OpinionIsrael at War

What we must do after the catastrophe

Israel must retake control of the entire Land of Israel and never withdraw again.

Israeli tanks in Metula, near the border with Lebanon, Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Israeli tanks in Metula, near the border with Lebanon, Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Rabbi Joseph S. Gerlitzky
Rabbi Joseph S. Gerlitzky is chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace.

These are dark days for Israel. Our hearts are bleeding profusely and each of us cries out in his own way, “Why did God do this? How could such a holocaust happen?” Even our accursed enemies never dreamed they could be so successful.

Yet even amidst our grief, silence is not an option. There are things that must be said, precisely now, so that the words may make a permanent impression on our hearts amidst our pain. Our humanity, our history and, most importantly, our Torah compel us to raise our voices now more than ever.

There is an ongoing debate between nationalists and more liberal factions over whether Israel should stand firm on its land because it belongs to us or seek compromises and appease its adversaries in hopes that they will leave us alone. Perhaps, it is said, we should even care for our enemies’ well-being, so they do not turn their wrath upon us.

God’s eternal Torah, which has guided Jewish life for thousands of years, settles this debate in the clearest way. Almost 500 years ago, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 329) stated that it is forbidden to hand over parts of the Land of Israel to our enemies due to the mortal danger this would pose to the people of Israel, for “from there, the land will be easy to conquer.”

The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people because God Almighty gave it to us. But this is not the main reason we must maintain control of every inch of the Holy Land.

The main reason is that only by aggressively protecting Israel’s territory within its full borders can we ensure the country’s security and the cessation of fighting and bloodshed. Every compromise, every retreat, every sign of surrender leads to only one thing: Encouraging our enemies to increase their efforts, their brutality and their horrific acts of murder. Any sign of compromise creates an immediate danger to the lives of all Israeli citizens.

Since the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s and in the face of decades of withdrawals and negotiations, 400 of Israel’s leading rabbis and judges who are members of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace—of which I am chairman—have proclaimed this truth: Every withdrawal and compromise strengthens the hand of the enemy and multiplies the danger to Jews a thousand-fold.

We have met with prime ministers, Knesset members, state officials, U.S. senators and others. Each time, we have pleaded: “Abolish the Oslo Accords. Cancel the disengagement. Declare that a Palestinian state will never be established. Millions of Jews are in danger.”

I remember a conversation I had with an Israeli government minister whose views were considered right-wing. After listening attentively to my words and reading the halachic statement that it is forbidden to withdraw from any territory because it “makes the land easier to conquer,” he agreed that withdrawals might lead to an increase in bloodshed, missiles and terrorist attacks, but that the words were mostly irrelevant because “Hamas would never dream of conquering territories from the State of Israel.”

It turns out that Hamas was not only dreaming about it, but planning it for years. It sought to conquer entire villages and towns with cruelty and horrific bloodshed. And as has become evident in recent days, they brought with them enough weapons to entrench themselves in settlements around Gaza and continue fighting from there with the goal of penetrating to the very heart of the country.

All of this has one cause: The Israeli policy of withdrawal from territories it controls. From the moment Israel gave up control of Gaza, it was only a matter of time before such a massacre would occur.

Now we are compelled to write these terrible words again, with tears and sobs and a broken heart: If the Oslo Accords are not annulled, if Israel does not once again forcefully take control of all its territories, we will face the possibility of further horrendous tragedies in the near future, God forbid. This is the truth and there is no denying it.

Many recall the heart-rending cries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a guiding light and devoted advocate for Israel. Over 40 years ago, he spoke against the notion of “land for peace.”

In 1992, he made a clear proclamation: Due to the risk of desecrating God’s name, it would be preferable for the Israeli government to dissolve and allow global powers to oversee the land rather than having a Jewish-led government that negotiates concessions to Israel’s adversaries.

At the time, many found his words to be extreme. Today, we recognize the Rebbe’s foresight, as we witness the tragic outcome: The rivers of blood and the bodies of holy and pure Jewish children lying in the dirt of the Gaza Strip.

We are not looking to identify the guilty party or seeking commissions of inquiry. We simply demand the following: Immediately declare the cancellation of all Israeli withdrawals in all sectors, destroy the enemy without hesitation and order the security forces to control all territories of Israel with full force and authority.

All of this must be undertaken in accordance with our Sages’ admonition: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” We must instill deep fear in the enemy, so they will be afraid to harm the Jewish people.

Let us offer prayers and psalms for the merit of the IDF soldiers and the captives and beg God to have mercy on us and “not to abandon us or forsake us.” May God Almighty, even in this time of great concealment, mercifully allow us to repent, so that we may act as the Torah expects of us.

“The heart of kings is in the hand of God,” it is said. Divine providence is now giving us a rare opportunity before the nations of the world: To do everything necessary to harm Israel’s enemies and reestablish Israel’s security within its borders.

If not now, when? Now, right now, we can prevent the next tragedy.

By adhering to the path of the Torah, we will undoubtedly be shielded from the horrific events we’ve witnessed. We will regain unwavering confidence, free from the fear of missiles, alarms, mortar shrapnel and terrorist threats. We will be a nation that dwells securely in Zion and will experience the Torah’s promise: “I will grant peace in the land and you will rest with no one to frighten you.”

“It is a time of trouble for Israel, but from it we will be saved!”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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