Reply to Menachem Gesher

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Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum replies

My response to Rabbi Lamm’s opinion piece in the Forward had absolutely nothing to do with the fight between Torah Jewry and Modern Orthodoxy as you seem to assume. I simply took issue with some of the views and general statements he expressed. You write that “The security concerns is just a convenient cover.” You’re entitled to your opinion but there are lots of people that disagree with this simplistic assessment. There are plenty of brilliant generals and security personal in Israel that have very serious security concerns with the disengagement. Meir Har-Tzion a very close friend of Sharon and a famed legendary fighter against terrorism claims that “Sharon has gone crazy” and his disengagement plan can lead to “a Holocaust.” He says that “Soldiers should willingly go to jail rather than fulfill such orders.” He warns that “A Palestinian state will be the beginning of the end for us.”

As brilliant a General as Ariel Sharon may be, strong US and world pressure can force him to make decisions that he would not have made as a General and is only making because of the political gun being held to his head. A casual study of history will prove that many brilliant generals and heads of state made very “brilliant” mistakes. History books are replete with examples of failed peace agreements and mistaken policies made by “brilliant” heads of state. Israel’s “brilliant” war hero, General Moshe Dayan made some terrible mistakes during the Yom Kippur War and so did then Prime Minister Golda Meir. It nearly cost the destruction of the entire country. I strongly suggest you read Robert McNamara’s book in which he reveals the “terrible, terrible” mistake made by the U.S. government’s Vietnam policy and offers some important insights into the wisdom of presidents. He also exposes some myths about the reliance on our “brilliant” foreign policy advisors. The disaster brought about by the Oslo agreement is but another example.

Perhaps it proves once again that people’s blind faith that the government possesses infinite wisdom and superior knowledge, and therefore must be trusted blindly, doesn’t always hold water. It proves that government can err greatly and be totally oblivious to all logical arguments, and that it can even find grounds to court-martial dissidents who disagree with its misguided policy. The government cannot hide behind a smoke screen of supposed classified information or superior brainpower. The dangers of an incorrect decision can have far greater and graver consequences for Israel than the Vietnam War had for the USA. One dare not leave it to the Israeli government alone to decide the fate of more than three million Jews. In fact, the fate of the Jews in Israel has a direct bearing on the fate of every Jew in the world, and therefore every Jew must be allowed to voice his opinion without being told “It’s none of your business. Don’t meddle into our affairs.”

While you claim that “the correct approach of Torah Judaism should be – no approach, since nobody is sure what will save lives and what will endanger lives,” many rabbis have no doubts and are in fact convinced that it will endanger lives. Past experience has proven them right.

By the way, it’s not our being in the West Bank that makes us “lucrative targets for Arab terrorists, etc.” but rather our residing anywhere in the entire country that turns us into a target. It’s time you understood that they don’t want us anyplace, except perhaps in the Dead Sea.

It is high time for the Israeli government to acknowledge that even the most extreme right-wingers are not against peace itself but lack faith in what is currently labeled as the “peace process,” or the “road map.” While they may lack a better solution, they have every right in the world to offer their criticism and peacefully protest.

I don’t know what our past gedolim like the Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav zt’l would have said about the present situation and only those on their high level can read their mind. My father zt’l. as well as all gedolai Torah all knew that Israel’s survival is dependent on keeping Torah and mitzvos because that’s what it says in our holy Torah. Had we listened to them, we would not be in the present situation.