May/June 2000

The 33-Year-Old Lesson

by Rabbi Aharon Dov Halperin
Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio -http://www.arutzsheva.org-
Broadcast on May 29, 2000 / Iyar 24, 5760

In This Article:

1. Night Flight
2. We Were Like Dreamers
3. Taken By Surprise
4. Forget the Politics
5. Two Sides of the Same Coin
6. The First Rashi


The Israel Defense Forces did not withdraw from Lebanon last week. It fled. And this fleeing, the sloppy and frantic debacle that it was, represented not only a great victory for the Hizbullah, it also weakened Israel's deterrent capacity and placed all of our northern settlements in danger. The only positive aspect of the fiasco is that the Prime Minister can look to it as the one election promised that he has fulfilled...

It doesn't matter that this same Prime Minister originally said that a unilateral withdrawal would be "tragic," even "catastrophic." Such remarks are quickly forgotten.

The flight from Lebanon is repeating itself in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as well. Every village from which we withdraw is sure to be quickly gobbled up by those whose intention it is to destroy us. I fear that the great flight - which began with Oslo - cannot and will not, stop at the "Green Line" or at the Israeli-Lebanese border.


This week we mark the 33rd anniversary of the Six Day War and the liberation of the holy city of Jerusalem. Perhaps I am being somewhat childish, but when I think of the events of last week, I am tempted to close my eyes, escape the present reality, and think back to the uplifting, wondrous feeling that filled the air here in Israel 33 years ago. I won't forget those days - not the fear and trepidation that preceded the war, nor the feeling of exhilaration after we won. I clearly recall the thundering voice of the Egyptian announcer informing us from Cairo, in Hebrew, that we would soon "surely die." And then, all of a sudden, came six amazing days: Our courageous soldiers left for the front to pursue the enemy, and with the help of the Lord of Hosts, "the few" scored a miraculous victory over "the many." Back then, we clearly felt the fulfillment of the verse, "Rise up, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered; and let those that hate You flee from before You..." (Numbers 10:36)


Aside from being rescued from almost certain annihilation, we suddenly, completely unexpectedly, were privy to the greatest act of kindness bestowed by G-d on his people in 2000 years: Our land was returned to us - Shechem, Bethlehem, Hevron, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount. "We were like dreamers!" as we read in Psalms. Nobody - not the average Israeli, not the government, not the army - anticipated just how far-reaching the victory would be. In fact, the day the war broke out, all thoughts were directed in one direction only: the fight for our survival.

At the height of the war, however, G-d placed the idea into the head of the foolish Hussein to join the war. By so doing, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, guided us towards a decisive redemption of Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount.

My memories of that spectacular war make our latest slaps in the face, the withdrawal from Lebanon, Yesha, Jerusalem, all the more painful. What happened? What happened to the State of Israel? How did we spiral downwards so quickly from such great heights?


I'm sure that the downturn of the past 33 years, ending with Oslo, could be analyzed from various political, social, military and other viewpoints in an effort to solve this riddle. Such an approach, though, is destined to overlook the true reason for our current predicament. At the heart of the matter is the way in which Israel related to the 1967 liberation of Jerusalem and of Eretz Yisrael. Did we view it simply as a military conquest of territories, land that was to later serve as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with our enemies? Or did we view the war as an extraordinary moment of Divine kindness for a nation that received into its hands - after 2,000 years of exile - its ancient homeland, on condition that we would never again part with it?

Put another way, did we view the victory from the perspective of "Kochi Ve'Otzem Yadi" - "My own might and the strength of my hand brought me this victory" - or as "Me'et Hashem Hayta Zot, Hi Niflat B'Eineynu" - "This is from G-d, it is wondrous in our eyes"?


Many people probably believe that overconfidence is incompatible with capitulation, and that haughtiness is the opposite of defeatism. In my view, however, they are not polar opposites, but rather two sides of the same coin. One whose euphoria with the Six Day War victory stems from a sense of his "own might" is the very type of person who can just as easily slip into the fantasy of fashioning "A New Middle East," of single-handedly ushering in a new era of regional peace. The tool for creating the "New Middle East?" Transfer large chunks of Eretz Yisrael into the hands of our enemies! Here, then, is a classic case of where haughtiness and defeatism meet.

There is another view of the events of 1967, however. It sees the liberation of Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael as a manifestation of Divine kindness. People who see it this way believe with complete faith that the Land was given to us by the Creator of the Universe after 2000 years of exile, on condition that we would cherish it and preserve it. Back in '67, this second view was clear to everybody, from the young paratroopers who captured, then were eternalized gazing with love at, the Kotel, to the common Israeli whose eyes welled up with tears when news came of the victory, to the assimilated Jew in the furthest corner of the globe... The declaration "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" ignited a spark in the hearts of even the most alienated Jew. Everyone realized that this miracle was indeed from G-d. It was "wondrous in our eyes..."


Now, 33 years later, the future of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel remains a question mark. Eretz Yisrael is wounded and shackled by our own actions. Our greatest test is whether we will once again begin to cherish and preserve this gift. To this end, we should all study the first comments by Rashi in the Book of Genesis. Rashi tells us that the Torah, which is mainly a book of commandments, nevertheless began with the story of the creation of the world. Why? So that when the nations of the world challenge us and call us thieves for "stealing" the land from others, we must respond: "The entire earth is G-d's. He created it, and gave it to whom He saw fit. He willingly gave it to others, and then decided to take it from them and give it to us."

Our challenge is to believe, to know, to become convinced that the only way - not mystically, but realistically - to bring peace and security to the Land, is by way of a complete commitment to Eretz Yisrael. If we pass the test, we are promised, as we read in the Torah last week: "I will bring peace to the land, and you shall sleep without having to fear. I will remove the evil beasts from the land, and the sword shall not pass through the land..."

* * * * * * *

Rabbi Aharon Dov Halperin edits the weekly Israeli magazine Kfar Chabad and hosts a show on Arutz Sheva's Hebrew radio channel.

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