The Charedim and Self-Sacrifice for Eretz Yisrael
Question: You often say that Eretz Yisrael requires self-sacrifice, and you quote numerous sources about this. Yet Charedi rabbis do not hold this way. Instead, they emphasize the Mitzvah of “Guard yourself very carefully” (Devarim 4:15). How can we know which is the right way?

Answer: I have never seen a halachic ruling by a Charedi rabbi stating that Eretz Yisrael does not require self-sacrifice. Moreover, throughout the generations, Charedim have shown self-¬sacrifice for Eretz Yisrael. They’ve moved here, lived here and established settlements here, all under dangerous conditions. Petach Tikva was founded by Charedim from Jerusalem in 5635, under danger of malaria, as the famous Hebrew song, “Yoel Moshe Solomon” relates.

Likewise, it was not always easy in Jerusalem itself, facing the hostility of Arab neighbors. The people suffered from contagious diseases, lethal plagues, attacks by bandits, poverty, lack of food, and worst of all, lack of water. Small children cried out day and night, “A little water!” Many families moved to Jaffa and Gaza. Out of despair they would drink from foul cisterns. In 5589 a miracle occurred through the disciples of the Vilna Gaon, and a spring poured forth outside the city for eight days, an hour and a half each day, enabling them to carry off thousands of flasks of water (see the book “Mossad Ha-Yesod,” pp. 124-125).

Here is a Charedi story:
During the 5689 riots, on Friday, the 17th of Av, rioters ran wild throughout the country, cruelly ransacking and murdering. In the afternoon, thousands of inflamed Arabs stormed out of the Mosque of Omar after being saturated with the hateful incitement of the Mufti, Haj Amin Al-Huseini, and marched forward, armed with knives and clubs. Most of them advanced towards the neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael, with cries of “Slaughter the Jews.” At the head of the inflamed throng marched an Arab sheik, waving a long sword and firing up the rioters not to have pity on men, women or children, since it was a holy war -- a jihad.

When the rioters reached the Italian hospital, two Charedi youths emerged from the flour mill at the southern edge of Meah Shearim and advanced towards the rioters. One of them, who had curly side-locks flowing from under his hat, pulled out a pistol and shot straight into the mouth of the sheik walking in front, and he died on the spot. The inflamed masses were seized with fright and they began to flee in the direction of Damascus Gate, while the two youths chased after them, throwing a hand grenade which killed three more rioters. Moreover, the rioters trampled one another to death during their escape.

That same bearded youth who fired the pistol was the saintly Rav Aharon Fisher, father of the illustrious Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher, Chief Rabbinic Justice of Edah Ha-Charedit in our own times.

The next day, the great Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, who lived in the Old City, had to go to Meah Shearim as a Mohel. His family and friends were terribly worried about him, and they begged him not to go, but he insisted. He would not forego the Mitzvah.

The eighty-year-old rabbi, clad in his tallit, walked to Meah Shearim not by way of the Jaffa Gate, but by way of the Damascus Gate, a troublesome spot even in normal times. He walked calmly along the same route where thousands of murderers had walked, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of circumcision, and he returned by way of the Jaffa Gate. When he was later asked why he went specifically by way of the Damascus Gate, he responded, “So that the Arabs would not think that they had succeeded in banishing the Jews from even one corner or street in Jerusalem.” And why had he returned by way of Jaffa Gate? “Such is my regular custom, in order to fulfill the words, “Walk around Zion. Circle her” (Tehillim 48:13) (Be-Dor Tahapuchot, Rav Shlomo Zalman Zonnenfeld, pages 226-229, 393-396).

It is well-known that the illustrious Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld was not a Zionist. Quite the contrary, he ascribed to the opposite view. He was the most Charedi of Charedim, and an opponent of Maran Ha-Rav Araham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook.

To say that the Charedim did not sacrifice themselves for this Land is a severe libel. Meah Shearim was established on a spot where people were afraid of bandits. The Charedim sacrificed themselves for the Land, or more precisely, for the word of G-d, who commanded us to settle the Land.


Weiss Shendor Wakes Everyone for Selichot?!
In the midst of the Holocaust, a brilliant Torah Scholar, Ha-Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal (who had been an anti-Zionist but changed his opinion during the Holocaust), delivered a Dvar Torah in Slovakia when he returned there during some stage of his hiding from the Nazis. He was responding to the Ultra-Orthodox view against returning to Eretz Yisrael because of the secular nature of Zionism.
He said: What can we say, how can we speak and how can we justify ourselves? G-d has found the sin of your servant.
I will tell you a story: In a small town there was a Shamash of a Shul who died, leaving behind a widow. The people of the community thought about how they could provide her with some financial support, for at that time there was no pension for widows. Perhaps it would be possible to allow her to continue the work of her late husband. On the other hand - it is not proper for a woman to serve as the Shamash of a Shul. Eventually it was decided that she would carry out those activities that could be performed outside of the synagogue, while the tasks of the Shamash during prayer times would be filled by the worshippers themselves, on a voluntary basis. Thus the woman would be able to continue earning the salary that her husband had received.
It came time for "Selichot," and as part of her job the woman had to get up and go about from house to house in the village, waking the people for Selichot. She took the special "Selichot Klopper" in her hand and headed for the most distant house in the village – the home of Weiss Shendor. When she knocked on the door, Weiss Shendor awoke, alarmed at the disturbance at such an unusual hour. When he opened the door and saw the wife of the Shamash, he asked what she wanted. She explained that as part of her duties she had to go from house to house, waking everyone for Selichot. When Weiss Shendor heard this, he tried to persuade her that it was not seemly for a woman to go about outside so early in the morning, in such cold and wet weather, and that it would be better if he did the job in her stead. The woman accepted the offer and handed him the "Selichot Klopper," and Weiss Shendor set off to wake up the people.
Upon knocking at the first house he was asked to identify himself. He answered, "I am Weiss Shendor, and I have taken it upon myself to wake up the people for Selichot."
The house owner was incensed. "Weiss Shendor? A pork-eater like you isn't going to wake me for Selichot!" With that he slammed the door and went back to sleep.
He went off to the second house and again came the question, "Who is it?" Again he gave the same reply, and again the same response: "Weiss Shendor? A Shabbat desecrator like you will not come and wake me for Selichot!" Again a door was slammed in his face.
The same thing happened at the next house: "A swindler and gambler like you will not wake me for Selichot!" – and so on, at every house throughout the entire village. The wake-up round ended with nothing more to show for itself than a trail of scorn and disdain. Not a single person got up for Selichot.
When the congregation was gathered for the morning davening, the Rabbi asked: "What happened this year - no one came to the Shul for Selichot?" The people started justifying themselves and explaining that it was all Weiss Shendor's fault. He was a shady character who was notorious throughout the village. Because it was he who had come to awaken them for Selichot, each of them had refused to come.
"Fools!" responded the Rabbi. "It's true that Weiss Shendor is guilty of everything that you've accused him, but at this time he was waking you for Selichot. He wasn't doing any of the bad things that he's known for. So why didn't you get up?”

Here Rav Teichtal burst into tears and shouted: It's true that the Zionists desecrate Shabbat and so forth, but it was they who awakened the Nation and shouted: "Get out of the rubble, the non-Jews hate us, there is no place for us, except in Eretz Yisrael" – and we didn't listen!
(Based on the testimony of Mordechai Rosenfeld, who was present during Rav Teichtal's talk, as recorded in Be-Sheva, vol. 163, 3 Tishrei 5766).