Settling the Land Lowers Housing Prices

Israel’s political leaders must remove the obstacles preventing construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria * A construction boom is the best solution for reducing housing prices * The housing crisis reflects a spiritual problem: God brought us back to the Land of Israel, but we are not striving enough to settle it * Yehezkel’s prophecy is coming true, and we must continue it with action * The prophetic vision and reality complement one another; the more we identify with the vision, the more it will purify the practical world of politics and intrigue * The Haredim are correct in saying that our situation in Israel depends on the fulfillment of mitzvoth, but first and foremost, the mitzvah of settling the Land – a foundation of the Torah – must take precedence

The Building Challenge

Bureaucratic and political obstacles preventing building and the continued rise in housing prices has escalated into a national problem, as noted by Emanuel Shilo in his article in last week’s ‘Besheva’ newspaper. It’s difficult to understand how leaders possessing national responsibility are negligent in handling this issue – even personal interests of being reelected should have given them incentive to deal with the crisis. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced several times that if housing prices continue to rise, he would admit failure, and leave public office. Incidentally, some people argued in favor of threatening to topple the government if the Regulation Law nullifying the Supreme Court’s decision to destroy the community of Amona was not enacted, because, currently, Kahlon does not want to go to elections. However, their assessment may very well be mistaken, because it pays for Kahlon to go to the polls. If he waits another two years, in all probability, everyone will have realized he had failed. If he toppled the government now as a result of the attempt to enact the Regulation Law, he could claim that he had come close to lowering housing prices, but only due to his being forced to sacrifice himself in defense of the legal system, the promising process that had almost born fruit was nipped in the bud. Not only that, he could claim the exact opposite: after almost succeeding in lowering housing prices, he would have won twice as many Knesset seats, but only because of his noble spirit did he agree to sacrifice his “assured success” in order to defend the courts. Then, he would turn to all the decent voter’s, people capable of appreciating self-sacrifice and principles, asking them to grant him their votes so he can continue his glorious, political activism – even though in practice, he failed.

In short, he is on the verge of failure in this issue, and it is a resounding fiasco, because he had almost all of the tools in his hands, and still, prices continue rising. It could be the Prime Minister is helping him a bit in his failure, thinking he will be able to get rid of Kahlon without paying a price, explaining to the voters, as he has already explained to them a thousand times, that he himself could have solved all the problems to their satisfaction long ago – had it not been for Obama, Kahlon, Bennett, and the hostile media preventing him.

The Solution: Building in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

It’ still not too late: the solution is at hand, and evident to all those willing to open their eyes: to build thousands of apartments in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. The vast areas of desolate land in Judea and Samaria are inexpensive, readily available, and close to the center of the country. If in the coming years, tens of thousands of homes for young couples are built there, it will offer them an ideal solution, and also contribute to the lowering of housing prices in the center of the country.

The Redemption has Begun; It is Our Turn to Make an Effort

As known, God created His world in a way that His governance over it takes place naturally, however, hovering above it lies hidden Divine direction. A deep and wonderful harmony exists between the two, and only by means of a combination of these two concepts – the human-rational concept, and the faith-based, idealistic concept – is it possible to understand the world in depth, and operate in it, for the better.

Thousands of years ago the Prophets prophesized about Israel’s Redemption and the Return to Zion, and even referred to the Land remaining barren without her son’s, teaching us that it is not enough for the Nation to be redeemed, because redemption of the Nation is dependent upon the redemption of the Land; for the Nation of Israel and their Land are a mirror image to one another, and when the Land is desolate, so are the souls of the Nation of Israel. And now, after terrible agonies, by the grace of God we have merited returning to the inheritance of our forefathers, and even merited returning to the heart of the Land – Judea and Samaria – in order to fulfill the commandment of the Torah to settle the Land. And if we do not strive to build the ruined cities and make the desolate mountains bloom – in the most holy areas of the country, where our forefathers and our Prophets walked – it seems as if the Heavens as well are not assisting us in building the places convenient for us to build.

It should be noted that not only do we suffer from delay in building the Land of Israel, but also the Gentiles who deny the vision of the Prophets and oppose the Return to Zion, are progressively being purged due to their iniquities. They could have enjoyed all the good and blessing coming to the world thanks to the return of Israel to its Land, but instead, they chose to fight it, to continue the wilderness and destruction, but they are in effect destroying themselves and all those associated with them, as the Prophets said.

The Words of the Prophet Yehezkel and their Fulfillment

It is written in Yehezkel (36): “You, human one, prophesy to Israel’s mountains and say, Hear the Lord’s word, mountains of Israel!  The Lord God proclaims: The enemy mocked you and said, “The ancient heights [the Land of Israel and the Temple Mount] belong to us” (i.e., we will inherit them)… Therefore, hear the Lord God’s word, mountains of Israel! The Lord God proclaims to the mountains and the hills, the watercourses and the valleys, the desolate ruins and the abandoned cities that were contemptuously looted by the surviving nations all around you. So now, says the Lord God, I will speak in my fiery passion against the surviving nations and against Edom…
 
Therefore, prophesy concerning Israel’s fertile land, and say to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys, The Lord God proclaims: Because you endured the ridicule of the nations, my passion and fury lead me to speak. So now the Lord God proclaims: I myself swear that the nations round about you will themselves suffer ridicule.  But you, mountains of Israel, will extend your branches and bear your fruit for my people Israel, because they will come home very soon.  Look, I’m here for you, and I will turn toward you, and you will be farmed and sown.  I will populate you with human beings, the whole house of Israel, all of them. The cities will be inhabited, the ruins rebuilt.  When I make people and animals increase on you, they will multiply and be fruitful. I will cause you to be inhabited as you were before. I will do more good for you than in the beginning, and you will know that I am the Lord… The Lord God proclaims: On the day that I cleanse you of all your guilt, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the ruins will be rebuilt.  The desolate land will be farmed, and it won’t be like it was when it seemed a wasteland to all who passed by.  They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the Garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited.  The surviving nations around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt what was torn down and have planted what was made desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it. The Lord God proclaims: I will also allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them: that I increase them like a human flock.  Like the holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem at its festivals, the ruined cities will be filled with a human flock. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” 

This prophecy was said for our generations, as Rabbi Abba said (Sanhedrin 98a):”There can be no more manifest sign of redemption than this: viz., what is said, ‘But you, mountains of Israel, will extend your branches and bear your fruit for my people Israel, because they will come home very soon'” (Yehezkel 36:8). On this verse, Rashi comments: “When Eretz Yisrael gives forth its fruit in abundance the end will be near, and there is no clearer sign of the End of Days.” In recent times, the Land of Israel has returned to once again give forth its fruit generously, and the more agricultural and technological fruits it gives forth, the more Jews will immigrate and flock to Israel.

However, this process does not occur by itself. The Prophets teach us the Divine process aroused and directed from Above, but at the same time we must make an effort to achieve it with an awakening from below, by fulfilling the mitzvoth of the Torah practically in the Land. For only through a combination of Heaven and Earth, will the vision materialize.

Divine Vision and Practical Deeds: Com2plementary Levels

On the one hand, it is forbidden for leaders to rely on a miracle, and perhaps because of the terrible fear of relying on a miracle and failing, they go to the other extreme, making an effort to disregard the Divine vision. But it is their obligation – and all of ours – to remember the Divine vision, by virtue of which we returned to Eretz Yisrael, and the Divine destiny for which reason we are living in the Land, the foundation of which rests on the building of Judea and Samaria. But when we are remiss, the entire building process of the Nation and the Land is increasingly delayed. The two levels must complement one another, without one of them overriding the other; therefore, when I dealt with the practical level, I attempted to express it as it currently exists, with all its accompanying cynicism and interests. However, in an ideal situation, the practical level should receive inspiration from the Divine level, and implemented with pure and honest intentions.

Still, if devotion to the vision is reflected by a wave of construction in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, then the revelation of the great Divine vision will overshadow the human weaknesses and political intrigues of government leaders.

Building Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria will express in the most open way, the nation’s loyalty to the commandments of God (the Divine level), extricate the construction industry from crisis, and lead to a rise in aliyah, and the building of families. Thus, we will fulfill the words of the blessing of the Torah: “I broke your bonds and made you stand up straight [in Hebrew, ‘komimi’yut’, literally, ‘two levels’]” (Vayikra 26:13). Our Sages explained: “Similar to the two levels of Adam HaRishon” (Bava Batra 75a) – the Divine level, and the practical level.

Yishuv Ha’aretz – A Fundamental Mitzvah

Whenever I have written similar things in the past I usually receive replies from Jews identifying with the Haredi point of view who claim that I exaggerate in the importance of the Land of Israel and its building. They then continue their criticism by saying: After all, it’s clear that Divine blessing depends on Torah and mitzvoth, and not on Zionism and other national interests.

A: Clearly, this is not the claim of talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), but rather, the claim of amei ha’aretz (boors) and the ignorant, whose intention may be good, but who were extremely negligent in Torah study, to the point where the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land) vanished from their sight. After all, when I wrote that thanks to Shabbat, blessing is bestowed, they had absolutely no complaints, because it is understood that every mitzvah is a key to the rest of the mitzvoth and blessings, especially in regards to fundamental mitzvot constituting a worldview leading to further tikkun (improvement). How much more so regarding the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, for anyone who learns Torah knows that there is no other mitzvah the Torah devotes more verses to, because it is the mitzvah which expresses more than anything else, the revelation of emunah (faith) in this world. Therefore, through its fulfillment, God’s name is sanctified in the world more than all other mitzvot, particularly today, for all the nations of the world know from the Tanakh (Bible) that the basis of the revelation of Israel’s faith and redemption depends on the mitzvah of settling the Land.

Anyone who understands Torah realizes that only through the observance of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz can we achieve complete and proper fulfillment of all the mitzvot, and that’s why our Sages said that the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz is equal to all the commandments (Sifri, Re’eh 53), and anyone who lives in the Land of Israel is similar to one who possesses a God, while one who lives outside of the Land is similar to one who worships idols (Ketubot 110b). “Rabbi Ishmael said: Jews who reside outside of the Land of Israel serve idols though in pure innocence”(Avoda Zara 88a).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://en.yhb.org.il/

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