Generalizing and blaming all hilltop residents for the sins of a few wild ones’ is wrong * Why publicize the criticism now? * The discussion is held to determine the path of the religious public, and not for the purpose of cleansing ourselves from leftist accusations * The need to take a harsh approach towards those whose deeds are bad, but adorn themselves in “garbs of holiness” * Establishing outposts without coordination with authorities delays municipal building permits and harms the development of the communities * Unnecessary confrontations with Arabs and the IDF by the troublemakers causes damage * Overabundant hostilities cause psychological harm to the youth and their future
No to Generalizing
I received many responses following my previous column concerning the “Duma affair.” In particular, people who bear the holy burden of settling the hilltops expressed firm support, proving my objection of including all hilltop residents in sins of the few troublemakers, because the majority of them are righteous people. One of the heads of the hilltop settlers wrote that he agreed with every word I wrote. Another added that in all the hilltop communities it is understood that whenever this group of troublemakers arrives, problems begin, and all development comes to a halt. Consequently, every hilltop community that begins to flourish makes every possible effort to distance themselves from these troublemakers.
On the other hand, some people who read the article were very upset. I received harsh allegations from parents and family members of these wild troublemakers, and many questions from their unsuspecting supporters as well. Since the majority of the arguments and questions stem from a lack of understanding, I will address a few of the questions.
The Timing of Publication
Q: Why was it necessary to publish the scathing criticism of the youth while they were being tortured and reviled? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait a few more months?
A: I did so because at the present time, good-natured and naïve people unfamiliar with their views and exploits are praising their alleged “righteousness”, as if they were hero’s representing the Torah and the struggle to settle the Land of Israel. As a result, there was an urgent need to present the matter truthfully. Nevertheless, I postponed publicizing the article for three weeks, because it was intended to remedy the situation. The aim was for the matter be discussed among the settlers and their supporters, and not by the secular media, which is controlled mostly by people who, unfortunately, are extremely hostile to our efforts. Therefore, after charges were filed and the media establishment no longer focused on the interrogations – it was time to clarify the issue.
This Position is not Intended to Clear us of Guilt
I also received the following question from the opposite direction: “Rabbi, your words of protest against the troublemakers are extremely important, but why weren’t they written at the time when all the media was dealing with the subject? Had you done so, you would have disavowed all the criminals, and removed the guilt from all of the settlers?”
A: First of all, it is not proper to disassociate from guilt, because one who is able to protest but refrains from doing so, is punished (Shabbat 54b).
Most importantly, though, condemning the troublemakers at the same time the media condemns the settlements is pointless, because their hatred of Jews and the settlements does not stem from a specific criminal act, but from deeper motives. Therefore, it was sufficient for settler representatives to express a principled position opposing violence. Anything beyond that is exploited by those who hate us. After all, leftist spokespersons exploited the murder in Duma to blame all of the right-wing, including the Prime Minister, of direct responsibility “for the killings and burning of families.” The ‘radical left’ even accused the ‘moderate left’ of legitimizing the “riots, pogroms, burning of families, and the killings of the settlers and IDF.” The enemies of the State of Israel world-wide accused all Israelis of responsibility for the policies of murder and apartheid against the “Palestinian people.” And the biggest anti-Semites blamed every Jew in the world for the murder “of the Palestinian people” who, needless to say, are the most miserable and oppressed people on the face of the earth! I wished to avoid all of this.
We should not lose hope in explaining Israel’s position, but in order to do so we need to present an ethical, principled position, instead of apologizing for violence whose significance is negligible compared to the horrible Muslim violence.
Moreover, the harsh criticism was not said in relation to other standards, rather, in relation to our own standards – those loyal to the Torah, the Nation, and the Land. People who yearn for the honor of God and Israel, who long for the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’ and the building of the Land together with the redemption stemming from it, people who greatly desire and anticipate the building of Jerusalem and the Temple, are loved in the Heavens, and are pleasant in the eyes of all people (see, Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu, Chapter: 4:14).
Why was the Criticism Written So Scathingly?
Q: Rabbi, why did you denounce the mischievous hilltop youth in such a scathing and sharp manner? Are they the worst type of kids? Shouldn’t you first condemn youth who sink into drugs and immorality?
A: Nobody thinks that youth who fall into drugs and immorality are doing a mitzvah; everyone knows they are sinners, and all discussions and lectures about morality are directed at them. No group claims in the name of Judaism and the Torah that Shabbat should be desecrated and non-kosher food be eaten. The problem created in recent years is that people whose basic aspirations are good, permit themselves to act toward Israel’s sacred ideals with violence and wickedness, and moreover, claim that by reason of “righteousness” and ” exceptional chassidut” they degrade both the Torah and its bearers – the defenders of Am Yisrael and those engaged in settling the Land. The exact opposite of all the fundamentals our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah ztz”l, elucidated and explained in his important lectures and essays in the book “Le’Netivot Yisrael.” Therefore, it is essential to define evil as evil, because without doing so, there is no way to fix it, especially when it adorns itself in “garbs of holiness”.
Damage Caused in Three Areas
Q: What damage is there in idealists who are willing to endanger their lives for the sake of settling Judea and Samaria, establishing hilltop communities with great self-sacrifice?
A: The benefit resulting from the group of troublemakers to the settlement of the Land of Israel is highly insignificant, while on the other hand, the damage they cause is immense, particularly in three areas: a) disruption of settling the Land. B) Creating constant conflicts with the Arabs and the IDF. C) The corruption of other youth.
Settling the Land through the Expansion of Existing Settlements
It’s important to know that almost all of the hilltop communities were established under the direction of the leaders of the settlement movement, in collaboration with the most senior government offices, on land originally planned for settlement expansion. This form of settlement originated after the cursed Oslo Accords, which created heavy pressure in opposition to the construction of new settlements. The solution found was to build neighborhoods, sometimes called hilltop communities, near the settlements. Despite the difficulties and harassment, these hilltop communities evolved while receiving government funding, and most of them have already become established neighborhoods numbering thousands of families.
On the other hand, all the hilltop communities which are regularly destroyed by the army and the police are hilltops that were built by the private initiative of activists and youths on unauthorized lands. Over the years there were cases where hilltop communities were started on unauthorized land as a Zionist response to the murder of our comrades who died ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ – for the sake of God, the People, and the Land . Even hilltop communities such as these are usually destroyed, and only in rare cases when they are successfully coordinated with public officials are they allowed to remain standing, with their handling requiring enormous public resources.
Had we been fortunate, and the majority of Knesset members were ardent supporters of settlement expansion, our situation would be very good. However in practice, only about half of the Ministers and thirty MK’s actively support the expansion of settlements. In such a reality, we are working hard to continue building and absorbing families, and thank God, settlement is successfully developing at the rate of five percent per annum.
The Disruption of the Troublemakers
I will not bother you, my readers, with all the complications associated with building the Land of Israel. In general, the providing of final building permits (‘taba‘) to areas already built, or giving approval in principle to areas about to be built, depends on the houses being built according to the original plan of State authorities – even if for political or policy reasons approval of these plans have not yet been completed. This group of troublemakers are meticulous to build on unauthorized areas, thus preventing the continuation of construction planning in the adjacent settlement for many years. Not only that, as long as there is no approval for a ‘taba’, the government cannot build daycare centers, parks, schools, and any public buildings the residents of the community are entitled to it.
We the settlers have decided to dedicate our lives, and sometimes even risk our souls, for the sake of building the Land, and not to play games of “cops and robbers” with fellow soldiers and police. We settled here to fulfill the vision of the prophets and fulfill the mitzvot of settling the Land, which our Sages said is equivalent to all the other mitzvoth combined. The essence of this mitzvah is that the Land be in our hands and not in the hands of another nation, or remain a wasteland.
As well-known, continued settlement is in great danger. We cannot be confident that we will succeed. Representatives of almost all countries are pressuring us to withdraw from the heart of our country. Many of our brothers accept their position, believing that peace will come to Israel if we are uprooted from Judea and Samaria, and the law courts also interfere, placing tough obstacles in our path. Ministers and MK’s who support us are forced to face serious allegations from representatives of friendly countries. They justify themselves in that construction is carried out within the demarcations of existing settlements. To remove the danger from our nation and country – we must grow as fast as possible, especially in ‘Gav Ha’Har (the greater area of Schem in Samaria), in the most threatened places. When the communities burst at the seams because of the massive number of residents, it will be easier for us to continue expanding. These troublemakers hinder the growth and development of the communities.
These rioters create constant conflicts with the Arabs and the I.D.F. Clashes that force the soldiers to come to their defense in order to save their lives, and then, to separate them from the Arabs. Sometimes, until the soldiers come to rescue them, SWAT teams and heads of security from other communities are summoned to save them from the Arabs. And seeing as their reports suffer from an extreme lack of accuracy, some residents in the past were quick to open fire in order to save a boy from being taken hostage and murdered. Thus, the residents got entangled in clashes, investigations, revocation of licenses to carry weapons, and loss of work. These troublemakers also attack Arab construction workers who come to build in the settlements.
Corrupting the Youth
When attempts are made repeatedly to set-up temporary structures in unauthorized places, as a result, soldiers and policemen are dragged in to destroy these buildings. Afterwards, the youth are dragged into risky activities of supposedly guarding these structures, and a constant struggle against soldiers and police. Thus, the youth accrue bitterness, frustration, and hostility towards the entire establishment. Instead of seeing everything that was built, instead of recognizing the important role of the IDF, he learns to see only the bad. There are those who are rescued from this vicious cycle, but there are youth who subsequently are thrown out of educational institutions, often get entangled in crime and even drug and alcohol abuse, and their path to being recruited into the army and acquiring an honorable profession is ruined.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including the entire series of his highly acclaimed books on halakha in Hebrew (and a few in Englis), can be found at the Yeshiva Har Bracha website: