Menu JTA Search

Orthodox Rabbi Warns Against Fanatism in West Bank Debate

Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, past president of the Rabbinical Council of America, asserted here that despite the “moral and political dilemmas” confronting the search for a permanent solution to the West Bank, “we must eschew dogmatic absolutes.”

“The issues are so complex that they cannot be resolved by recourse to simplistic principles — be they the historic and religious rights of Jews to the land of Israel, or the claims to self-determination on the part of the Arab populations,” Wurzburger said in a debate on the fate of Judaea and Samaria at the three-day convention of the National Council of Young Israel yesterday.

But Rabbi Jay Marcus of Young Israel of Staten Island said, on the other hand, that a more aggressive assertion of Jewish rights to those lands must be made. “Israel has already made its sacrifices for peace — now we must wait for others to make a similar commitment to peace.” Marcus said Jews “must be allowed to live anywhere on the land of Biblical Israel, including Judaea and Samaria, and we must realize that further appeasement will not bring about rapprochement.”

Wurzburger, who is editor of the Orthodox rabbinic journal, Tradition, criticized the divisive effect of the ongoing debate over the territories, warning that “proponents of ‘single issues’ politics must not be permitted to overwhelm us to the point that we impugn the integrity and loyalty of those who hold divergent views. We must resist the encroachment of a creeping fanaticism which substitutes denunciation and polemics for rational discourse and imperils the unity of the Jewish people.”

Marcus referred to the specific importance of the land of Israel in Jewish law, citing Talmudic injunctions against a Jew selling a non-Jew land in Israel, and special dispensations in Jewish law to encourage the purchase of land in Israel by Jews. He noted that Jordanian law levies the death penalty against an Arab who sells land to a Jew and that therefore, the position of those Jews who assert a strong claim to Judaea and Samaria is not extreme.

“For the longest time, Jews were dependent upon others, creating a ‘Galus’ mentality. Now, with the State of Israel a reality, we need to establish within the Jewish people a sense of pride and identity, including our rightful claim to the lands of Judaea and Samaria,” Marcus said.

NEXT STORY