No. We’re sorry. Not Jerusalem.

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This morning I counted. There were at least ten times the Hebrew name of Jerusalem, or its synonym Zion, passed my lips. Before breakfast.

There was “Jerusalem, praise G-d,” “May You shine a new light on Zion,” “the Builder of Jerusalem,” and many more throughout the Jewish morning prayer service.

And then there were the other references to Jerusalem but without her name, like “May it be Your will… that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days” and “the city called by Your name.”

After a bowl of cereal, the blessing “Al Hamichya” would mention Jerusalem two more times. And for any meals including bread that might have followed, one of the main blessings that comprise the grace after meals would have the Holy City as its subject as well, beginning with a reference to “Jerusalem Your city” and ending “Who in His mercy builds Jerusalem.”

And, then, in each of the day’s two remaining prayer services, as in the morning one, the silent “Amidah” prayer includes a similar blessing.

It is hard to believe that any people, entity or government could arrogate to claim a closer connection than the Jewish one to the city nestled in the Judean hills, the city toward which praying Jews for millennia have faced thrice daily, and face to this day.

And it is even harder to believe that a government of a self-described Jewish State would even consider, much less announce, its contemplation of placing Jerusalem on the cutting block of negotiations with an enemy.

Yet that is what is happening before our incredulous eyes.

There are Jews who, whether on religious or nationalistic grounds, reject without qualification the very idea of territorial compromise. Many of the religious leaders of the haredi world, however, have clearly stated that political sovereignty over land does not trump the attainment of peace and security. None of us haredi Jews deny, G-d forbid, the holiness of any part of the Jewish Land. But we know that the true, complete (territorially as well as spiritually) “Jewish State” will arrive only when the Messiah does, and that the Third Holy Temple will be built by the hand of not man but G-d. Thus, the reflexive form in our prayer: “May it be Your will that the Temple be [re]built.”

That said, though, “territorial compromise” with an adversary that includes duplicitous, hate-filled elements – elements that celebrate violence and make no secret of their goal of destroying Israel, elements that have time and again asserted themselves at will, brushing away the ostensibly more moderate among them like so much lint – is, to put it mildly, foolhardy. And the Israeli leadership’s apparent readiness to treat even Jerusalem, the very wellspring of the Holy Land’s holiness, like a salami to be shared merits an adjective considerably less mild.

Mere days before this writing, we were reminded of what lies on the “other side.” A Fatah rally in Gaza was attacked by Hamas forces who killed six and injured dozens. The PLO’s chief negotiator publicly rejected the notion that the Palestinians would ever recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Israeli leaders would have to be seriously deluded to imagine that offering such people a part of Jerusalem will result in anything like a secure city.

One can only add to our prayers the hope that those political leaders somehow experience some flash of recognition of what they are contemplating. That they blink a few times, shake their heads and remember just what Jerusalem means to the Jewish People. That they come to open a Jewish prayer book and not only read the words but pay attention to them; and say the grace after meals, doing the same.

And that they then turn to their adversaries and say, without rancor but with full determination: “No. We’re sorry. Not Jerusalem.”

To be sure, from a haredi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Jerusalem’s walls. The city’s holiness is neither heralded nor preserved by such banners. But it is a fallacy of the most dangerous sort to imagine that the cause of peace could possibly be advanced by surrendering the heart of the Jewish People.

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22 Responses

  1. cvmay says:

    Prof. Kaplan, I am with you!!
    Just for simplicity, the hashgafa towards Eretz Yisroel is divided into three catagories, the subdivisions of each are more expansive and cover every expression possible. Aviezer Ravitzky in his book, “Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism” offers an excellent academic overview. IMHO the Agudah has the most difficulty in expressing where they stand in this colorful spectrum,, as stated by R. Shafran’s noting Gd’s future responsibility while negating any individual’s hishtadlus.

  2. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    cvmay: I, for one, believe in the importance of hishtadlus in returning to the land of Israel and building there a viable state and society. And, further, one can, as does Rav Soloveitchik and as do many others, ascribe NON-MESSIANIC intrinsic religious significance to the establishment of the State of Israel, as opposed to BOTH the Agudah AND the messianic(religious Zionist) Kehillah.

  3. sima irkodesh says:

    Micha, In a democracy what you say makes sense. Not here in the holyland, that hashem guards from the beginning of the year till its culmination. The election before last, the majority voted for Sharon, who shouted, “Nitzarim (in gush katif) and Tel-Aviv are the same, they are one and Israel proper”, after a few months of being PM he made a complete flip and decided differently, so it is OK to have an opinion anywhere since it does not shape decisions or negociations. In addition, a yerusha is yours whether you presently live in it or not, so keep shouting and protesting that your inheritance is being denied (if u believe that it is your inheritance).

  4. cvmay says:

    #18 The reason to advocate the third Temple’s building by God, is to play down the importance of hishtadlus in returning to Israel and rebuilding a viable society. Agudah and its adherents have been walking a tight rope, holding the middle view between the fiery ANTI-ZIONISTS and the continously optimist MESSIANIC kehilla.

  5. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    I am surprised that Rabbi Shafran can unqualifiedly state that “We [Haredi Jews]know that the Third Temple will be built by the hand of not man but God.” Surely Rabbi Shafran is familiar with the view of the Rambam in Hilkhot Melakhim stating that the third Temple will be built by the King Messiah. There is no mention there of God’s role in building it. To be sure, there is a widely expressed view that the Third Temple will be built by God. But the matter is the subject of a vigorous debate among eminent rabbinic authorities. It is unfortunate that Rabbi Shafran’s way of putting it leaves the, I trust inadvertant, impression that there is just one legitimate traditional view on this matter.

  6. Micha says:

    As for land-for-peace in halakhah…. It’s not particularly Chareidi. Rabbi JB Soloveitchik said that one is obligated to give back even the kotel plaza if the generals and politicians concluded it would save (net-net) a single life. The question is thus what they actually concluded, and when they assess the probability of that single life being said, is their threshold as high as Jerusalem deserves?

    I have a problem in addressing this issue.

    Here I am, sitting in the greater NY area. As are many many other committed, traditional, Jews. Note: We’re not in Israel, where our vote could have changed the complexion of the Israeli government and its negotiators.

    If an Israeli writer wants to write about what “we” will do for Yerushalayim, that’s one thing. But those of us living in the US already talked about giving away Yerushalayim, when we effectively said that being there didn’t override other things going on in our lives.

    Picture how mind boggling this would have been to our greatgreatgrandparents. You mean that you could move to Israel in under a day and people actually declined?

    -Micha

  7. Phil says:

    “To be sure, from a charedi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Yerushalayim’s walls. The city’s holiness is neither heralded nor preserved by such banners.”

    Menachem Lipkin writes: “I don’t think this is true.”

    I wonder if R’ Shafran’s intention of the word ‘inherent’ and R’ Lipkin’s understanding of R’ Shafran’s use of the word are the same.

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    I think Rabbi Avi Shafran’s position can be summed up in two sentences:

    1. Israel not a perfectly Jewish state, not being based on the Torah, and therefore does not command Charedi loyalty.

    2. Israel is a somewhat Jewish state, and therefore is bound to keep Jerusalem whole.

    It makes sense for him to have this position. However, given that Israel is not based on the Torah, it is not clear that what most Israelis mean by “a Jewish state” implies the same level of connection to Jerusalem that Rabbi Avi Shafran feels.

    Anyway, at the risk of offending our hosts, his position is not very important. Before anybody has time to get offended, let me add that neither is mine. At the end of the day, the decision whether to give up part of Jerusalem belongs to the people who live in Israel. They are the one who fight the wars and get blown apart by terrorists. It’s their blood and therefore their choice.

  9. mnuez says:

    R’ Avi, how sad it is, how unbelievably tragic, that all of this even has to be said to the most Jewishly committed people in the world. And how doubly tragic that it takes so long to say and is said in such a defensive and apologetic tone.

    Dabru Al Leiv Yerushalayim, V’Kirooh Eileha Ki Malah Tziva’ah, Ki Nirtzah Avoinuh. Ki Lukchuh Miyad Hashem Kiflayim…

    When our response to the suggestion that Yerushalayim be given over to the amalek of our dor is anything but a Bar Kochba-esque primal cry of “YERUSHALAYIM!!!!” with daggers in our clenched fists, you know that we are barely worthy of her. Yerushalayim…

    Our illiterate, passion-less empty, vacuous and repulsive enemy fights for possession of our heart with no apologies on their behalf. No long-winded explanations full of “if”s “and”s and “but”s. They kill and die in this useless quest of theirs… and we intellectualize – before the single Jewish audience that should be non-detachable from Yerushalayim more than any other.

    Vayy! Vayy! – Kra V’garon, Al Tachsoch! Kashofar Hurem Koilecha, V’haged L’ami Fisham, Uleveit Ya’akov Chatoisum!

    How can we even TALK about this issue?

    Do you remember what Menachem Begin zt”l said when President Carter asked him to just “not say no” about the subject of Yerushalayim? Carter begged Begin to simply stay mum on Yerushalayim. Just to silently “consider” it. Begin responded with immediately by telling the story of Rabbeinu Amnon of Mainz. In vivid detail. He refused to talk about Yerushalayim and Carter did not ask him again.

    How can we even TALK about giving away YERUSHALAYIM?! And how can we intellectualize about all that is being destroyed on Har Habayis – makom she’shualim hoilchim buh??

    I miss Menachem so very very much… Nachamu Nachamu Ami…

    Mnuez

  10. Holy Hyrax says:

    >and that the Third Holy Temple will be built by the hand of not man but G-d

    Two temples, that we revere and remember its loss everyday were built by the hands of man. We built it. We sanctified it. Why should a third temple be any different

  11. Gary Shulman says:

    Dear Rabbi Shafran,

    In olam hazeh the currency of diplomacy is measured by the willingness to give blood for one’s cause. If one has the feeling that,”To be sure, from a haredi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Jerusalem’s walls. The city’s holiness is neither heralded nor preserved by such banners.” then such an opinion does not carry much political weight. Those citizens living in the Jewish democratic State of Israel are represented by the Olmeret government. This State is most interested in the safety and peace of its citizens. The theory goes, that because of the high Arab birthrate, for Jerusalem to survive as a Jewish city one must disenfranchise Arabs in the Jerusalem area. In a democratic state to keep Arabs from having a majority in voting for municipal elections, one must redefine some Arab suburbs as not being part of Yerushalayim. Such a redrawing of the city limits will leave a still much larger Yerushalayim in Jewish hands than at the height of Shlomo Hamelech’s Empire.
    I agree with Rabbi Shafran that we must keep on davening.
    Shalu shlom Yerushalayim, Seek the peace of Jerusalem.

  12. zalman says:

    “Many of the religious leaders of the haredi world, however, have clearly stated that political sovereignty over land does not trump the attainment of peace and security… from a haredi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Jerusalem’s walls.”
    Thus, in principle, it should not be difficult for haredi religious leaders to support the division of Jerusalem. Yet you have branded the current proposal as foolhardy. Have haredi religious leaders come out now in favor of your position?

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    Perhaps, the real and unspoken issue is that we all lack sufficient appeciation for a unified Jerusalem under Jewish law. Far too many of us view the city as either a summer retreat ala the Catskills where we can build a dream home or a finishing school for our children after high school or somewhere we can indulge in our religious fantasies.

  14. David N. Friedman says:

    From the perspective of the someone like Condolesa Rice, the Arab side has never wavered one inch from insisting that Jerusalem is to be part of any Arab Palestinian state and that Jerusalem was an essential ingredient of any lasting plan for peace. Such rectitude has paid big dividends over time in the eyes of world opinion.

    If the Jewish people could have only managed to say “no compromise” in one strong voice at least as strongly as the Arabs–who have no historic or genuine religious tie to the city–regarding Jerusalem, we would not now be facing this sad state of affairs.

    Avi Shafran speaks the truth and yet the world easily dismisses such rhetoric as merely high-handed and impractical wishful thinking. It is the fault of successive Israeli governments who have bought into the template that Israel is to give concessions and the Arabs are to be beneficiaries so that peace can be the outcome. Peace is the supposed outcome of a number of Israeli concessions sufficient to mollify the Arab side, and if the Arabs refuse the deal, it is the fault of the Jews for being so stingy and short-sighted to not offer enough.

    I may be overly optimistic but I suppose would should be grateful that no Arab party has said yes to any of the foolish offers made by previous Israeli governments and we still have a chance to create solidarity over the fact that Jerusalem will not be divided again. The Jewish people will have and hold Jerusalem if and only if we are able to take such a stand strongly now and consistently over a long period of time. This must be the stand not only of our haredi community but of our entire community, minus, if we must, the “peace now” crowd that is beyond hope or reason.

  15. nachum klafter says:

    “It is hard to believe that any people, entity or government could arrogate to claim a closer connection than the Jewish one to the city nestled in the Judean hills, the city toward which praying Jews for millennia have faced thrice daily, and face to this day.”

    Yet, the vast majority of the Jewish people does not pray trice daily. Therefore, the Jewish claim to Yerushalayim, which you so eloquently describe, is not being articulated by vast majority of Jews. Jews (such as myself) who agree with you are for the most part very removed from peace talks or policy making in the Kenesset.

    The data are manipulated by both sides, but what is clear is that if it were left to a referendum in Israel(ch”v), a very substantial number WOULD be prepared to split Yerushalayim for a credible peace agreement with the Palestinians as “represented” by the PLO/PA. Whether a majority would be for or against this will remain unclear unless a referendum would take place. There is a sizeable group of Israelis (in my opinion the majority of the country) who can be persuaded in either direction on questions of territorial compromise in peace settlements. They might be very cynical and tough during war or after terrorist attacks, but they quickly turn to idealism and optimistism when given considering a “chance for peace”.

    I am against a referendum on this issue. I am also against giving away any of Yerushalayim due to security, political, logistical urban planning, and religious considerations. I am just pointing out that the basis for our beliefs in our historical and spiritual connection to Yerushalayim does not resonate with most Jews, which makes this claim basically irrelevant to the whole process, except as it inspires our kavana in tefila. It certainly appears that Israel is heading down the path of splitting the city. May the Merciful One protect and save us.

  16. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Rabbi Shafran:

    “One can only add to our tefillos the hope that those political leaders somehow experience some flash of recognition of what they are contemplating. That they blink a few times, shake their heads and remember just what Yerushalayim means to Klal Yisroel. That they come to open a siddur and not only read the words but pay attention to them; and say Birchas Hamozon, doing the same.”

    How sadly ironic! This “Tefilo” of Rabbi Shafran is pretty much contained in the Tefillah for the Medina that most Chareidi Shuls consider “yaharog V’al yaavor” to say!

    “To be sure, from a charedi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Yerushalayim’s walls. The city’s holiness is neither heralded nor preserved by such banners.”

    I don’t think this is true. Tell it to the Jordanians, under whose “temporal flag” the holy areas of Yerushalayim were used as a latrine. Or imagine what the scenario would be if the “temporal flag” was that of, say, Iran. Jerusalem, might still have its holiness, but none of us would be able to partake of it. Under, and because of, the current “temporal flag” containing our Magen Dovid, our holy city is filled with more people striving for holiness than any time time in Jewish history.

    Maybe it’s not the evil Zionists who are causing G-d to take back, piece by piece, His land from us. Maybe it’s just such a secular attitude toward a flag that represents His offer to return Eretz Yisrael to Clal Yisrael.

  17. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “Is the above article the sole response from the Agudah?” (Comment by Steve Brizel — November 17, 2007 @ 10:07 pm).

    No, it is not. The future of Yerushalayim is the topic of the Motzai Shabbos session at the Agudah convention in a couple of weeks.

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    All of the above is true and in the parlance of the Talmud-“Ain Haci Nami.” However, one sees a welcome sign of cooperation among every major American Jewish organization from NCYI and the OU to secular Zionist and other groups who are urging their constituents to email the White House, Foggy Bottom, Congressional representatives and even and especially the Israeli leadership over the dangerously one sided agenda of Annapolis. I recently saw in Mishpacha that RYSE was very adamant in supporting an Asifas Tefilah on the issue of the R’L proposed plans re Yerushalayim. Is the above article the sole response from the Agudah?

  19. Moshe says:

    This may be part of G-d’s plan to show Jews the difference between Judaism and the State of Israel. The State of Israel is a state like all others – it has forgotten it’s connection to Judaism (except for being able to shnur from all the Jews around the world…)

  20. ES says:

    To be sure, from a haredi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Jerusalem’s walls.

    And that’s exactly the problem. Some of the very people who should be educating the public are silent.

    There are those who believe that man need not lift a physical finger to aid in the geula, only “spiritual” efforts. Yet Hashem frequently calls his people to take action.

    Just this Shabbat I was preparing for Chanukah, reading a beautiful piece (“Yosef and Chanukah”) by HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. The Rav described three different models of man’s involvement of the manifestation of Hashem’s will:

    (1) Creation – G-d does everything
    (2) Exodus – G-d performs everything yet appoints man as a messenger
    (3) Chanukah – G-d enacts His will through the hishtadlut (personal initiative) of man

    Also in the article, HaRav Soloveitchik quotes the midrash, that had Yosef not brought his fatehr to Egypt in honor, the L-rd’s will would have been nonetheless fulfilled and Jacob would have been brought in iron shackles.

    Yosef, like the Hasmoneans of Chanukah, was called to actualize Hashem’s will. Our generation might not want to be a Yosef, but who knows whether we have that choice?

  21. Jewish Observer says:

    “It is hard to believe that any people, entity or government could arrogate to claim a closer connection than the Jewish one to the city nestled in the Judean hills, the city toward which praying Jews for millennia have faced thrice daily, and face to this day.

    And it is even harder to believe that a government of a self-described Jewish State would even consider, much less announce, its contemplation of placing Jerusalem on the cutting block of negotiations with an enemy.”

    – is it hard to beileve that there are Jews in the US for whom living near Jerusalem is not even on the radar?