Rabbis: Giving up Golan against Halacha

Golan Heights rabbis: Mountains of area are integral to Land of Israel, part of Jewish inheritance.

Golan Heights 224 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
Golan Heights 224 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Rabbis on the Golan Heights reiterated on Thursday the majority opinion among rabbinic authorities; the mountains where they live are an integral part of the Land of Israel, a Jewish inheritance from God that can never be ceded to non-Jews. "Obviously, the Golan Heights is part of the Land of Israel," said Yigal Ariel, the rabbi of Moshav Nov, speaking from his home. "All of the commandments that govern the Land of Israel apply here. Produce that grows here is subject to tithing and to the Sabbatical year [shmita], and there is also a God-given command to conquer this land," he said. Katzrin Chief Rabbi Yosef Levi concurred with Ariel that it was halachically prohibited for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Levi said that Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, the nonagenarian kabbalist who passed away last year, stated during a visit to the Golan that since the mountains in the northeast of Israel were the very first territorial conquest made by the Jewish people under the leadership of Moses, it was absolutely forbidden to give up the area. The residents of the Golan are once again under the threat of evacuation, after reports surfaced on Wednesday from Syrian news sources that Israel had offered to cede the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal. The reports were later confirmed by Western diplomatic officials. Negotiations between Israel and Syria over the Golan have sparked heated debate among rabbis in the past. In 1992, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who was chief Ashkenazi rabbi from 1973 to 1983, declared that the Heights had a lower level of holiness than Judea and Samaria. Therefore, he argued, it was preferable from the perspective of Jewish law to cede the Golan Heights than to withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Goren cited as proof Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman, the Ramban, a scholar of 13th-century Spain and a leading author of Talmudic literature. Nahman ruled that the other side of the Jordan River did not have the same level of Godly presence (shechina). Goren argued that since the Golan is east of the Jordan it was not as sanctified as parts of Israel located on the Western side of the river. Rabbi Avraham Shapira, who was chief Ashkenazi rabbi at the time, ruled against Goren, as did Rabbi Shaul Israeli, who was head of the Zionist flagship Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. The debate became even more heated after Aryeh Deri, then-leader of Shas, said Rabbi Ovadia Yosef advocated in principle territorial compromise, if it could be proved that such a compromise would save Jewish lives. Goren held a minority opinion that was not shared by other major halachic authorities. However, in the present political atmosphere in the wake of 2005's Gaza disengagement and after the failure of the Oslo Accords, it is doubtful Shas mentor Ovadia Yosef or any other leading halachic authority would endorse returning the Golan Heights in exchange for peace. "Even if you want to argue that making peace with the Syrians, who have a state, is different from making peace with the Palestinians, who have none," said Ariel, who can be sure how long Assad will remain in power and who will come next?"