Jerusalem : source of conflict, symbol of peace

Speech presented by Rabbi Weiss, March 2, 2003, at the International Conference on Jerusalem/Al-Quds

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss

Spokesman for Neturei Karta International

With G-d’s help, may He grant that my words be pleasing to Him and find favor in His eyes. ASalom Aleikem. I first would like to thank my dear friend…

I have been asked to speak about Jerusalem, that wondrous and holy city that figures so much in today’s news and that has often figured in the history of the human race. For as long as history is recorded, men have been drawn to this city.

I hope to convey to you, honored guests, a few basic facts about the Jewish approach to (Al Quds) Jerusalem which may well surprise you. Our opinions of current events are often shaped by those with control of the media, by wealthy powers little interested in truth. That which may be of the most elementary opinion to me, who has grown up as a believer in the Torah may be something that has been drastically subject to media blackout. Thus, what may be basic to me may well be very novel to you.

Muslims today are also victims of the calculated ignorance and conscious distortions of the media. Therefore you may understand that I have come here not only to teach, but also to learn about you and from you. Here in this place where we may speak freely away from the media-induced lies and superficiality, perhaps a few morsels of truth may be pleasantly digested.

But before we turn to current issues, it is worthwhile first to look back at some of the history of Jerusalem. What is the magic of this city? Why does it draw so many Jews and non-Jews? And as we begin out subject, let us define the word Jerusalem.

(Al Quds) Jerusalem is derived from a Hebrew word (Yerushalayim), the root meaning of which is subject to variant understandings in our tradition. Its most basic meaning is that of a “City of Wholeness.” (Yeru Shalem). Others read it as a “City of Peace” (Yeru Shalom). All of these alternative interpretations are viewed in our tradition as true. Jerusalem is a city in which the fear of G-d is palpable. It is a city in which one may find spiritual “wholeness.” Finally, Jerusalem is in essence a “City of Peace.”

And in Shalom His abode and His dwelling will be as it was in Zion. The peace that once existed has especially in the last century not been realized, not in a physical and this-worldly form. Yet the potential for real peace, a peace among men and among nations, is greatest in Jerusalem, for there the great holiness of the city exudes true peace.

And now the agonizing question that haunts us all is, Why is the “City of Peace” today very often a city of war and violence?

In this century in particular, peace has eluded the city. The first half of this century was marred by many riots, the largest of them being in 1920, 1929, and 1936, and during the war of 1948 Jerusalem was a battlefield.

In 1967 the city was once again a battlefield. And to this very day the streets of this Holy metropolis still run all too frequently red with blood.

And the question still stalks us, Why? Why is this so?

Many so-called experts have their opinions as to the nature of the Middle Eastern impasse. We believe that these analyses may embody parts of the truth, however at the end of the day they remain flawed, because they are missing the Divine element. They are missing the core religious dimension.

I am sure that many of you know, the Neturei Karta was formed in the Holy Land in the mid 1930’s. It brought together many Orthodox Jews living in Palestine of diverse backgrounds who were united in their opposition to Zionism. Of course they all shared the deep, traditional and Torah-based reverence for the land. Their ancestors had settled in the Holy Land centuries before the advent of Zionism. We have heard it told from the elders of the movement how up until the advent of Zionism, Jews and Palestinians lived in peace in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land. These pious Jews who traveled to Jerusalem and Palestine had no grandiose aspirations, and certainly no yearning to create their own State. All they strived for was to perfect themselves in the service of G-d, and they essentially abandoned their physical comforts and pleasures in order to achieve this spiritual goal.

We have heard how the Neturei Karta continued, even after the difficult times of the 20’s and the 30’s, to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbors. Stories abound how, in the midst of the most difficult fighting of 1948, the old Orthodox inhabitants refused to have anything to do with the Zionist army and were treated respectfully by the so called “hate filled, anti – Semitic Arabs.”

But this anti Zionist persuasion was not simply the philosophy of Neturei Karta of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. From the time of Zionism’s inception it was nearly uniformly opposed by Orthodox Jews and their Rabbis around the world and in fact those great rabbis warned their followers that the result of the Zionist endeavor, would be tragic. That it would lead to endless pain, suffering and bloodshed, being that such a movement is in direct opposition to G-d.

This point is often difficult for outsiders to fathom, especially since they are daily treated to media stories about “ultra-Orthodox settlers” being among the most violent segments of West Bank radical militant Zionism.

When I speak about Orthodox Jews, I am referring to traditional Orthodox Jews who are interested in maintaining the age-old Jewish approach to exile and redemption. The West Bank types are emphatically at war with Jewish tradition on all of these matters.

In addition to the specifically Torah opposition to Zionism, with respect to the specific attempt to leave a G-dly-decreed exile and the creation of a false redemption, the Torah clearly prohibits also the killing, stealing, and oppression of another people, and there exist also in the Torah innumerable other transgressions of man to his fellow man which are constantly being violated by these West Bank radical militant Zionists, the so-called “ultra Orthodox settlers.” Contrary to this rude behavior, there was always the conviction among the traditional Orthodox Jews that it was illegal and criminal according to the Torah to seize control of the land from those who had been living there for centuries. The holy land was not “a land without a people” by any means, as the Zionists first stated.

But let us proceed slowly. What is the Torah-based opposition to Zionism? It is really quite simple.

We know the exile of the Jewish people to be a Divine punishment for sins. This led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This state of exile cannot, must not, and is forbidden to be rectified by material means. We are forbidden by G-d to create a Jewish State, end of story!! The end of exile is completely dependant on our repentance as a people. In fact, all attempts to hasten this process are doomed to failure. The Talmud relates that these attempts no matter how ingenious will result in terrible bloodshed. The record of the State of Israel, with five wars in fifty years, endless killing and consistent failure of all peace plans is ample testimony to the inherent failure that accompanies pre-messianic efforts to end exile.

Of course, the obvious question is, aren’t we the same as the Zionists, only that we posit to take over the land sometime in the future?

The end of exile means the following in the traditional Orthodox Jewish belief:

a) That G-d alone without any human intervention will end the exile; for He wants to show that He is the one Almighty, and He does not need assistance from His subjects.

b) At that time when He will reveal His Kingdom and His Sole Rule to the entire world, everyone together will recognize His rule and all will serve Him in harmony and in happiness.

c) VeAsu kulam agudah echat laasot retsoncha belevav shalem.

They will all make a bond together to do your will with a complete heart and good will.

As it states on the wall by the Dog Hamishol Plaza opposite the United Nations, a verse from Isaiah: “…They will beat the swords into plowshares… The wolf will dwell with the sheep.” G-d will make a new world wherein the spirituality will reign and be open to all. This is something that with out present this-worldly vision is incomprehensible:

…as a bird cannot understand how a fish swims underwater and as a fish cannot comprehend the abilities of the bird to fly;

…as it is futile to explain to a blind man the differences in color between red, green and black;

and no explanation will suffice until G-d opens the eyes of the blind to see and to understand what could not be comprehended before, so it is with the understanding of these future happenings: the advent of the Messiah, the end of our this-worldly status: of ingrained hate, war, animosity, the evil inclination.

And so our yearning for the Messiah, and our ultimate redemption, is in no way detrimental to any nation or individual; on the contrary, we are all together in this and we will be serving G-d in harmony and in bliss. Therefore that is to say not with coercion and with military might or force will this revelation come about, and obviously this being the case this revelation and redemption is devoid of military force and coercion.

Zionism was created by non-religious Jews; they viewed exile as an inherently physical failing and weakness (since Zionism is devoid of the spirituality of Judaism with its inherent G-dliness), and therefore they viewed the redemption as simply a mater of physical rejuvenation in the form of military victory in order to end our current failing material situation.

Zionism attempts to falsify the holy future by equating the present status of the so-called State of Israel with the Torah concept of redemption as if it is one and the same.

And so by confusing the Holiness and hopes and yearnings of the Jewish people with the G-dlessness and spiritual deprivation of Zionists, we have given birth and indeed created a breeding ground for all the mistrust and the questions asked by many. However, when the truth will be revealed and the day of redemption will appear, then all of this mistrust will automatically fall away.

In short, Zionism and the Zionist State have no equivalence to the religious Holiness and hopes and yearnings of the Jewish people; on the contrary, their hopes and yearnings are diametrically opposite – Indeed, the name Judaism, Jewish Nation, Jews, Jewish State, and the Jewish Redemption, and even the name Israel and the term “the State of Israel” used by them is false and fraudulent: a total sham.

We as Jews don’t want this false redemption; we are waiting patiently for the revelation of G-d and only for His Redemption: for when His name and kingdom will be revealed, honored and exalted.

We are thoroughly humiliated and deeply pained by Zionism, the so-called “State of Israel,” and by the actions and deeds which are constantly being perpetrated by them – and all being done in the name of Jewry, the Jewish people, the Jewish nation, the Torah and G-d Himself.

It is therefore no wonder why highly intelligent and esteemed scholars conclude that this is the inherent nature of the Jew to carry out these kind of actions and deeds, and in their bewilderment to comprehend how so-called preachers of the holy religion can so believe, they consequently determine that the words of the Torah must be heaven forbid falsified, and that the actions of the Jews throughout history must also have been a result of this (supposed inherent) deprivation.

It is important therefore to allow a few minutes for clarification of this terrible error.

The Holy Torah was given by G-d to (Moshe Rabeinu) the Prophet Moses on Mount Sinai, which was witnessed by the entire Jewish nation, and they all heard how G-d first spoke to this entire nation and then to Moses. The Torah was then handed down to the prophet Joshua and to later prophets and judges and kings and leaders of the Jewish nation, without any void of time missing between that process of transmission, Indeed, it is well known that if even one letter is missing or changed in the Torah Scroll, then that Torah Scroll is rendered meaningless and unusable for any of the required Torah readings. Therefore, for someone to state that a portion of the Torah was falsified or false additions occurred is simply not true and cannot be possible. The Jewish people have always strictly abided by G-d’s commandments and all the millions of Jews throughout the generations had the same exact text; they would never allow a change which automatically renders the Torah Scroll false.

Now the question was asked, How can one understand why then the Torah states that it was G-d’s commandment to kill women and children. This is a topic which is dealt with in depth by the rabbinical scholars. Time constraints may not allow a full discussion of this subject at the present time, however you should know that the Torah and its commentaries are open to all to study, so feel free to pursue these issues. The issue is most pertinent to the fact that we are constantly being commanded by G-d to emulate Him and His holy attributes, as it is written and taught among our people, “Just as G-d is compassionate, so must you be compassionate” and so on, and I believe that if you will just ask your grandparents how their relations were with their Jewish neighbors, then you will hear that the G-d-fearing Jews were universally known for their compassion and goodness.

Only with the inception of Zionism has this monster been created: the picture of a Jew who is the opposite of compassion and goodness; but this has nothing to do with the Torah or the continuity of Judaism. And to equate the actions of the Zionists with the holy actions of the Jews who followed the words of G-d through Moses, Joshua, the prophets, etc., is a tragic mistake. In this mistake you are falling into the trap of Zionism which wants to legitimize their criminal endeavors by claiming that their actions are in the name of the Torah.

And the Zionists furthermore vilify the Muslim by stating that this conflict is between the Muslims and the Jewish religion.

Don’t be deceived by their words. The Jews have lived amongst the Muslims for over a thousand years mostly in peace and harmony, despite our having different religions.

The reason why animosity and mistrust has exploded in this last century is because there is a new boy on the block: the secular G-dless Zionist movement – and not because of the different religions: these religions are the one and the same that have co-existed peacefully for ages. The Zionists love it that you refer to the Torah in explaining Zionism and their actions. Don’t be their lackeys. Understand that they have nothing to do with the Torah or the Holy Land, the Land of Israel. They are simply the incarnation and embodiment of evil!

Based on the Torah’s ethics we are furthermore appalled by the Zionist treatment of the Palestinian people throughout this century. Hence we publicly condemn Zionism on theological and moral grounds, for we are required to do so according to the righteous dictates of the Torah.

And this, my friends, is the answer to Jerusalem’s suffering. Being that the root cause of all of the problems is the Zionist ideology and its child the Zionist State, and being that this ideology and the so-called “State of Israel” is in and of itself a sin of the worst kind, and being that this sin is incurring G-d’s punishment upon the Jewish people and upon the world as a whole…

Therefore as long as this sin exists, even if hypothetically all of the Palestinians and even the entire Arab peoples would agree to its existence, G-d’s punishment of the Jewish people and of others who are connected to this fray, and the endless resulting bloodsheds in the world will not cease. This is because the mere existence of this apostasy is a rebellion against G-d which constantly causes G-d’s judgment and punishment.

We therefore point a finger at the Zionists and accuse them as being the reason for the suffering. Only a total end to this illegitimate State is the solution and this includes of course the transformation back to the indigenous people the Palestinians, the rightful owners, and our fervent prayer is that this should happen peacefully and speedily – until that time there G-d forbid will be no peace.

Things look bleak at present for our wonderful city Jerusalem. But we are optimists. We are optimists because we know for a fact that in the long run God does not allow evil to remain triumphant, as the Torah itself states, “Why are you transgressing the word of G-d, for it will not be successful.” From this verse our Sages teach us that anything that is done contrary to G-d’s will will not be successful.

Let us mention a few men who stood up for the good and the true, men of justice and faith, and compassion, from whom we can all learn.

On July 30, 1924, Dr. Yaakov Yisrael De Haan (may his memory be blessed) was killed by a hit squad of the Hagganah.

Was he a Muslim extremist? No. He was a Dutch Jew who had found his way back to Torah under the guidance of Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld (may his memory be blessed). Together they visited Muslim leaders to secure peace before the establishment of the Zionist state. They had visited the Emir Hussein and his son Abdullah. He was killed, as admitted by the murderers themselves years later, because in their words, “De Haan aspired to create an alternative to the Zionist movement. This was the danger of De Haan.”

Let us not forget that the heroism of De Haan in the cause of peace found many in the Arab quarters who were equally committed to righteousness, compassion and reconciliation. For example, during the riots of 1929, as Arabs poured out of the Jaffa Gate, the prominent community leader FakhriBey al-Nashashabi and others stood and convinced many members of the crowd to go home. They risked their lives to save Jewish lives, and other Jews who found themselves in the midst of this battlefield against the Zionists would turn to Talal Pasha (the leader of the Arab Legion in 1948) for protection. He, insurgents and the Arab Legion took them under his wings and fully protected them, so that not even a hair from their heads should be harmed. Afterwards he saw personally to their transfer to Mea Shearim; even after the terrible tragedy that befell his Legion, he safely secured their resettlement.

Also in Lebanon, during the Zionist invasion, we were repeatedly told by many how the P.L.O. and Yasser Arafat protected the Jewish quarters.

I could go on and on, but time does not permit.

My friends, these are our models. They stood for true peace and reconciliation, and they risked their lives, and, in De Haan’s case, they paid for it with their lives.

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Jerusalem will yet see peace. Jews and Palestinians will yet live in harmony. With G-d’s help, the state will be dismantled (and we fervently pray that this will happen speedily and peacefully), the injustices will then be righted and the peoples of the Holy City will unite in peace and prosperity. This temporal peace will ultimately bring about the divine peace foretold by the prophets, when all mankind will gather to call in the name of G-d as brothers. May it happen speedily and in our days, Amen.

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