Land for Peace?: Arab-Israeli Conflict Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Land for Peace?

Is it permitted to disengage from areas of the West Bank, which constitutes the biblical heartland of Israel? Through news reports, I am able to keep up with what seem to be very frightening developments that world powers are trying to impose on our beloved Land of Israel. You at Aish, however, are literally on the frontline. What is your perspective on the situation: refugees, united Jerusalem, borders, etc.? I am anxious to hear of your hopes and fears.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Some people publicize the opinion that we have to defend (even with our lives at risk) all of biblical Israel and especially Jerusalem.

However, Rabbi A.Y. Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, writes clearly that we should not endanger our lives because of land. In other words, we can give up land, if it will bring peace – colloquially called "land for peace." ("Mishpat Cohen" 142-144; c.f. "Michtavim U'Mamarim" 1:14 by Rabbi Elazar M. Schach)

The bottom line from a Torah standpoint is whether a particular political act -- in this case, giving up land -- will preserve the safety of Jewish lives, or endanger Jewish lives.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef stated: "If the heads and commanders of the army, together with the government, state that saving of life is involved; that if areas of Israel are not given back, the danger exists of immediate war on the part of our Arab neighbors; and if the areas are returned to them, the danger of war will be averted; and that there is a chance of permanent peace; then it seems that according to all opinions it is permitted to return areas of Israel in order to achieve this aim, since nothing is more important than the saving of life."

In setting diplomatic policy, one general principle is that we should not do anything that will cause a severe backlash from the nations of the world. (Talmud – Ketubot 111a)

One possible solution to the crisis is to ensure that Arabs are educated in the ways of democracy, so they will see the benefit of upholding any agreements, and will protest against elements in their society that seek an all-or-nothing solution.

An additional factor needs to be considered: Holy sites like the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem are our deepest roots. Cutting off the Jewish people from those places may likely have an adverse affect in terms of both morale and spiritual strength.

Certainly in terms of preserving access to the holy sites for all people, it would be best to keep them under Israeli control.

What will the political leaders decide? King Solomon wrote, "Like streams of water is the heart of a king in the hand of the Almighty. Wherever He wishes, so He directs it." (Proverbs 21:1)

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