There is a long-running discussion among Torah scholars as to a most significant topic. Is it a positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel? On the face of it, two of the greatest Torah scholars ever to walk the earth, seem to disagree. The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, in his seminal work, the “Yad HaChazakah,” where he discusses the 613 Biblical Torah commandments, does not include settling the land as a positive precept. The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, who lived shortly after the Rambam, writes, seemingly disagreeing with his illustrious predecessor, that settling the Land of Israel is definitely a Mitzvah, a positive, Divine commandment.
However, there are many distinguished Torah scholars who rule that, in reality, there isn’t any disagreement between the two giants. The Rambam, when enumerating the Mitzvot, does not include in his list, the most basic fundamentals, upon which Judaism is based. For example, he does not write that Tshuva – repentance, is a commandment. Rather, he instructs, ‘when you do tshuva – when you repent… this is what you must do.’
Tshuva is pillar upon which Torah, and Torah observance is founded. There is no Judaism, as we know it, without Tshuva. Yet it does not appear in the Rambam’s list, not in spite of its importance, rather as a result of its major significance.
So too, with the Mitzvah of living and settling Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish people were created in order to live in this land. Without Israel, Judaism as we know it, does not exist.
This example can illustrate my feelings today, upon hearing Minister Dan Meridor’s statement on the early morning news. Meridor was asked his opinion about reports that the government was going to approve the Levy Commission Report. This report, written by three highly respected judges and attorneys, headed by former Supreme Court Edmund Levy, rejects international claims that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is ‘occupation of a foreign land.’ Its adoption and implementation by the Israeli government will remove many of the politically bureaucratic hardships placed upon Jews living in Judea and Samaria, particularly in the areas of building construction and land purchase.
Meridor said, “Ramallah and Hebron are not part of the State of Israel and I don’t think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has any intentions to change this.”
I find it very difficult to stomach a Likud minister, serving in a right-wing government, state that Hebron is not part of Israel.
True, the state of Israel has yet to annex Judea and Samaria. Legally, all this land, including Hebron, is officiated via the Defense ministry. Actually, the Levy report, its findings and conclusions should be the first step changing this, leading to eventual annexation.
That, however, has no bearing on whether Hebron is part of the State of Israel. Because, without Hebron, there wouldn’t be a State of Israel. Hebron, the first Jewish city in this holy land, was the first home of Abraham, as we read in Genesis 13:18 - And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the L-rd.”
Here, in the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, Abraham lived for decades. As did his son, grandson, and many many others after them. Here they lived and here they were buried. Ma’arat HaMachpela, their tombs, the Caves of Machpela, is the 2nd holiest site in the world, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Here began the Davidic monarchy, prior to Jerusalem becoming our eternal capital. Here fought Bar Cochva and the Maccabees. Here Jews came following the Spanish expulsion in 1492. Here Jews lived almost continuously over the centuries, until the 1929 riots, massacre and expulsion.
In June, 1967, coming into Hebron, Israel did not conquer and occupy a foreign city. We came home.
Just as living in Israel isn’t mentioned in the Rambam’s list of Mitzvot, because of its supreme magnitude, so too, Hebron’s importance cannot be minimized because of political fears and accountings. Hebron is the roots of Judaism, it is the source of monotheism, and is an integral element in our people’s essence.
Israeli ministers, representing the State of Israel, must not humiliate Hebron, declaring in an affirmative manner that ‘Hebron is not a part of the State of Israel, and that’s the way it should stay.’ Rather they should decry this disgrace, asserting that Hebron is the Jewish people’s lifeblood, the source of our culture and tradition, and of course, Jews must have the same rights and privileges in Israel’s first Jewish city, as do Jews living in Tel Aviv or Haifa.
Meridor’s left-wing tendencies are known. Truthfully, as sad as it is, it’s no great surprise that he should make such a statement. But his presence as a Likud minister, in a Likud government, with such opinions, is scandalous.
Before Israel goes to the polls, most parties will conduct primaries to determine their candidates for the Knesset. Meridor’s own words must be publicized loud and clear,insuring that Likud voters know exactly what he thinks of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, his thoughts about the Levi Commission Report, and about Hebron. This way, perhaps he will join Ehud Barak, after the elections, following Knesset and government proceedings from the visitor’s gallery.