Last week I attended yet another funeral of young Jews who were murdered by Arabs because they chose to renew Jewish life in the heart of Israel. The double funeral began in Jerusalem, at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. It then continued through the hills of Binyamin and Samaria, passing Bet El, Ofra, Shiloh, Eli, and arriving at the outskirts of Shechem. Here we were surrounded by the Jewish communities of Har Bracha, Itamar, Elon Moreh and, finally the hill of Yitzhar. Thousands of young Jewish men and women, united in grief, both personal and national, cried and poured out their pain and outrage at the murder of two young Jewish scholars and leaders.
My search for comfort was rewarded by recognizing this Divine phenomenon of thousands of courageous men and women who tread in the blood-stained path of Jewish redemption. Seeing the faith projected from their tear-drenched eyes which declared, "We will not be deterred. We have no choice but to go forward.", gave me the comfort I was seeking.
It is truly outrageous that after fifty years of independence, Jewish blood can be spilled without our enemies fearing retribution. Before Oslo the IDF would track down the murderers. Today we have created a mockery of the Biblical concept of "Cities of Refuge" by making Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria safe havens for Arab terrorists. Not only have these murderers a safe place to escape; not only will they not be punished; rather they are treated as heroes and given positions in the PLO army! And they will be given guns which Israel handed over to Arafat, ostensibly to fight terror (if such guns weren't already used to commit this vile deed)! Arafat laughs at the naive Jewish leadership which still looks to him to fight terror. After all, if there were no Jews in Yitzhar, or Hebron, or Jerusalem, then no Jew would be murdered there. This has always been the rallying cry of Arab terrorists and Jewish self-haters. The call for "Peace Now" with total disregard for the inevitable Chaos afterwards.
At this funeral what stood out most to our eyes was the mingling of two generations. Menachem Leibman, the father of Shlomo, Z"l, h"yd, is a dear friend who participated with us in redeeming Hebron. I watched his children grow up, two of whom are graduates of our yeshiva. Rabbi Elhanan Bin-nun the father of Harel, Z"l, H"yd, is another dear friend who is the rabbi of Shiloh. Now their children, and our children are taking their place on the front lines in the continuing effort to redeem our homeland. Too often have I witnessed the horrible tragedy of members of our younger generation being cut down in their prime. I am no stranger to this feeling of anguish and outrage, that our leadership is trying to live with terror rather than obliterating it.
Yet, despite our pain and frustration, and maybe even as a result of it, we find a renewed sense of determination to continue. It forces us to find inner strength to express our love and appreciation to those who died for Jewish principles. We can hear the hills of Judea and Samaria calling upon us to continue to build and raise families in these ancient Jewish lands, and to educate our children to understand and appreciate the holy ideals for which our loved ones gave their very lives. Only when these ancient hills are, once again, bustling with Jewish life and faith, ringing with the sounds of Torah and the music of children playing, singing and praying all in our ancient Hebrew tongue can we begin to appreciate the miracle of Jewish return.
The next day we again heard the media trying to minimize the evil of these terrorist acts by calling it a "land dispute". Somehow this terminology renders antiseptic what should be recognized as cold blooded murder. It is easy to understand that, if these young men impinged upon the property rights of "downtrodden Arabs", then it is only natural that the Arabs would retaliate by murdering them.
If we would be honest, it should be clear that our struggle in which we have been engaged for well over one hundred years is, indeed, a "land dispute". The Arabs think that all of Eretz Yisrael belongs to them and that we have stolen it from them. And what has been our response? We have consistently refused to stand up and declare that Eretz Yisrael belongs exclusively to the Jewish people. Instead we have shown ourselves willing to compromise on our homeland, to share it with frauds. The result of this cowardice was predictable. Not only did we fail to gain the friendship of our enemies, we have only encouraged them to believe that we will give up our claim to our homeland, and thus invite acts of terror such as the murder of Harel and Shlomo.
Our failure to stand up and unequivocally express our sovereignty to our only homeland has created a situation unparalleled in world history. The nations of the world, including our alleged "best friend" the United States, refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the undisputed eternal capital of the Jewish State. The Bible is cast aside and we do little to raise it up, as is our obligation. The world press, and even our own press refer to our second most holy city, Hebron, the home and burial place of our forefathers, as an "Arab town". Hebron is not merely a Jewish city, it represents the very foundation upon which we base our claim to Eretz Yisrael. It was here that G-d made his unconditional covenant with our Father, Abraham, to give us this Land as our eternal inheritance. This "Arab town" was where King David first began his reign before moving the throne of Israel to Jerusalem. How is it possible that no Jewish government had the courage to officially incorporate this holy city as part and parcel of the Jewish State? If we won't call Hebron part of Israel, why should we expect anyone else to do so?
Yes, the press is correct to suggest that our boys were murdered as a result of a "land dispute". But the implication is misleading. They make it sound as if there is a legitimate question of ownership of a particular parcel of land disputed by individuals. The fact is that the dispute is between the Jews and the Arabs, both of which claim the Land of Israel belongs exclusively to them. The Arabs claim that all of the land in the middle east (and beyond) is Islamic territory and that any method to redeem these lands, including murder of children, is a religious duty.
While there may be some Jews who are willing to deny their birthright, most Arabs are not prepared to do so. As long as "peace talks" find Israel relinquishing land to Arabs they are willing to participate. When this stops, so will the talks, as we already see. The time has come for us to stop this cowardly defeatist policy which is inherent in the Oslo accords. How many more Jews need to be "sacrificed" before we wake up and put a stop to this process of humiliation and bloodshed?
When the truth is recognized by our leadership, then the blood of our martyred sons will not have been spilt in vein. Shlomo was a key factor in running the yeshiva at the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem. And Harel dedicated himself to farming the land on the hill near Yitzhar on which they now lie buried in the new cemetery established for them. Even in this somber duty our boys sanctified the land. Their struggle is an ancient one, and one that we will continue. A new leadership will arise which will fight for our inheritance and will reject any compromise with our enemies. The only path is the path to redemption. And we will tread this path by renewing and securing Jewish life in all of our homeland on every hill and valley.
Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Kiryat Arba
August 10, 1998