Devar Torah: Vayechi 5777
The terror attack in Israel earlier this week was disgusting and horrifying. The blood-thirsty cruelty showed the depth of the hatred that has been nurtured towards Israel and Israelis, and the revolting scenes of celebration were truly stomach turning. The media coverage, which avoided unpleasant, but accurate, words like ‘terrorist’ was disgraceful. We send our prayers to the injured and bereaved, and for a just and lasting peace. Whatever the final settlement looks like (and there are many possibilities) our absolute red line is a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, because we have a connection to the Land which no UNESCO declaration can expunge, and no one-sided Security Council Resolution can diminish.
Our connection to the Land is clear, and the love and devotion we have for it, is obvious to any fair observer. When Jacob sensed that his death was near, he sent for Joseph and appealed to him to act with ‘kindness and truth’, by burying his father not in Egypt, but taking him back to the Land of Israel, to the Cave of Machpelah. Jacob’s words were precise. This is not only a matter of kindness, but also of truth. Of course, to fulfil the wishes of an elderly father, to make all the arrangements for embalming and transporting the body, and to bury the body with dignity. But it was also a matter of simple truth. Jacob belonged in the Land, it was his Land, the Land of Israel. Abraham had been promised it by God as an inheritance, and had bought the Cave of Machpelah fairly and honestly.
The basis of Zionism is that we have a claim to a state in the Land of Israel as of right. For all the years of exile we existed by the grace of our host nations. Sometimes they were more kind and sometimes they were less kind, but we always existed at their whim. Just as the situation of the Jews in Egypt changes dramatically as we end the Book of Bereshit and begin the Book of Shemot, so our condition in every country, whether Spain or Germany, Iraq or England, went through good times and bad times. The early Zionists decided that we would live under sufferance no longer. We had to be a free nation in a free land. That is what the Balfour Declaration helped us towards 100 years ago, it is what the United Nations granted in 1947, what we insisted upon in 1948, it is what we have defended ever since, and what we will continue to defend.
We would like some kindness from the nations of the world, but we have learned through bitter experience that it cannot be relied upon. But we insist on truth. That means recognising the inalienable Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem, condemning terrorism even when it is directed against Jews and Israelis, and striving to be fair and even handed in any attempt to resolve the conflict. That will allow us to build the Jewish and democratic society, with rights for all citizens of whatever faith and background, that we want to create, in the Land of our father Jacob.
RABBI DR BENJAMIN ELTON