Hope Out Of Despair: Where We Go From Here

Posted 9/7/2005

By Rabbi Eliezer Waldman


 Even now, more than a week after having personally witnessed the appalling uprooting and displacing of thousands of Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisrael by a Jewish government, I haven`t grasped the full horror of what I experienced.


 Shortly before Pesach, my wife and I moved, together with the hesder students of Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba, to the northern Shomron settlement of Sanur, into a small apartment which served as our home until the evil decree uprooted Jews from their land. Our students demonstrated much mesirut nefesh by living in cramped, sparse quarters with limited facilities and few modern conveniences. Our objective of spiritually and physically strengthening the pioneers of Sanur served as inspiration for many more families to join us, most of them living in tents and sharing kitchens and bathrooms with total strangers in perfect harmony for the sake of Eretz Yisrael.


 Donations of refrigerators, ovens, beds, toys and household items appeared out of nowhere. Massive shipments of food and crates of vegetables arrived each week, contributed by supporters who couldn`t be with us personally, but wanted to help meet the task of feeding so many people. The resulting scene was a moving display of brotherly love and compassion.


 We have since returned home to Kiryat Arba and I feel the time has come to express some of the feelings that flow through my heart. My thoughts are concentrated in two realities that were revealed in the Jewish People over the last few months, and came to a climax during the last few weeks.


 One is the reality of the atrocious and insensitive conduct of a government of elected representatives who backed the destructive “disengagement and detachment” decree with no remorse and against their own electorate.


 The opposite reality was the spontaneous expression of identification by hundreds of thousands of faithful, Zionist Jews who sprung to the aid of their brethren and literally camped out on the holy ground of Eretz Yisrael in an effort to protect every bit of earth from devastation.


 These deeply meaningful phenomena serve as guidelines for the continuation of life for the Jewish People in its land.


 Unfortunately, the government of Israel and its elected head of state revealed themselves to be disengaged and detached from basic Zionist values, detached from values of faith, detached from values of morality and, most important, detached from responsibility to protect our sacred land, which is precisely what was promised to the voters at election time. The bitter result is detaching our nation from its sovereignty in our homeland.


 This appalling “disengagement” testifies to a leadership that is fatigued, morally exhausted and lacking the courage vital for continuing the struggle for our existence in Eretz Yisrael. Only this kind of detached leadership could implement the unprecedented act of uprooting thousands of Jews from their homes and livelihood, separating families and friends, demolishing whole communities and yeshivot, razing synagogues — in sum, cruelly erasing thirty years of vibrant life overnight.


 These scenes brought back memories of two thousand years of exile. What crime did these pioneers perpetrate to deserve such hideous punishment? These same decent and respectable people who volunteered, at the suggestion of the duly elected government at the time, to build and protect mainland Israel from marauding and bloodthirsty Gaza terrorists.


 The phenomenon of driving Jews out of their homes was the essence of Jewish degradation in exile. For two thousand years, Jews were dispersed among the nations, driven from town to town, city to city, country to country. Jews were always different from others; they did not deserve any human rights, they had no stability or legitimacy, they were people whose lives never had any permanent contact with or possession of the ground beneath them. They could always be moved by the ruling authority and had no control over their destiny.


 Coming back home to Eretz Yisrael and establishing Jewish independence, we are now supposed to be proudly in control of our lives. We felt legally entitled to our homes and could manage our own destiny. No one would drive us out or uproot our lives ever again and any enemy that would threaten our existence would have to deal with our superb military forces.


 Ever since this outrageous concept of “disengagement” was invented and thrown into the international arena by our prime minister, I could not help but feel that many world leaders were just waiting, like wild animals, to pounce on their prey. Their unmistakable message: The State of Israel cannot provide the Jews the assurance of stable, independent lives; the degradation of Jews being driven out of their homes and communities will continue, and even the worst humiliation of destruction of synagogues and places of Jewish study will again be implemented in the Jewish homeland itself.


 These feelings came to mind upon every visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Javier Solano, foreign policy chief of the EU, when they demanded that this evil be perpetrated and did not forget to declare that this is only the first of other Israeli concessions to come. Sharon`s implementation of the expulsion turned him into a practical tool of the international community, which largely still finds it difficult to digest and accept the divine phenomenon of an independent Jewish people in their homeland.


 In contrast to an Israeli government detached from divine Zionist reality, the inspiring power of faith and devotion flourished among multitudes of the Jewish People. Hundreds of thousands of committed and attached Jewish brethren, clinging to their Zionist ideals, clutching the holy earth of Eretz Yisrael, completely dedicated to their people and their land, engaged themselves for the cause. This great, spontaneous phenomenon revealed the eternal character of our nation. This eternal strength will overcome all temporary weaknesses and failures of tired leaders lacking the courage and faith to guide our people in these difficult times.


 I am still overwhelmed by the outpouring of Jewish love and responsibility revealed by all of our brothers and sisters who came to aid and support the pioneers of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. Some even came from the United States just to spend a night or two in the settlements destined for destruction and many phoned us daily to voice their support.


 This love, expressed itself in a most progressive way, in the enormous demonstrations in Kfar Maimon, Sderot, Ofakim, the Kotel prayers and in the center of Tel Aviv. The entire summer months were devoted to this battle of ensuring the continued existence of Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael. These were outstanding displays of Jewish brotherhood directed to prevent the humiliating scene of Jews being thrown out of their homes and the physical destruction of their communities.


 This proved to be the finest hour of our people in their most painful moments of distress, brought upon them by a detached and insensitive leadership. These Zionists of faith, even while struggling to ward off imminent disaster, invested vast spiritual energy and emotional sensitivity in preventing Jews from lifting a hand, one against the other, or, God forbid, expressing any hatred toward military personnel participating in this terrible deed. Only the most genuine powers of devotion and religious faith can enable people to engage in a holy battle without losing the delicate balance of all their values and sensitivities. The victory of truth, goodness, honesty and national responsibility will certainly prevail over the temporary rule of evil, lies, lack of faith and personal ambition and prestige.


 This terrible “disengagement” marks the beginning of the end of this irresponsible and dictatorial government. It will certainly fall and be replaced by a faithful and responsible government that will courageously confront the reality of Zionist goals of defending our people and building Eretz Yisrael.


 Arab terror aims for our total destruction. Our enemies seek not only Judea and Samaria, but will not rest until they secure Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and push us into the sea, God forbid. We cannot afford a leadership that yields to foreign pressure, flees from the enemy and presents false illusions of peace that stimulate terror, provide hope to our foes, while increasing the pain and suffering of its own people. Only a responsible government of Jewish faith, with the help of the Almighty, can save us from the evil plans of our enemies.


 One more point should be made. Over the last few months, so many prayers were said, so many tears shed in order to try and enlist heavenly intervention to nullify the evil decree. All the prayers and tears, every bit of energy and the endless efforts of building and demonstrating — none of this has been lost.


 The enormous physical and spiritual stamina, the resolute resilience shown by multitudes of Jewish people while under unbelievable emotional pressure, will bear their fruit in this divine process of redemption. The Almighty has collected all of these vital expressions of faith and put them in storage, to be activated in the near future.


 People of faith will always discover the gift of divine blessing hidden in the depths of pain and suffering. In fact, in the portion of the Torah we read this past Shabbat, we are commanded: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing…” (Deuteronomy 11:26) Even at the most difficult time of distress and suffering, we are obligated to search for and reveal the divine blessing concealed within.


 There is always a hidden treasure to be discovered within the depths of the Jewish soul which reveals itself especially in times of anguish. Truly the powers of divine faith, love and Jewish brotherhood that emerged in full force will serve as a driving spark of energy which will continue to guide us toward our complete redemption in Eretz Yisrael.


Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, a former member of Knesset, is rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba.


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