We will be Back in Gush Katif

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Matot-Masei 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Gush Katif is an important way-station in the course of our Redemption. It started as a place full of light and joy and building and creation. Then it was one of breakdown and destruction, darkness and betrayal. Yet it was still a way-station. By the same token, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook counted even the heinous episode of the Altalena, of brother killing brother, amongst the way-stations of the Redemption. The cure is to open up the emergency store houses of love for our fellow Jew in order to melt the hatred (Mi-Maamakim, Li-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 p. 128). And that’s what happened at the Altalena: Those who were hurt and wounded maintained their restraint and prevented a civil war.
And at Gush Katif, as well, a large population behaved with restraint, and by such means a terrible war between Jews was prevented. This great merit is connected to the other sources of goodness: Self-sacrifice for the rebuilding of the Land as emissaries of the entire Nation under difficult economic, agricultural and security conditions. Thanks to G-d’s mercy, the Land responded and generously provided its bounty; and its people lived lives of Torah and labor, lives of kind deeds – to those around us and to others, and there was great unity between different sorts of people and great faith.
Indeed, the test of faith comes in times of crises, as is explained in Mesilat Yesharim (Chapter 19) regarding love of G-d. Here, the righteous of Gush Katif are passing their test. They don’t spend their time heaping calumny on those who didn’t join them in their struggle. They don’t recite, day and night: “We won’t forget.” They are not stuck in the past. Rather, they look ahead to the future. As Rambam wrote in one of his letters: A person should look inward at himself and not outward at others.
Yes, the most important thing is not what was but what will be: How can we return to Gush Katif? How can another, similar destruction be prevented from occurring in Judea and Samaria? And yes! From then until today a debate has raged among lovers of Eretz Yisrael. Some say that only the language of force works, and that had we exerted enough force, as, for example, the Charedim do, or – not to be compared – the Arabs, we could have saved our beloved Gush Katif. Others say that force only works with minor matters, but not with such politically and militarily crucial issues as this. Rather, there is only one way for Judea, Samaria and Gaza to remain ours: For the Nation to want it!
The reality proves that the second approach is the right one. Whoever looks at Jewish history with open eyes, starting with the awakening of the return to Zion during the past 150 years, will see that nothing happened through the use of threats or force, but because people wanted it. Our wonderful Land was rebuilt – because they wanted it. In the return to Zion, whoever wanted to come, came. In the War of Independence, only volunteers enlisted. In all of Israel’s wars, only those who believed in it fought devotedly. In the whole settlement program in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, only those who wanted to settle, came and settled. Also with all the Torah learning which has so increased in our Land, nobody learns Torah unless he wants to. Quite the contrary, using force pushes people away. As we said, the largest issues depend on will, since they are bound up with suffering. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, “G-d gave three gifts to His Nation, and they come about only through suffering, and they are, Torah, the World-to-Come and Eretz Yisrael” (Berachot 5a). They all require self-sacrifice, and one cannot force self-sacrifice. Such was the approach of the righteous of Gush Katif, that it is impossible to coerce. Marriage, as well, cannot be coerced. You cannot command love, and Eretz Yisrael is likened to marriage (see Yeshayahu 62:4-5). According to the Sefat Emet at the beginning of Parashat Shelach, Eretz Yisrael is likened to Talmud study. That, too, is hard, therefore it depends on desire and will: “Eretz Yisrael contains the aspect of the Oral Torah, that a person must attain it by way of his own toil. Hence, conquering Eretz Yisrael depends on the will of the Jews themselves… Therefore, when the Jews refused the Land, they could no longer enter it.” Likewise, Rabbi Yosef Karo in his book, “Maggid Mesharim,” explained that the goal of sending out the spies, who were Torah scholars, was to arouse their desire for Eretz Yisrael (Parashat Shelach). Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna wrote the same thing: “Now that we have seen the great repentance [for Eretz Yisrael], among the people of lesser worth, amongst the medium level people and amongst the upright of heart, it is almost certain that the spirit of Redemption is shining forth” (Shut Yeshuot Malko, Yoreh Deah #66). And Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi similarly wrote that the redemption will come when the Jews long for Jerusalem with the very greatest desire (from the end of “the Kuzari”).
True, there is a theory in history called “Historic Materialism,” that what determines history is political or economic facts on the ground, as in the writings of Marx or Engels. Yet the main approach is “Historic Idealism,” that what determines history are beliefs and opinions and ideas, as in Hegel, and as in Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s famous article, “The Course of Ideas in Israel” (Orot). Therefore, we have to multiply the number of Jews who want the full extent of the Land. The more they increase, the better off our Nation will be. Indeed, in Gush Katif, as I said, there were a lot of righteous people of different stripes, but the entire Jewish People were not AT Gush Katif, nor were they WITH Gush Katif. The cure is the knowledge and awareness that this is our Land, as our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, wrote in his famous placard “Lema’an Da’at” [In order that they should know]: “This entire Land is ours… hence once and for all, these matters are clear and absolute, that there are no ‘territories’ or ‘[Palestinian] Arabs’ or ‘Arab Lands’. Rather, it is all Jewish lands, our eternal, ancestral inheritance” (quoted in Le-Hilchot Tzibbur).
And then, even to Gush Katif, we will return. For a long time, already, Gush Katif has been destroyed and gone, but that same faith of Gush Katif is hovering over the world, flittering around among people, causing sorrow and sadness, joy and hope. It is penetrating the hearts and minds of the simple people, of profound thinkers, of men and of women, of young boys and girls, without people noticing it. That faith is beating in their hearts, without their knowing where that fortitude, that sweetness, is coming from. It is that faith which will save all of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, and it is that which will bring us home to Gush Katif.