In the meantime, we gain time and can continue building up ourselves and our land.
SOME WOULD SAY that this is scant comfort, and serves only to justify failure and weakness. And there is what to say in the defense of these people as well. They are in a rush to see our problems solved here and now, because they—including the writer of these lines—know that they are getting older and feel time flying by.
So, for those who want practical, proactive solutions now, let me say this: there are indeed such projects underway. Here I give the example of the very practical Yehuda Etzion:
Etzion is a very practical man. He founded the community of Ofra with Chanan Porat and my brother Yossi Indor back in 1973. Rachel Yana’it Ben-Tzvi, the wife of deceased president Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi who stood at the helm of the Movement for Greater Israel alongside Nathan Alterman, suggested to Chanan to rebuild a Jordanian army camp where Ofra now stands. The camp would be rehabilitated as a work camp similar to those constructed by the early pioneers, to house workers who would participate in the construction of the IDF communications base on adjacent Mount Chatzor. Etzion adopted the project and pushed it through.
Since then, the work camp has become a large community that hundreds of families call home.
Etzion also was responsible for bringing 80,000 Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel after the fall of the Iron Curtain, working with veteran Gush Emunim activist Ina Viyanski and Member of Knesset Uri Ariel to circumvent the clogged routes out of the USSR and bring the Jews out when we had the chance. Etzion also had a major part in engineering the aliya from Ethiopia.
Today Etzion is busy creating a new master plan for Jerusalem, including the Third Temple, working together with landscape architects, economists, and others. He has his ideas for what to do with the mosque, but this is not the place to discuss details. The point is that Etzion has found a way to raise this important topic out of our prayers and place it as well on the practical agenda.
There are those who would sneer at such a plan. It must be noted, though, that it is very much in the tradition of Chanan Porat. When he received the Moskowitz Prize for his work, none of it went into his wallet. One part went to social projects, and the other went to the plan on which Etzion is hard at work.
IT WAS ONE YEAR ago that Chanan passed away. He was a person who brought together prayer and action, song and deed, who lived the song of his prayers in the most practical way.
I remember how he described his prayers for the restoration of Zion after he had become ill. “Do you know what it means to say, ‘May our eyes see when You return to Zion with mercy,’ what this prayer means to me since I became sick?” asked the dreamer-seer of Zion, his eyes and his entire body longing to see the redemption.
I told him about my tack on the Palestinian issue and spoke of the need for a public relations campaign against the political and security dangers posed by the creation of a Palestinian state.
Chanan thundered back at me, “Meir, I’m going for the whole pot! The Land of Israel is ours even without those dangers. Enough excuses!”
I started saying that Benny Begin had told me in his father’s name that the public relations line has to be built on the two foundations of our right to the land and security dangers, but Chanan wouldn’t countenance the insult to our land. He simply repeated again and again, “the Land of Israel is ours.”
The Rosh Hashanah before he died, I went to visit Chanan at his home. He was connected to machines and an intravenous drip, and his family was at his side singing. I sang Chanan a Gur tune of which he was fond, which I had taught him on a long trip from Yamit when we were working against the Israeli retreat from there: David melech Yisra’el chai vekayam, meaning, “King David of Israel is alive and enduring.”
Originally published in Makor Rishon (Hebrew), September 2012. Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.