Did I hold views similar or identical to those held by Daat Emet (who do not see the Torah as obligatory), I would not allow myself to live in Israel, for the simple reason that it is on land stolen from Canaanites in the past and from Palestinian Arabs in the present.
My question to you is:
How do those among you who hold themselves to be moral permit yourselves to live for even a moment on stolen land? You do not, after all, believe in a god who intended this land for us, etc. By what right (moral or legal) do you live in Israel?
This question is asked not to be argumentative, but in an effort to understand your point of view.
The arrogance of the religious has reached proportions that infuriate any ordinary person. (Even so, I will answer you because I blame your arrogance on the naivete to which you have been educated.)
First I will explain the “point of view” of your religion and then the human point of view.
Religious Jews think that G-d created the world and that he owns and rules over it.
In their opinion, man’s property is on loan from G-d, as is written: “Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold says the Lord of the Hosts” (Chaggai 2:8). For this reason they arrogantly state that G-d has made the money of the gentiles as though ownerless and therefore any damage caused to a gentile’s animal by a Jew’s ox does not require compensation, “He stood and permitted their money to the Jews” (Bava Kamma 38a). Thus, too, do they consider the conquest of lands under the ownership of others (like Joshua’s conquest of Israel from the hands of the locals). They claimed:
“If the nations of the world say to Israel ‘You are bandits, for you have conquered the land of the Seven Nations,’ they answer that the entire world belongs to the holy One, blessed be He. He created it, and He gives it to whom He sees fit. When He wished He gave it to them, and when He wished He took it from them and gave it to us” (Rashi on Genesis 1:1).
According to this dogmatic point of view G-d owns everything and G-d makes all the decisions. Where is it that G-d made these decisions?
In the Torah (the Pentateuch)!!! But because of the Chosen People’s sins and ingratitude to G-d, G-d became angry at His nation, exiled them, and scattered them amongst the nations. And to whom did G-d give the land of Israel? To the gentiles — one after the other, in keeping with the hidden will of the master of the world (G-d). In the meantime (during exile) what does G-d “want” to do with His chosen nation? In His Torah it is written that at a certain unspecified time the punishment of exile, together with other punishments, will cause the Jews to repent, and then G-d will gather them and return them to their land, as is written, “And you shall return to the Lord your G-d and hearken to His voice, all that I command you and your sons today you shall take to your hearts and your souls, and the Lord G-d will return you and take pity on you and will once again gather you from amongst the nations wherein the Lord your G-d dispersed you” (Deuteronomy 30:2). This means that the Jewish nation should not try to organize and conquer the land on their own; they should wait until G-d gathers them again. Thus did the unquestionable spokesmen of G-d (Chazal) express themselves, saying that the Jews should not enter the land by force, in an organized group, attempting to reconquer the area (Ketubot 111a). This means that if the Jews become arrogant enough to renounce their vow, it is in contradiction to G-d’s will. If so, they have stolen the land. So according to your religious point of view, you are forbidden to remain in the Land of Israel, stolen by Jews from the locals, for even a moment. If you are true and honest in your faith, you must pack up and go out to live among the gentiles, as have many Orthodox Jews in our day and age who live abroad.
Reality has changed, and those who have changed it are the Enlightenment movement, nationalism, and the Zionist movement, all involving Jews who have left religion. The rabbis were forced to “interpret” the Scriptures, G-d’s will, to make them suit the new reality, each rabbi according to his own understanding and point of view. Thus, for example, Rabbi Alkalai reversed “G-d’s will” that we not ascend to Israel by force and claimed that we should move to Israel. “Thus is the redemption of Israel. At first it is bit by bit…because we are sworn not to all ascend together…the holy One, blessed be He, wants the redemption to be orderly and dignified, and therefore He made us swear not to all ascend together…but little by little until we are resting and settled in our land” (HaKeitz Hameguleh by Aviezer Ravitzky, pp. 49-50).
If we sum up the modern religious outlook, we can say that most religious people now believe that the establishment of the State of Israel is an act of rebellion against G-d and stands in contradiction to His will. A minority (the National Religious) have left the accepted path and interpret the establishment of the State as the “start of the redemption” — little by little until we are settled. If so, in their opinion you remain here, in the Land of Israel, as a possible thief, and all the questions you asked us are turned right back at you.
(At the start of my answer I used the word “arrogance,” because the State of Israel was founded thanks to those who freed themselves from religion and who did not believe in any promises made by G-d to our nation. And you, along with your friends, dare enjoy the fruits and try to ignore those who planted it.)
Now let us explain the human point of view, the point of view which follows from man’s understanding of his world with no illusionary fiction (G-d). Everything we perceive through our senses, our understanding, and our reason…can only be understood to the limits of our consciousness that it does exist. Where we began and where we are going — we do not understand and we never will. What do we comprehend, feel, and understand? That there is nature, which includes everything, which flows and moves. In nature, there is no property and no belongings. All concepts of thief, oppression, murder, good and evil are concepts which belong only to the human race and do not apply to nature at all. Think about it: if a lion kills another and takes over the dead lion’s territory, do we call him a “conqueror” or a “thief”? Has the lion done something evil? Something good? We see that ethics are a human code. These ethics change with the times, they do not stand still. Sometimes this change is against a person’s will; what once was the woman’s proper status is now considered despicable, slavery was once permissible…this page is too short to bring all the many examples which exist. This is the greatness of ethics; it is a changeable sword. Even religious people, against their will, change “G-d’s command” even while shouting that they possess “eternal ethics, absolute truth.” Who today would force his wife to wash his face and his feet or pour him a drink? Any man who tried to demand of his wife what Chazal state to be his rights would be considered a reactionary even by the religious. The Torah mandates a punishment of “an eye for an eye,” but Chazal came along and changed that to monetary damages. R’ Yochanan put it well when he said “Jerusalem was destroyed only because they judged Torah law there.” I remember that one of the Torah scholars in our city said to me: “Had the holy One, blessed be He, mandated that we cut off the fingers of a liar, I would refuse to do so.” He placed limits on his own G-d.
One of the changes and revolutions is the formation of nationalist movements, which began with the French Revolution and spread throughout Europe. The Jews, too, if a little late, took part in these changes, and a spirit of nationality awoke within them. This change completely altered the map of Europe; borders moved and shifted like a brush in the hand of an artist. If we now come and claim “theft,” no one would be able to escape the charge. Would you think of demanding that the Americans, formerly residents of Europe, return stolen lands to the Indians? There are phenomena and changes which cannot be judged with the hard yardstick of “theft.” (I will make do with this, even though the topic is very interesting, important, and most especially, complicated.) Thus, the nationalistic, Zionist movement led to the establishment of a state for the Jews at the expense of the local residents. Would you demand the Jews leave their country? Anyone who so demands would be foolishly pious at best, and disgusting cruel according to any reasonable measure of reason. As a sovereign entity we must, given this situation, try as much as possible to refrain from shameful deeds (ruling over another nation), discrimination between one citizen and the next (Jews and Arabs), and work towards civic equality not just in theory, but also in practice.
You, who claim a right to the land for religious reasons, out of a dead text which ignores natural human reality, would be considered a thief, as I explained above. One who acknowledges the changes and revolutions in the world and looks at them through his understanding of reality, without taking into account the scribbles of a time past, has a greater and more acceptable claim to the land.
Now think about the proper path for a person to follow. Should he follow the nonsense of religion which is leading us, against our will, to war? Every religion believes in a single solitary “truth” and has no intention of compromising, even for the sake of man’s happiness. Or should he follow the human point of view and, for the sake of man’s happiness, try to bridge the gaps and save waging unnecessary wars?
Happy Israel Independence Day,