Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ha'Am Im Gush Katif II

In the end, after all the effort we put in, we are apparently not having visitors from Gush Katif. Presumably the government actually managed to find them temporary housing like it was supposed to.

I'm sure there is a moral lesson to be drawn from this as well.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ha'Am Im Gush Katif

Ever felt guilty that while you certainly sympathized with the victims of the piguim or the disengagement or whatever tragedy was going on at that point, while sitting in the isolation of Teaneck or even Raanana you couldn't help or even really feel a part of the people who were actually there?

Today, in some small measure, I can feel that I really took part, and made a difference, in the events.

The government was too irresponsible to find housing for all the Gaza expellees in advance. Since Gush is on break and there are only ten or so students (all foreign) around, the yeshiva offered them the use of its dormitories until the students return in two weeks. Thus, 300 ex-residents of Netzarim will be joining us at Gush next Sunday night.

We found out about this at 10:30 or so, and soon left morning seder (yes, even in bein hazmanim) in order to tidy, sweep, and wash the 180 or so rooms of yeshiva housing, alongside the Gush maintenance staff. Over the course of the day, five or six students who were out of town were contacted and came back to help us. By 6 PM, we had finished preparing the large majority of the rooms for visitors.

Needless to say, this was not how we'd planned to spend the day. To make things even better, most of us ten were kicked out of our own rooms! (If you were lucky, your room became a "machsan" in which you could stay along with the property left in several nearby rooms which had been evacuated. I was not lucky.) Right now, every possession of mine except the clothes on my back is locked in such a machsan. I'll sleep in my empty room until the evacuees come, but after that, who knows.

Someone here suggested that we were experiencing a small portion of what the Gush Katif residents are going through. I would revise that by distinguishing between types of suffering. In terms of simple inconvenience and disruption, our troubles might actually be comparable to theirs. In terms of the much greater pain of being expelled from the home you built or grew up in, having your livelihood destroyed and your personal and national dreams crushed, there is of course no comparison.

Nevertheless, I'm still forced to make some sacrifice due to the disengagement, and what is more, my efforts should make things easier for those who are suffering much more than me. With the same purpose in mind, there are fliers in the Alon Shevut synagogue asking people to come help a certain farmer reconstruct his greenhouses on a new plot of land, as well as for a program in which each Gush Katif family is paired with an Alon Shevut family to welcome them and to help them out for their first few days after being expelled. I'm sure this is not particular to Alon Shevut, and that many other communities are doing much of the same.

It is much too late to try to prevent the disengagement, no matter how many people are still holding out in Homesh or Atzmona. Right now, immediate logistical and emotional support to those who have left is the most meaningful - and most satisfying - service that the rest of Israel can provide.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


"And in Seir the Horites used to dwell, and the children of Esav dispossessed and annihilated them and dwelt in their place, just as Israel did to the land of its inheritance which God gave them." (Devarim 2:12)

The obvious question here is: didn't the Jews conquer the land of Israel in the FUTURE? After the Torah was written? So why is this written in the past tense? Isn't this one of those scary anachronism things, you know, the ones that show that the Torah was written by a circle of monks in the 12th century and not by God at the time of Moses?

Well, not necessarily. You can make a very good case that the "land" under discussion is not modern-day Israel, but the kingdoms of Sichon and Og which were conquered at most eight months before Moses' speech here.

(For background, the story of that conquests is in the second half of Bemidbar 21.)

In our verse, exactly what identifying information do we have about the land under discussion?

First, it's a land that God GAVE to Israel. Second, Israel DID various stuff to that land. What exactly did they do? Well, exactly what Esav did - that is, DISPOSSESS and ANNIHILATE its inhabitants, and DWELL in it. Last, the land is THE INHERITANCE of Israel. (Note: to "dispossess" and "inheritance" are different forms of the same verb - "lareshet". I suspect that verbs from this root can be correctly translated based on whether their subject is a people or a territory. Nevertheless, it's clear that dispossession and inheritance are closely related.)

Looking in Bemidbar, we see these exact words used to describe the conquest of Sichon and Og.

"And Israel smote him [Sihon] by the sword and dispossessed/inherited his land..." (Bemidbar 21:24)
"And God said to Moses... I have given him [Og] and all his people and his land into your hand..." (21:34)
"And they smote him [Og] and his sons and all his people until no remnant was left, and dispossessed/inherited his land." (21:35)

The words DISPOSSESS/INHERIT, DWELL, and GAVE (land, by God) all appear here, just as they do in Moses' later description. The only key word which does not appear is ANNIHILATE. But read the three verses I just brought, and try convincing me that annihilation is NOT exactly what Israel did to Sihon, Og, and their peoples. The verse in Devarim, then, contains pretty much a perfect summary of the stories of Sihon and Og.

Furthermore, that verse does NOT even fit that well with the conquest of the "real" land of Israel. While Joshua and company pretty quickly take care of the 31 leading kings in Historical Palestine, finishing the conquest is a much harder task. At the end of the day, there are large Canaanite populations remaining in various parts of the land, and other parts are not conquered at all (see Shoftim chapter 1). Thus, the words DISPOSSESS and INHERIT are not perfectly applicable, especially when you apply them to the entire land of Israel which was GIVEN to the Jews. But regarding the kingdoms of Sihon and Og, all sources seem to say that the conquest was much more complete, which fits our verse much better.

UPDATE: A little more evidence on the subject. Devarim 2:24, 2:31, 3:12, 3:20 (all very close to our original verse) all use the root YaRaSh (=dispossess/inherit) to refer to the east bank.

Kotel rally

My on-the-spot estimate: 50,000
Police estimate (Haaretz): 50,000
"Settler leader" estimate (Haaretz): 100,000
JPost estimate: "tens of thousands"
Arutz Sheva estimate: 250,000

I assume one of those estimates is less reliable than all the others.

Best thing: no political position was expressed - it was basically one long quasi-selichot service
Worst thing: Chabad got some words in from their rebbe and the statement that "the geula is already here"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I didn't think he was a Zionist either

"...[F]arming itself is an expression of the mitzvah of settling the land by bringing forth its holy fruit... Thus a person in Israel - who wants to exclusively learn Torah and doesn't want to farm - is like one who says that he doesn't want to put on tefillin because he is studying Torah. It is possible that this is also true concerning all occpuations which help develop society - that they are included in the mitzvah of settling Israel."

-Chatam Sofer, Sukkah 36b