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Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Land for Peace" Debate Between Rabbi Riskin and Caroline Glick

Like many who showed up Tuesday night at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center for the book launch/promotion for Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's latest book, The Living Tree: Studies in Modern Orthodoxy, I had been looking forward to seeing his "Land for Peace" ideology effectively demolished by Caroline Glick.

We had been hoping for fireworks but instead discovered that Glick is a firm admirer of Riskin, barring that specific policy. Especially now that Rabbi Riskin is under attack by powerful people who want him forcefully retired as Chief Rabbi of Efrat, this  was time for him to get his general policies across. Both Riskin and Glick made statements about it in Hebrew for the Hebrew language press, obviously.

The two issues they seemed to agree most on concern conversion and women poskot aka "rabbis," though the word "rabbi" or "rabbah"wasn't mentioned. Riskin gave his Halachik/Jewish Law defense of both policies. About conversion, he said that for those with patrilinial (via the father) Jewish history/roots there is a concept of zera yisrael, Jewish Seed, which when recognized makes for an easier conversion, but a conversion nevertheless.

Riskin also gave a halachik defense of knowledgeable women decided matters of Jewish Law.

And, yes, they did mention Land for Peace, which is something that they have agreed to disagree about. We all know that Glick has been one of the most vociferous and convincing opponent of that policy. Simply put, it has been proven, over and over that when we give the Arabs our Land, we suffer more terrorism and hostility. Glick challenged Riskin to give halachik reasons to defend his policy, but he refused. Actually, he did admit that it hasn't been successful, but for those who wanted to hear his defense of it from a halachik point of view, there was great disappointment. Rabbi Riskin stated:
"Land for Peace is a security issue, not a halachik issue." Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
I will never forget how during the tense and frightening times leading up to Disengagement, Riskin stayed on the fence, saying that he couldn't make a decision, because Disengagement was a  policy, problematic as it was, had been legally voted in by the Israeli Government. The late Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, Z"L came out supporting it for that very reason.

photos by Rose and 
graphics by Fred 
On the eve of Disengagement I was in New York and had been asked to speak at an anti-Disengagement Rally sponsored by AFSI. While waiting my turn to speak, I was completely surprised to see Rabbi Riskin joining me. The last I had heard was that he was still on that "fence." Opposing Disengagement for me was obvious from the very first moment I had heard of it, so I had trouble relating to the fact that a rabbi I had once so admired could be so uncertain. When he spoke there he didn't mention that uncertainty. He spoke like a politician who had always opposed it. I was very confused and disappointed. I think that his talk would have been better and more effective if he had talked of his difficulties and how he came to join the opposition. I'm still waiting for that speech.

And I completely disagree with Riskin's claim that the question of Land for Peace has nothing to do with halacha. We, the State of Israel and the Jewish People/Religion are not like any other. Our military victories from 1948 onward and the fact that terrorist missiles usually land in "empty fields" are all due to the fact that we are a Holy Nation and G-d protects us. For that reason, every policy, especially security and Land must be looked at from a Jewish Halachik perspective. Ordinary "rules" don't apply here; that is why the State of Israel continues to exist.

In Israel there can be no separation between state and religion, because our existance is only because of the Jewish Religion, not history.

Here is the recording/video of the entire program:


YMedad said...

All decisions regarding any aspect of Jewish life must be prismed through a Halachic perspective but that can be done in many ways and Halacha can go any way, at times, and even double-back on itself.
Rav JB Soloveitchik famously declared in 1968 that the question of yielding territory is akin to a medical issue. The Rabbi must deliberate with a doctor and likewise, he must deliberate with a prime minister or a general before making a decision. Rav Ovadia Yosef was very much a "pro-partition" proponent for decades and then reversed himself. Was he wrong at the beginning and correct at the end or right at the beginning and right at the end or wrong both times? Moreover, there are some Rabbis who simply don't have all the information and either are lax in getting it or uninterested.
Of course, one can suggest not to involve Rabbis at all in the political arena (which is why some people, although observant, don't join/vote Mizrachi).

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that people are mixing up all different issues outside of their area of expertise. Caroline Glick is an insightful political analyst, most worth listening to. However her opinions on issues of conversion and women poskot, are simply personal opinions, of no more value than anyone else's. Her expertise in one area does not translate into expertise on halachic issues.

Regarding ownership of the holy land of Israel, of course it is a halachic issue. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that it is forbidden to give up one inch of the land. And this ruling, if followed, would have given us a much better security situation. We should be offering the Arabs "peace for peace". The land is ours. All of it. You behave, we behave; you don't behave, oyvavoy lachem (woe betide you)". Unfortunately the Israeli lesson learned from the Holocaust is that we have an overriding moral obligation to be eternal victims. Instead of start-up nation, we should call ourselves screwed-up nation.

Likewise with the "disengagement", which is actually a misnomer for the 2005 war against the settlers. (It was a war. The Israeli army sent in 50,000 troops and the other side caved in, in the face of the overwhelming force pitted against them.) As for its secular legality, rabbis are not legal experts (unless they are actually legal experts). They are qualified to express opinions on halacha, not on law. And again, issues of the land of Israel are decided by halacha, not by secular law. But even within the realm of secular law, the validity of certain issues override their legal framework: for example, apartheid was legal in South Africa but morally reprehensible, the same goes for China's one-child policy, with the ensuing forced abortions.

Batya Medad said...

YM, certainly not all rabbis agree, and each of us is to choose a rabbi to follow.

A, Glick mentioned issues that concern ordinary Jews in Israel snd abroad. She asked Riskin for his halachik positions.

Gavriel Bar-Netz said...

"Land for Peace is a security issue, not a halachik issue."

Obvious. He knows it's impossible to back "land for peace" according to Halacha.

Batya Medad said...

Gavriel, excellent point.