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Friday
Aug142015

RECALLING THE DAYS OF ORANGE IN TODAY'S DEAFENING SILENCE

The Prime Minister recently admitted that there is a construction freeze in Yehuda and Shomron, adding that he had no intention of expanding Jewish presence in this vital region. In response to this clear declaration, no one has dared to make a peep. After all, since this is a “right-wing” government, who else can we rely upon to attack the policies of the left? Facts don’t seem to confuse anyone these days. Mr. Netanyahu adopted the Oslo Accords, gave away Chevron, and served as an effective advocate for the expulsion from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, never expressing any regret for his actions. This begs the question: If no one raises his voice in protest, why should we expect anything to change in the future?

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

Rabbi Eli Poltorak giving a Torah class to students in Gush Katif

1.

Last week, the residents of Eretz HaKodesh received the news that they could finally walk the streets in Israeli cities with proper safety and protection. After the recent wave of terrorist attacks and the deteriorating security situation, it was clear that the General Security Services and the Mossad had been called in to deal with an urgent terrorist threat. In fact, the GSS took action and stopped none other than its “#1 target.” If you’ve been wondering to yourself about the identity of this target threatening the security of the Israeli public, we’re talking about a young man from Tzfas, twenty-three years of age, known for his private Internet blogs calling for a “revolution” in the Middle East. This anonymous youth, unknown to everyone and whose level of influence was dubious beyond his limited circle of friends, was considered Public Enemy Number One by the GSS - the equivalent of a leader in ISIS. Now, we can all rest easily.

Apparently, the GSS still hasn’t learned its lesson. These same wiseacres that speak so high and mighty about how words can kill, blaming the entire Torah observant community and inciting people to believe that they are responsible for endless acts of bloodshed, are the ones engaging in the real incitement - making no distinction between guilty and innocent. What will the average citizen think when he learns that the biggest threat to security in the Middle East is a member of the “hilltop youth” with a kippa and long peios?

Every summer in Eretz Yisroel has its own war story. It turns out that instead of a war against our enemies, the story this summer has been a civil war. And when the battle pits brother against brother, the winner always loses. This is what happens when disingenuous people latch onto marginal extremist acts committed by radical elements in order to justify their incitement against those unswervingly loyal to the study of Torah and the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisroel. From their point of view, anything with even a whiff of holiness and Torah - whatever fails to correspond to the slogan “a nation like all other nations” - should be reviled and condemned, no matter what the reason may be. They simply don’t want any “chareidim” here, they don’t want people filled with emuna who talk about Torah and adhere to the eternal values of the Jewish People. This whole story of holiness and the concept of “And You have chosen us from among all the nations” just doesn’t suit them. Therefore, they have to take full advantage of such outrageous occurrences and blow them out of all proportion as a means to validate their denunciation of an entire sector.

The ultra-Orthodox community and those firmly committed to the cause of the Greater Land of Israel were united last week at a single moment. A two-front war of incitement was opened with almost synchronized precision in response to the stabbing incident in Yerushalayim and the arson attack upon an Arab home in Duma. Everyone quickly realized that this was essentially the same battle against the same forces that sometimes incite against the chareidim and sometimes against the nationalist settler community. They have united in opposition to the same holiness, deriving from the same Torah.

However, the incitement efforts were contradicted by the facts. These dreadful acts of violence were committed by lone individuals, outcasts within their own communities. Under these circumstances, any rationally thinking person could deduce that these criminal elements represent no one, except perhaps themselves. In contrast, we heard expressions of disapproval and condemnation of these acts from across the ideological spectrum, led by the chief rabbis of Eretz Yisroel, public officials, and educators. Every ultra-Orthodox spokesman was compelled to carry out the order of the day and fulfill his obligation to “deplore” such atrocities. Nevertheless, among many in the state-run media and those who set the tone of public opinion, all ultra-Orthodox Jews are potential murderers and Jewish settlers burn infant children alive.

 2.

This always seems to happen during the reign of a so-called right-wing government, entrusted with the responsibility of protecting Eretz Yisroel. In truth, however, it has caused untold ruin and destruction at every turn. We’ve already gotten so used to the sights of devastation and carnage that it doesn’t move us anymore. The eye sees, but the heart no longer feels. A couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent his people to tear down dozens of residential units built in Beit E-l, known as “the Draynoff houses.” Last week, they destroyed homes on the settlement of Eli.

Even during the recent destruction in Beit E-l, we heard the ridiculous promise that the government would build three hundred new housing units in Beit E-l. These homes had already been promised in the past, and they were not connected to the recent demolition there in any way. Yet, no one really seems to care. If Eretz Yisroel would now be led by a left-wing Labor government, it would have a fighting political opposition. We would hear charges that the destruction of dozens of housing units in the Binyamin Region constitutes an unprecedented act of harassment. However, when there’s a left-wing “Likud” government, everyone is silent. Fully constructed homes are completely uprooted while everyone applauds the Prime Minister as he utters one bold-faced lie after another, promising and re-promising these imaginary housing units in Beit E-l.

The Prime Minister recently admitted that there is a construction freeze in Yehuda and Shomron, adding that he had no intention of expanding Jewish presence in this vital region. In response to this clear declaration, no one has dared to make a peep. After all, since this is a “right-wing” government, who else can we rely upon to attack the policies of the left? Facts don’t seem to confuse anyone these days. Mr. Netanyahu adopted the Oslo Accords, gave away Chevron, and served as an effective advocate for the expulsion from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, never expressing any regret for his actions. This begs the question: If no one raises his voice in protest, why should we expect anything to change in the future?

When the Rebbe spoke about protest, he said that he knew that when policy decisions are made, those making them give consideration to the “high windows” of protest. The Rebbe also discussed the “punishment” of the politicians with the only weapon they can understand: publicizing their actions to make certain that on Election Day—the Rebbe called it “the day of judgment”—they will pay the price for their deeds. However, in recent years, those same politicians who fought against us and continually implement left-wing policies have received warm support and public approval, as if they were truly devoted to the Torah and the Land of Israel.

3.

Recent events commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Gush Katif expulsion have brought forth feelings of self-criticism from those days and memories of the forceful participation of Chabad chassidim in activities connected with the struggle on behalf of the local settler communities.

One of the people who resolved to bring the Rebbe’s teachings to the protest against the Gaza “disengagement” was Rabbi Eliyahu Poltorak of Crown Heights. He sent bachurim from Beis Chayeinu to Gush Katif and opened “Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Neve Dekalim.” His summer yeshiva operated for about two months with great self-sacrifice until the very last day of the expulsion. Even when Gush Katif was placed under siege and thousands of soldiers began to instill an atmosphere of dread among the local residents, the T’mimim learning in the Neve Dekalim yeshiva continued their studies up to the final moment.

When the expulsion forces arrived and surrounded Neve Dekalim, Rabbi Poltorak chose not to dance according to the dictates of submission. Instead, he and his students became a focal point in the struggle against the disengagement operation. Their activities to protest the forcible removal of Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisroel were shown in direct broadcasts on all the Israeli news channels and dozens of international media outlets. They were interviewed by dozens of media reporters in English, explaining that we’re not just talking about a battle over a piece of real estate; this was a matter of faith. In the merit of their activities, Rashi’s commentary on the first pasuk in Torah was repeatedly quoted, resounding throughout the international news organizations.

The yeshiva’s mashpia was Leibel Motchkin. He worked with tremendous dedication throughout the period leading up to the expulsion among both the residents of Neve Dekalim and numerous IDF soldiers. He brought much joy and encouragement, making farbrengens at every available opportunity. This amazing group of T’mimim, led by Rabbis Poltorak and Motchkin, taught us how to relate to the Rebbe’s view on protest. Even a decade later, I, along with many others, look upon these Chassidim as living examples of devotion to the Rebbe’s instructions. As they were evacuated from the yeshiva, the T’mimim appeared in Chabad attire with their heads held high, bearing the Rebbe’s message of the obligation to cry out in protest. They proved that Chassidim do not remain silent when an outcry must be heard, even if it requires considerable sums of money and traveling across an ocean.

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