Recent political developments in the State of Israel and the upcoming Annapolis meeting of Middle-Eastern leaders and American President George W. Bush will be front and center on the minds of the thousands expected to attend part or all of Agudath Israel of America's national convention, which began on Thursday and will continue through Sunday. In fact, the Saturday night Keynote Session at this year's convention will be dedicated to "The Threat to Divide Jerusalem: The Torah World's Response," it was announced late last week.
Jerusalem's mayor, Uri Lupolianski, is scheduled to address the large crowd expected at the convention, the organization's 85th, at the Stamford (Connecticut) Westin Hotel
A strong protest of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's expressed willingness to consider relinquishing parts of Jersusalem to Palestinian control is expected to emerge from this Keynote Session, and may be followed by a formal resolution of censure the following morning at the conventions close. The Annapolis meeting with Mr. Bush, which will be attended by Mr. Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and others is scheduled to convene two days later.
Agudah is an organization led and funded by laymen, most of whom harbor Zionist sympathies. Many rabbis participate in Agudah and are given the chance to speak, but in the end the agenda is set by Zionists.
Still, Agudah, in particular its American branch, has rarely taken such an openly Zionist stance before. Whatever Zionist activities the Agudah carried on in the past were done with the pretext of their need to cooperate with the Israeli government in order to "fight from within." But now the Agudah is taking a stance that is actually more Zionist than the Israeli government. They are speaking out in favor of Jewish rule over Jerusalem, whereas the Israeli prime minister is willing to relinquish that rule.
During this confusing time, in which we have already seen some Modern Orthodox Jews taking a stronger Zionist position than the Israeli government itself, we had hoped that Agudah would at least keep silent on the issue.
In an attempt to counter the effects of the Agudah convention, the Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada is hanging the following poster in Jewish neighborhoods:
Jewish brethren, hear us!
Our brethren in Eretz Yisroel, living in a war zone, are in constant mortal danger; the arrogant heretical regime continuously arouses the anger of the Arab nations. For the sake of their pride and desire for power, the Zionists think nothing of sacrificing thousands and myriads of Jewish lives. They already carry on their heads the responsibility for the thousands of lives lost in the many wars they have waged since their state was founded.
Unfortunately, every year it becomes more and more clear how correct and far-sighted our rabbis in the previous generation were when they raised their voices in warning of the terrible threat to the Jewish people posed by the Zionists, who transgress the Three Oaths: that the Jewish people must not ascend to the Holy Land en masse, that they must not rebel against the nations, and that they must not force the end of exile.
The Zionist state is a complete denial of the principles of Jewish faith and an affront to the kingship of G-d, because it constitutes rejection of G-d's decree of exile and the substitution of a human redemption in place of G-d's redemption. It is this state that is preventing moshiach from coming, as our Sages say (Sanhedrin 98a), "The son of David will not come until the lowly kingdom is gone from Israel."
Ever since the Zionist state was founded, the Jews' situation in the world has only become worse and worse. The Zionist-Arab conflict has come to involve all the nations of the world. Jewish blood has been spilled like water in countless battles, great and small. Furthermore, because many Jews in countries around the world support the Zionists in their wars, anti-Semitism has risen dramatically. Jew-haters in many countries have begun to threaten local Jews, who now live in constant fear of attacks.
With all this in mind, we are stricken with shock and disbelief when we see that a religious organization, which takes upon itself to speak in the name of traditional Orthodox Jewry, intervenes and expresses its opinion about the efforts undertaken by the nations of the world, and in particular by the leader of our enlightened country, President Bush, to make peace between the Zionists and the Arabs. At their convention in the United States, in which thousands of Jews will take part, they plan to publicize their opinion that it is forbidden for the Zionist state to return territories it has conquered in the area of Jerusalem in exchange for peace.
Trembling seizes all who hear! Who can take upon his shoulders the responsibility to involve the religious community in such a complex and dangerous issue? And specifically, how can religious Jews come out openly in opposition to the leaders of all enlightened nations, who believe that compromise can prevent bloodshed and spare us from wars?
And worst of all, this convention gives the impression that the Torah view and the desire of the religious community is that the holy city of Jerusalem should stay under the occupation of the Zionists, who falsify the ancient Jewish longing for Jerusalem, replacing it with the heretical idea of nationalism.
How can we be silent at a time when Jews who keep Torah and mitzvos, speaking in the name of the Jewish people make such foolish and provocative statements before the nations of the world, arousing hatred against all Jews?
It is our obligation at this time to again publicize the true Torah view that the very existence of the Zionist state is a rebellion against the holy Torah and the Jewish faith; and that it is the Zionist state that prevents our redemption from coming.
As individuals, we have no power to put an end to this misfortune; we only pray that G-d have mercy and cause the state to dissolve on its own without any harm to human life. G-d forbid for us to interfere in matters that affect the lives of millions of Jews, which are hanging by a hair. We must only pray to G-d that He inspire the gentile leaders to save our Jewish brethren in Eretz Yisroel, and may we soon hear the announcement of the coming of moshiach, amein.
Erev Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach, 5768