

Delay in Article’s Publication

I must also state that the article I published two weeks ago had actually been written a long time ago, and I spoke about it in a number of classes I gave. About six months ago, in one those classes, I mentioned my intention to publish it. As a result, a few dedicated activists from a nearby outpost approached me and requested that I delay its publication, because they felt it might harm their cause. Although I thought they were wrong, and I even said it to them, I respected their request, and suspended its publication.

May it be His will that we merit building the Land of Israel, in its length and width, to build and to be built in it, and from within all the obstacles and restraints, to spread out to the west, east, north, and south.

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