The Occupation

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10 May 2007

Holy and Secular – “Forty years since the liberation of Jerusalem,” the sign at the entrance to the capital declares. “Forty years of occupation,” is written on a sign at an art exhibit in the Tel Aviv area. “The beginning of the era of our redemption,” the rabbi shouted in his sermon. “It was all a mistake,” said an artist whose work was displayed at the exhibit. In my youth, I was once asked, “Why do you live there, what are you looking for in the territories?” And I replied bewildered, “It’s my home, this is where I was born.”

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Rabbi A.Y. Kook explained that every outlook in the world, no matter how much of a lie it represents, has a grain of truth that upholds it. If not for this grain of truth, the false approach would disappear. There is no place in the world for absolute falsehood. Even people who think in a completely wrong and distorted way have a grain of truth at the basis of their claims. Otherwise, their distortion would not hold up.

Usually, when we encounter a mistaken approach we focus on its falsehoods. We try to reveal and rip apart the false elements and the distortions which envelope it. We are sure that if we can explain the mistakes and the distortions to the people who hold the false opinion they will be convinced of their error. Unfortunately, this does not work. Even when we are able to show the other side that their approach is full of contradictions and errors they are not convinced. The grain of truth that supports the approach continues to exist. And therefore the erroneous faith remains.

Rabbi Kook explains that the way to fight a false approach is to take the opposite tack. We should not focus on the lies and the distortions, rather we should look at the grain of truth. When we are able to find the point of truth, it will be much easier to peel away the lies that surround it. When we admit to the other side that in some ways he is right, there is a chance that he will understand that in the rest of his approach he is mistaken. When we reveal the grain of truth, it will no longer provide support for the distortions and mistakes which surrounded it.

Finding the grain of truth will also serve our own goals. When we find the focus of truth in our opponent’s approach, we will also understand our own outlook better. When we “take over” the grain of truth from the other side, our own truth will be more complete.

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The bitter dispute in which Israeli society has been embroiled for the last forty years is related to the areas of Yehuda and the Shomron. In this matter, there is one opinion which at first was very rare, but as the years have gone by has moved closer and closer to the center. This is the feeling that the reason why we must leave the territories is not because of security considerations but because the occupation leads to our own corruption. It is a feeling that to remain in the territories is a bad thing which causes moral and ethical damage to the country.

This approach indeed contains a central grain of truth. The claim that occupation is a bad thing is really true. Thousands of years ago, the Torah taught us, “Command the nation as follows: You are about to cross the boundary of your brothers, the children of Eisav… Be very careful… Do not challenge them, for I will not give you a foothold in their land, for I have given it to them as a heritage…” [Devarim 2:4-5]. The Torah strongly commanded us not to go near the land of Eisav, since it is not our land.

In 1959, the General Manager of the Ministry of Defense at the time, Shimon Peres, proposed that we should take out a lease on a South American country, French Guinea, and take control of it. A proposal of this type is indeed immoral. The idea of taking control of a foreign nation for no good reason is an evil and corrupting concept.

However, the mistake of the political left is not the idea that occupation has a corrupting influence. Their mistake is the basic assumption that puts us in the role of conquerors. The lands of Yehuda and the Shomron are not foreign lands that we have conquered, they are our own home. This is well known to every novice historian.

Even if we cannot convince our opponents that Eretz Yisrael is our home and belongs exclusively to us, it is important to understand the focal point of the dispute with them, and to know what grain of truth leads them to believe as they do.

Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.