Water-logged terror tunnels are collapsing. Hamas and Islamic Jihad tunnel diggers are dying. New recruits are becoming ever more wary of taking their place, and Gaza government funds have been drying up; salaries are owed to 40,000 civil service workers, in fact. What’s a terrorist government to do?
Well, for a start there’s all that land which was left as a gift from the Israeli government after former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yanked every last Israeli out of the Gush Katif region of Gaza in 2005, and much of northern Samaria.
Those plots of land are beautiful, fertile fields where once Jews cultivated some of the best crops of produce that Israel ever exported.
Now they are being handed out like little candies in lieu of two years’ worth of salaries to the 40,000 loyal civil servants it still owes.
Lack of jobs, power blackouts and tunnel collapses have all contributed to massive discontent among the masses; land makes Gazans happy.
A group of anti-Israel Jewish activists arrived in Hebron to award the city its first movie theater. But in the process, according to local Jewish residents, they destroyed the grazing grounds of a local Arab shepherd.
According to a JTA report by Andrew Tobin, dozens of American Jews spent Friday in Hebron “practicing nonviolent resistance against Israel’s presence,” singing “The World is Built with Loving Kindness” in English and Hebrew, clearing scrap metal, weeds and debris from a dirt lot with several low-slung cement structures, singing Jewish and protest songs, and passing around bags of popcorn labeled “Cinema Hebron” below a “triumphant” sign that read “Cinema Hebron: Coming Soon.” Indeed, the mission last Friday was to endow Hebron its “first Palestinian movie theater.”
Eventually, soldiers and police officers demanded that the activists leave the area, and when said activists sat on the ground, locked arms and sang “Lo Yisa Goy el Goy Herev,” they were pulled up one by one and removed. The Israelis in the group were detained, the Americans were let go (which was their strategy). Around 2 PM the American activists left the Israelis behind bars and proceeded to have a much deserved lunch.
There are many things wrong with the above two paragraphs, and we encourage you to read the entire JTA report to better appreciate our story (Peter Beinart joins US Jews for civil rights-style protest in West Bank). We spoke to Tzipi Shlisel, who is actually quoted by Tobin in his story, where he uses her as the obligatory reactionary settler’s counter-view: “[The activists] think they’re doing a good thing, but they’re really helping the terrorists,” and, “I’ll tell you, in the Holocaust, Jewish people helped Hitler, too.”
Tzipi Shlisel’s father, Shlomo Ra’anan HY”D, was stabbed to death by a local Arab back in 1998, the year when then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed over most of Hebron to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Shlisel recalls it was a scene similar to the devastating stabbing of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in Kiryat Arba two weeks ago.
But Tzipi Shlisel contacted JewishPress.com not because Tobin’s report treated her father’s murder with less empathy than it did the activists’ lunch, or Because Tobin used her as a necessary color stain on his canvas describing brave Jewish activists defying Israeli occupation with action and song. Tzipi Shlisel insists Tobin’s report is partial, and that he missed out on a wealth of historic and cultural information, including the fact that the area the Jewish activists weeded so energetically was prized for its weed by a local Arab shepherd.
The lands in question are in Tel Rumeida (biblical Hebron according to some authorities) which were purchased by the Hebron Jewish community 200 years ago, the first one in 1811, the second in 1816. During the 1949-67 Jordanian occupation, the Abu Aisha clan took over some of those lands. The neighborhood of Admot Yishai was built on a small part of this land, which is otherwise known as the Tel Remeida settlement, over which the Arabs are fighting the Jewish community. “But we have aerial photographs of the entire area, including the ancient olive trees which were purchased along with the land, as is noted in the purchase documents, and these lands all belong to the Jewish community,” Shlisel insists.
Near the neighborhood there’s an area where the army built a bunker behind which there is a copper factory which was shut down for environmental reasons more than 30 years ago. “It generated crazy air pollution, Jews, Arabs, no one could breathe,” Shlisel recalls.
“Eighteen years ago, after my father was stabbed to death by an Arab, the IDF created check points for the Arab traffic near our neighborhoods, and the area around the inactive copper factory is off-limits to Arabs.”
Hebron is divided into the H1 and H2 zones. H1 compromises 80% of Hebron, and Jews are forbidden to go there. The Arabs, on the other hand, can move freely in much of H2.
“Now, when the activists arrived with their tremendous singing, they cleaned up the area thoroughly, it was truly amazing, but the local Arab, a member of the Abu Aisha clan, who’s been claiming that these are his lands, and even says they are registered as his with the city of Hebron, was not consulted.
“Later, a police officer told me there was a military order (tzav aluf — lit. decree issued by a General) to evacuate the activists and that the Arab had filed a complaint with local police,” Shlisel said.
JewishPress.com contacted the local Hebron police station chief who said there had been no complaint filed. But a different source in the Hebron community who asked to remain anonymous told the JewishPress.com that the leftwing activists, one of whom was a former Tanzim activist from the Abu Aisha clan, convinced the Arab shepherd not to file a complaint. The fact is police and IDF soldiers did show up to remove the activists, and the Arab is seen asking police to chase away the American invaders.
In any event, in the video, shot by Shlisel for TPS, the Arab is telling police, “Yalla, take them from here … these are my lands …”
“I heard the same Arab complaining that they pulled out his grazing weed from the ground, that he owns a herd which he keeps in Dura village, and the old factory is one of the area where his goats graze. Those peace activists did a cleanup job on his source of livelihood. They raked and tore up the weeds, and from a Western culture point of view they did a fantastic job, but from this Arab’s point of view they destroyed his grazing field,” Shlisel said.
Responding to an inquiry JewishPress.com emailed Peter Beinart, Sharon Rose Goldtzvik of “Uprise – communications consulting for good guys,” wrote back:
The report you received is incorrect. Early in the day, Israeli police questioned Mr. Abu Aisha’s ownership of the land, and Mr. Abu Aisha quickly produced documents proving that he is indeed the owner. The police then dropped the claim. The “local Arab farmer” you reference was never named and was not present; in fact, there is no evidence that such a complaint was ever filed. Again, Mr. Abu Aisha was able to quickly prove that he owns the property and police recognized his rightful ownership. The IDF later returned with a “closed military zone” order; this was the basis for removing the activists.
I should also mention that the property was a relatively small plot consisting of a couple of cement and cinder block buildings, and a lot of debris. It could not have been used for animal grazing. I don’t know who reported otherwise.
But as can be heard on the video, Abu Aisha is clearly asking police to remove the activists, and says that he often grazes his animals there (watch the last half of the tape, shot by Shlisel for TPS, starting sec. 23).
As to the idea of “Cinema Hebron” (the name of the city in Arabic is Al-Khalil, meaning “friend,” after Abraham who was the friend of God, while Hebron is the colonialist-Zionist name used by the occupiers) Hebron is probably the most conservative religious Muslim city in all of Israel, where men and women are completely segregated, where Hamas rules, and where the very idea of attending a movie, never mind opening a movie theater, could get a man flogged.
That these American “liberators” would be so ignorant of the cultural and religious values of the people they have come to set free with song and hard weeding is possibly the funniest, even hallucinatory, idea of all.
“Which is why the only place where they could advocate having a movie theater in all of Hebron was near the Jewish neighborhoods, where at least no one would stone the living daylights out of them for their insolence, Tzipi Shlisel said, adding, “These human rights group who say they want to help the Arabs are actually ignorant of who these Arabs are. They step on their culture, trampling their values, with great glee and with a loud song on their lips.”
Roughly 3300 years ago, the Jews received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Those commandments were designed for all Jews to follow at all times, whether the positive commandments like respecting one’s parents, or the negative commandments like not murdering.
One of the positive commandments included a reason for the order: keeping the Sabbath:
“8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. “ Exodus 20:8-11
God told the Children of Israel to not work on the seventh day of the week, just as God rested on the seventh day when He created the entire world. By doing so, He made that seventh day holy, and commanded the Jews to make it holy as well.
The other nine commandments did not have explanations; the commandments were simply stated such as “You shall not steal.” The second commandment of not taking the name of the Lord in vain “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…” reveals more about the ramifications of ignoring the commandment, when no such threat was made in the text for the Sabbath.
Jews were told to actively remember the Sabbath, so, in turn, they can actively remember God’s creations and His decision to stop, rest and make the seventh day holy. The reason is not so much of an explanation, as it was meant to focus what should be remembered.
God gave the Jews other commandments beyond the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
The Jewish tradition is that the Torah contains 613 commandments, all of which were given at Mount Sinai. The sages conclude this from Leviticus 25, where God commands Jews to observe shmita on Mount Sinai. The biblical commentator Rashi (1040-1105) stated that clearly mentioning that such law was given on Mount Sinai was to show that all of the commandments were given there as well.
“1The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. 3For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.” Leviticus 25:1-7
The commandment of shmita resembled the commandment of keeping the seventh day a day of rest. In this case, the people may work the land for six years, but must not work the land on the seventh year, as the land must be given rest. However, unlike the commandment for remembering the Sabbath day, the underlying reason for giving the land rest was not given.
Further, this commandment was localized to the Holy Land. Only “when you enter the land I am going to give you,” when the Jews crossed the Jordan River, was the commandment relevant.
Field in Israel declaring its observance of shmita in 2008
Nachmanides, or the Ramban (1194-1270), noted that there was a similarity of the Sabbath day and shmita when he wrote that shmita is about remembering this world and the world to come. He derived that from Avos 5:9 which described that Jews would be punished with exile if they did not keep shmita. Ramban added “whoever repudiates [shmita] shows that he does not acknowledge the truth of Creation and the World to Come.”
However, during his long explanation, the Ramban did not delve into the local nature of shmita.
Was the intention of the command’s preface to just let the Jews know that shmita was not necessary during the time from standing at Mount Sinai until they arrived in the Holy Land? Or was there a message behind the land itself?
The Holy Land for the Jewish Nation
The commandment to observe Sabbath day became effective immediately when it was received on Mount Sinai. Throughout the wanderings of the desert before they entered Israel, Jews kept the seventh day holy. They did so, because they continued to live and benefit from God’s creations – even the desert itself. Jews continue to observe Sabbath when they are not in the Holy Land for the same reason: the commandment’s underlying reason was to remember God’s creation of the entire world.
Was the commandment of shmita about memory too? Was it about remembering the “World to Come” as Ramban suggested? If so, why did the commandment need to only be kept in Israel and needed to be delayed until they arrived in the Holy Land?
Perhaps the parallel of memory in the Sabbath day and shmita was not about “the truth of Creation and the World to Come,” but about God’s gift of the land of Israel to the Jewish people.
God included the reason of keeping the Sabbath day as a remembrance of the world’s creation within the command itself. Keeping the Sabbath included remembering the story of creation.
In the commandment of shmita, maybe there was also an explanation inside the text: “the land that I am going to give you.” It was not just an explanation of when to begin observing the law, but the reason of observing the law: the land was God’s gift to the children of Israel.
The Hebrew biblical text is different than God’s other promises of the promised land in the Torah.
When God promised the land to Abraham, it was described as “the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), not give you.
In Exodus chapter 3, God described leading the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey that is occupied by many other nations.
In Exodus chapter 33, God told the Jews to go to the land that He promised their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Only in Leviticus did God change the language as giving the land to the Children of Israel themselves (Leviticus 20:24). It was a gift for them, not just a promise made to forefathers.
That is why the commandment is localized in the Holy Land. The commandment is not to just let the land lie fallow every seven years, but like the Sabbath, it is to remember that the land is God’s gift to the Jewish people. It would be an insult to that special present of Israel for Jews outside of land to celebrate shmita.
God’s gift of Israel to the Jewish people is not limited by time, but an eternal present. That is why even on the seventh year, when Jews cannot work the land, they can still enjoy the fruits of the land. The gift never stops, even while Jews pause to remember the gift itself.
“Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.”
Like the Sabbath day that is commanded to Jews, but to be respected among non-Jews that live with Jews, so is God’s gift to the Jews of the land of Israel. The fruits of such gift may be shared broadly among those living in the land together with the Jews.
Enjoy and actively remember the gift of the Holy Land every day. Try not to wait every seven years.
The European Union over the past few years has been erecting illegal structures in Area C, which according to the Oslo agreement is under Israeli control. After several rightwing NGOs have complained, the IDF set out to demolish some of those structures. By rights, they should have taken all of them down, what with their being built without a permit. Israeli media publicized the demolition of those structures, some of which actually flew the EU flag — like those mythical cat burglars who leave their personal business card in the open safe. But last week the EU chutzpah has reached unprecedented highs when Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the Danish diplomat who since 2013 has been the ambassador of the European Union to Jerusalem, met with Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Gen. Yoav Mordechai, to warn him that if Israel keeps demolishing those “Palestinian homes” it would damage relations with Brussels.
According to a senior Israeli official who spoke to Ha’aretz, the meeting was tense and loaded. The ambassador accused Israel of hurting the “weakest Palestinian populations.” What the senior official did not share was that those structures are a means by which the EU has been challenging Israel’s claim to sovereignty in Area C (the PA is currently in charge in Areas A and B). It has to do with the diametrically opposed views of Israel and the EU of what constitutes the “two-state solution.”
Essentially, the Israeli politicians who are now in government, as well as more than a few in the opposition, envision a future peace deal that turns Areas A and B into an independent Palestinian entity, either as a state or an autonomy. The same Israeli leaders envision some permanent legal solution for the upwards of 400 thousand Jews living in Judea and Samaria, all of them in Area C, most likely with Israel annexing the large settlement clusters and giving away the rest of the land.
Virtually no one outside Israel supports this idea at the moment. Even Israel’s best friends in the world envision the ousting of the Jews from Area C, possibly while allowing Israel to retain eastern Jerusalem. How would that actually be done—no one cares to say, nor where would Israel gather the tens of billions of dollars required for such a move, never mind whether the settler population would acquiesce or opt instead for resistance that would make the traumatic evacuation of 8,000 Jews from Gaza’s Gush Katif look like a picnic. Meanwhile, while Area C in Israel’s view is eventually going to be annexed as part of a peace deal — to the Europeans Area C is Palestinian land ready to be redeemed.
Which is why the EU has been relentless at challenging Israel’s claim to Area C. And it’s why they’ve come up with the delusional notion that taking down 531 illegal Arab structures in 2015, 75 of which had been built by the EU, was damaging the two-state solution. Because the two-state solution the Europeans envision is without any Jews in Area C.
For the same reason, Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen was complaining that Israel is quick to condemn and demolish those illegal structures, but at the same time refuses to give Arabs permits to build legally in Area C. Because while the Arabs view Area C as soon to be part of free Palestine, Israelis plan to keep most of it, thank you very much.
There’s going to be another meeting with the EU envoy, on June 15, this time at the Israeli foreign ministry. The Europeans are going to demand a freeze on demolishing Arab structures in Area C, while at the same time also demanding a freeze on Jewish construction in the same Area C. And at some point something will have to give.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in 2015 re-mapped an area of 62 thousand hectares in Judea and Samaria, in a manner that may hint at plans for wide range construction there, Ha’aretz reported Tuesday. The re-mapping is carried out by a special task force dubbed the “blue line” team, within COGAT. The work involves examining state lands that were declared in the last century. The old maps are being digitally scanned to enhance their accuracy. The report notes that Israeli law demands re-mapping areas that were declared state land before 1999 before releasing them to construction.
The report, composed by Dror Etkes, founder of Kerem Navot, an NGO “monitoring the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” is based entirely on speculation over the map digitizing effort at COGAT, which may be simply an administrative move to preserve them, rather than a secret plot to populate those areas. However, since Etkes is not a newcomer to observing and reporting on the Jewish settlement enterprise, his conclusions, coming as they are from a hostile, leftwing source, may be a cause for (muted) celebration in rightwing circles.
“It’s important to understand that the mapping efforts are directed almost exclusively at the depth of Judea and Samaria and to settlements which are well outside the ‘settlement clusters,’ as well as, most emphatically, to areas declared by Israel to be ‘fire zones’ despite the fact that in reality they are part of the lands reserve which Israel gradually assigns to settlement,” Etkes told Ha’aretz.
The re-mapping effort of those 62 thousand hectares constitutes a significant increase in the rate of this work, compared with only 20 thousand hectares re-mapped in 2014 and 13 thousand in 2013.
Ha’aretz speculates that one of the goals of the new, wholesale re-mapping effort, is intended to deny Arabs living in the fire zones the right to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court against infrastructure and construction work carried out near their homes. Should such appeals be filed, Israel would be within its rights to argue that the Arab homes were built after the area had been declared state land.
Etkes also suggests that the re-mapping of areas near Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria indicates planned expansions. He noted 962 hectares re-mapped near Nokdim, and 3 hectares outside Gitit.
When we think of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, most of us think of a movement that began in the late 1800s and continues until today. Yet over 800 years ago a group of 300 rabbanim from England and France left their homes to settle the land of Eretz Yisrael, and during the centuries that followed other groups would try to do the same. What motivated these early “pioneers”? And what became of them and their efforts? It’s a fascinating story that deserves to be more widely known.
A World Overturned
The news must have spread like wildfire. In the year 1187, a Muslim army led by Saladin conquered Jerusalem, thereby ending Crusader rule over the holy city. The large and golden Christian cross that the Crusaders had put on top of the Dome of the Rock was pulled down, and the Christians were escorted out of the city, after paying a ransom.
The Christians looked upon their defeat with despair, but the Jews had reason to rejoice. They had been barred from settling in Jerusalem while the Crusaders were in power. The new Muslim rulers, on the other hand, encouraged the Jews to return. Is it any wonder, then, there were those who looked upon this shift of power as a precursor to the messianic era?
This belief that there were even greater things still to come was strengthened by a “prophecy” in circulation at the time that the year 4986 (1226) would bring with it the arrival of Elijah the Prophet and the start of the ingathering of the exiles. In 4993 (1233), or at least by the year 5000 (1240), Mashiach ben David would arrive.
Although the majority of Jews living in Europe merely talked about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael, small groups began to take action. In 1211, a group of Torah scholars from England and France made the long trek to Eretz Yisrael in what is today known as “the aliyah of the 300 rabbis.” Included in the group were Rav Shimson of Shantz, one of France’s leading scholars, and Provence’s Rav Yonatan HaKohen of Lunel.
Other groups arrived from Europe, North Africa and Egypt. We don’t know much about this early attempt at an organized aliyah, but it’s presumed that many of the newcomers settled in Jerusalem. However, they weren’t allowed to live there for long. During the Sixth Crusade, which began in 1228, the Muslims and Christians worked out an agreement whereby they shared Jerusalem between them. Under the terms of the agreement Jews were forbidden to live in the city.
Many Jews settled in Christian-held Acre, but here as well war and hardship took its toll. When the Muslims captured Acre in 1291, the Jewish community was destroyed.
Let Us Go Up To The Land
During the 1400s, world events, both real and imagined, once again made it seem as though the messianic era was just around the corner. Spain’s thousand-year-old Jewish community had been nearly destroyed by a series of violent attacks that took place in 1391, and the survivors never fully recovered their previous positions of wealth and prestige. The late 1300s and early 1400s were also a time of pogroms and expulsion for several other European communities, including kehillos in France and Austria. When the Ottomans captured Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire, in 1453, it roused hopes among many Jews that the era of Christian dominance would come to an end—and that the triumph of Judaism as the true religion wouldn’t be far behind.
A rumor that the Ten Lost Tribes had finally been found added fuel to these messianic hopes. During this age of exploration, there were many rumors about the distant and exotic lands of China and India. When so much else was strange, it didn’t seem at all impossible that the Ten Lost Tribes would have been living in one of those faraway lands, as oblivious of the existence of their brethren in Europe as European Jews were of them.
Never before this year had the American political arena given us the abhorrent circus that passes for the current presidential campaign.
There are those who maintain that today’s political scene is a fluke; that a mere confluence of coincidences produced a situation of unbridled, horrible middos and worse. Unfortunately, that may be a rose-colored view. In addition, anyone who thinks the trends so prevalent in the non-Jewish world and the political arena have no effect on us as Torah-observant Jews should think again. We are affected and will continue to be affected by the ongoing corrosion and erosion of the most basic elements of decency in American public discourse.
The 2016 presidential campaign, a no-holds barred free-for-all that has crossed all lines of propriety, is in essence a reflection of where we are as a society. In the generation of Facebook and Twitter, where the “me” has become paramount, where spilling one’s guts and feelings about others in public has become the norm, the threshold for awful behavior has been repeatedly breached. Nothing is sacred. No one blushes anymore.
We are witness to a spectacle of politicians bashing each other with viciousness and impunity, ridiculing each other’s spouses, and engaging in the basest of conduct with impunity while the media gleefully broadcasts the freak show far and wide. This has served to lower the bar when it comes to accepted standards of morality while corroding some once-healthy American ideals.
The havoc this has wrought on our society – including Torah-observant Jewry – has been colossal. Just as the hyper cyberculture has transformed the news cycle and the way people consume, absorb, and comment on the events of the day, so too it has indelibly impacted the frum community.
Indeed, had a Torah-observant Jew gone to sleep twenty years ago and woken up today, he would be flabbergasted. The cyberculture, especially the blogs and comments sections of various pseudo-news outlets – even those purporting to cater to the Torah community – are often sewers of bad middos, selfishness, foolishness, childishness, and even, periodically, downright evil.
Just as a number of hard red lines have been crossed in this year’s political season, red lines in our community are being crossed as well. Motzishemrah as well as ridicule of talmideichachamim and the Torah itself are rife in many venues. Those with minimal Torah knowledge and very large corresponding egos take to spewing all kinds of hateful, denigrating rhetoric against that which is holy.
The degree of enmity, viciousness, and vindictiveness, enabled by an online culture that urges every person to publicize his opinion – regardless of whether it is correct or not, corroborated or not, or in consonance with the laws of lashonhara and rechilus as elucidated in the seferChofetzChaim – has reached epidemic proportions.
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We must ask ourselves two questions. First, how did we get here? Second, what can we do to try to protect ourselves from this unprecedented and pervasive influence that has infiltrated our community? It is an influence that has served to increase sinas chinam, the very catalyst for the churban of the second BeisHaMikdash and our present bitter galus; an influence that has led to mass proliferation of ridicule both of Torah and great talmidei chachamim.
Chazal have taught us that in order to achieve geulah we must rectify the sins that brought about the galus. It therefore behooves us to look at our first exile and redemption – the galus of Mitzrayim and the subsequent geulah to see what lessons we can derive from it, for if we don’t learn these lessons we may, God forbid, be destined to repeat them.