Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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22 Adar 5766 - March 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
From the Excessive Pride of the Six Day War to . . .

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part II

The excessive pride and euphoria that gripped Israel after the success of the Six Day War seem almost comic in hindsight. Even the Left saw a kind of manifest destiny in Israel's success and were wildly optimistic about the future. Yet the conquest, and the humiliation suffered by the Arabs, caused problems of their own that only led to more problems, including the tragedies of the October War that left thousands dead, but Arab pride restored enough so that Sadat felt that he could make peace as an equal. And he did. But what, in retrospect, did Israel gain from conquering the Sinai? Nothing. There may have been no other way, given the pikuach nefesh situation, but in terms of gain and loss there seems to have been no gain.


Ibrahim Achmad El-Ado, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts in the University of Cairo, supplied the ideological basis for the war on the Arab side, so to speak. In a speech before an international symposium on the effects of the war he said: "This was a war to defend (Egyptian) civilization and human tidings . . . The October War returned to Egypt its complete humanity, after washing its shame out in blood . . . the Egyptian combat soldier succeeded in bridging the gap in civilizations as quick as lightning . . . he managed to bring his nation from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century . . . The October War saved Egypt and the Arab world not only from a military defeat but also from a defeat of their civilization."

In light of this evidence, any intelligent person can see that the conquest of Sinai was counterproductive. Of course, we're not relating to the factor of self-defense from the enemy which is a necessity, but rather to the harsh notes of the chorus that accompanied it: the empty national arrogance that intensified the humiliation of the Arabs, and the conquest of large swatches of territories. Only a naive person could have believed back then that the Arabs would just accept such a situation. The consequences were horrifying and horrendous.


Only on the heels of the Yom Kippur War did many people began to think about "what did we gain from the Sinai conquest." In later years, such expressions began to be heard from the public at large about Yehuda and Shomron.

Many began to ask themselves: What is the benefit of being in control of territories in which no Jew ever trod, and anyone who goes there takes his life in his hands? What is the point of territories that added hundreds of thousands of subversive residents to the State, who could walk around amongst us and commit acts of terror, G-d forbid? Was this the forecast and hope of all those who danced in joy for "Greater Israel" after the Six Day War?

Today everyone admits that it was the success of the '67 war that created — ex-nihilo — the artificial problem of "the suffering of the Palestinian people." Since then the population of the territories is only seeking independence. This problem (blown out of proportion by the Left) brought the escalation of the bloody Intifadah and turned all the Arab residents of the territories into potential terrorists, whose goal is simply to shed innocent Jewish blood.

Suddenly it's become clear that the "shining conquest" has become a bone in the throat of Israel that it can neither swallow nor spit out. On the one hand, everyone agrees it's impossible to ignore the Palestinian demands for independence, claims that have broad international support. On the other hand, it's not a simple matter to unilaterally withdraw from the territories and allow a militant and belligerent Palestinian state on our borders. (We do not presume to recommend one way or the other — only to present the complications of the predicament.)

The "shining conquest" and the "liberation of the territories" in the '67 War created a national headache of the first order. The Arabs aren't giving up and are trying to restore their wounded honor; Syria and Iran are doing this with a massive military buildup, which increases the threat to the State of Israel, and the Jewish inhabitants of Yehuda and Shomron and the border towns have been undergoing a wearying, daily Intifadah in the past years, which also causes casualties in the central populated areas.


It turned out that the economic, political and military bubble of hope that the territories held for Israel burst very quickly. The conquest of Sinai brought in its wake the bloody Yom Kippur War, and in the end, the situation was returned to the way it had previously been, by the Camp David peace treaty. The Egyptian territory that Israel held for thirteen years never yielded any real benefit and only brought another war on our heads, and in the end Sinai was returned to the Egyptians then and the Gaza Strip was turned over to the Palestinians in the Disengagement. This fulfilled the verse: "There is a grievous evil that I saw under the sun; riches kept by their owner that cause him harm" (Koheles 5:12).

The Metzudas Dovid explains: "The riches were kept by their owner and he did not lose possession of them, but they were not kept for his benefit so he could enjoy them in the end of his days and bequeath them to his heirs, but rather only for his detriment. Tale-bearers spoke slander about him because of his great wealth and he suffered as a result. "And those riches are lost through an evil design" (Ibid. 13)— then the wealth was lost in the end through the bad that it brought upon the owner, which refers to the libel. He had to spend a fortune in bribes to save himself from the evil designs against him."

As applied to our situation: The conquest of Sinai only led to the shedding of Jewish blood in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War. In the end the Israeli government chose to return the entire territory, with which it had hoped to improve the political and security situation of the nation, because of the troubles caused by retaining that territory itself!

The territories of Yehuda and Shomron also do not validate the hope they generated in the euphoric days of the 1967 War, and many hold that in the political perspective the territories are a drawback and not an asset. (We are not discussing the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisroel, which is not connected to this issue. Every believing Jew awaits the day when the entire Jewish people will dwell securely in all of Eretz Yisroel, as promised in our holy Torah, and hopes to hear the voice of the herald: "kol mevaseir — A voice brings tidings: Set up your dwellings up to Damascus" [Hoshanna of Succos]. But every believing Jew knows that this will become true only in the days of the Moshiach when the shibud malchuyos is removed.)

From this reality we can draw two main conclusions: First of all, Eretz Yisroel isn't acquired through conquests and military campaigns. If the Jewish people does not have the spiritual merit to inherit the Land, the promise of the Land is likely to turn from a blessing into a curse.

"Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse" (Devorim 11:26). The Ohr HaChaim comments that this posuk refers to the promise of the Land: "This gift has a blessing and a curse. The blessing — `that you will heed,' meaning that if you heed the commandments this gift will be a blessing. But `if you will not heed,' it will be a curse for you, because the nations of the world will be jealous of you because of the Land, and you will perish quickly from upon the good Land with great vengeance."

Certain groups speak about the "Wholeness of the Land" (Eretz Yisrael Hasheleimah) as the motivation for their approach which makes settling Yehuda and Shomron into a fundamental principle that can even override certain considerations of pikuach nefesh. They would be well advised to make a serious spiritual accounting. Are all the troubles and incidents of bloodshed coming out of these territories perhaps an instance of a "gift that turned into a curse" as a result of the Jewish people's insufficient observance of the Torah's commandments?

A no less important conclusion is not to be impressed by "successes" — no matter how attractive they may seem. And also not be dragged along with enthusiasm of the masses, who lose their head in the face of "shining conquests" and they get carried away by euphoria. Let us not forget that what appears at first as success may turn into bitter disappointment.

Just like all the enthusiastic forecasts and recommendations that were heard after the Six Day War seem today to be almost comically out of touch with reality, so should we relate to any future successes, especially when achieved by an atheistic government. No one knows what the future will bring, and what will turn out good and what will turn out bad.

We have to place our trust only in the Creator, and not on material successes of one kind or another, of which no man can predict what will come of them.

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