Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shabbat in Kibbutz Saad

Thursday night my wife's nephew got married to a wonderful young lady, who lives in Kibbutz Saad. The wedding was in the kibbutz, and our family was invited to spend Shabbat there.

Kibbutz Saad was founded in 1947 by German orthodox Jews; it is one of the oldest religious kibbutzim in Israel. During the 1948 war it relocated to the other side of the road, and over the years, it became known for its produce, especially its carrots. My nephew's bride's grandfather was a founding member of the kibbutz and still lives there. Her father is one of the kibbutz leaders; her mother is a noted orthodox feminist (No, that is not an oxymoron, though everything is relative.)

My family was a bit nervous about going to the wedding. After all, Saad is within the range of Kassam rockets and mortal shells from Gaza, and has been shelled quite a number of times over the last seven years. On Friday morning, after the wedding, 4 mortar shells fell in the area, 1 in Kibbutz Kfar Azza, around a kilometer away. We weren't at Saad at the time, but two of our children were, and they heard the big boom. (There is an article in today's YNET about folks from Kfar Azza leaving the kibbutz for the Shavuot holiday, which starts Sunday night; the kibbutz is about a kilometer from Saad. Read about it here.) If you are in Gaza, and you are firing rockets, it makes more sense to aim at Kfar Azza, since it is closer. But they often miss. Everybody knows about Sderot, since that town is in the news all the time, but the firing is not just against Sderot. On Friday three other shells fell in the area around, doing no serious damage; the day before an Israeli was killed.

Of course, it is insane that the "border war" – really, a war of our indiscriminate shelling of civilians vs. their indiscriminate shelling of civilians, continues unabated for years. I am not going to point fingers in this post, although readers know where I would point. People on both sides of the border are psychologically rattled, although, let's face it, the Gazans' suffering is incomparable to that of the Israelis by any measure. But it is no picnic for the Israelis within rocket range.

We came, held our breath and left. When we got out of range, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. I can imagine what it would be like to live under constant threat of having a mortal shell land on your house. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in Gaza where, in addition, to all the other daily problems of scarcity of food, polluted water, unemployment that is a result of the Israel's open-ended siege, one also has to live in constant fear not only of rockets and mortar shells, but helicopter shooting, planes, tanks, etc. I am told that people can adapt to the most horrible situations. But it is still incomprehensible.





Anonymous said...


Did you try out your "compensation" idea that you wrote about in an earlier posting on the residents of Kibbutz Saad?. That is, did you suggest that they track down the Arabs whose lands their kibbutz is sitting on and suggest they pay compensation to them? I am sure those Arabs are in a refugee camp somewhere in the nearby Gaza Strip, so it might be possible to find them.

Also, did anyone suggest evacuating all the Jews living within rocket range of Gaza, instead of fighting? After all, the progressives who told the people from Gush Katif that they had no reason to complain because people change the addresses all the time, so the same could be said to these people. It has been announced that the gov't is moving soldiers away from the area, why can't they do the same for civilians?
I just read in the Jerusalem Post that Barak is under pressure from the Labor Party kibbutzim in the Gaza area who are under constant attack to use force before capitulating to HAMAS with their "cease-fire" scheme, otherwise they might vote for somebody else. The article said it is important to "look tough" before Israel gives in. Don't you think that evacuation is preferable to a politically-motivated military operation?

Jerry Haber said...


What "compensation" idea are you referring to? The Arabs whose land the kibbutz is sitting on should -- obviously -- get compensation from the Israeli government, as should all Arabs whose property was taken from them during the war. The Israeli government has never, as far as I know, rejected such a view in any international forum. All they have done is to postpone it until peace is signed.

I don't think I should have pay any compensation for the loss of the property to people whose house my apartment is built on. Where have I said otherwise/ Not in my Baka Lefties post

You obviously missed the difference between the obligation of compensation that the State of Israel has qua state (an obligation recognized by UN since the 1948) to rectify the illegal seizure and annexation of territory in war (according to the Fourth Geneva Convention) and the moral question of using something that you have not paid for. That's what I raised for Lefties.

Frankly, the government has the obligation to provide for the safety of Israeli citizens living wherever they are endangered.That goes for the West Bank as well. I would argue that they have less responsibility outside of the 67 borders, but they still have responsibility.

I think a cease-fire with Hamas, a lifting of the siege on Gaza, and serious negotations with the Palestian Authority government that includes Hamas is preferable to any of the solutions you mentioned.

By the way, under a peace agreement I see no reason why territory Israel conquered during the 48 war not be ceded to the new Palestinian state (that still doesn't necessarily solve the problem of compensation, by the way.) Remember, Israel never has had recognized borders. It makes sense, for the sake of the Palestinians (and hence, for the sake of the Israelis), that territory be moved from Israel to the Palestinian state in Gaza to relieve the overcrowding and make the Palestinian state viable. Given the population nowadays, nobody is calling for a return to the partition plan borders, the only borders the Jews ever recognized (for a few months, anyway.) Since the Israelis and the Palestinians are joined at the hip, as it were, what is good for them is good for us.

In such a territory swap, Jews living in areas would be relocated elsewhere in Israel. I think they would have greater justification for consideration than the Gush Katif folks, but those folks deserved compensation as well (though not the ridiculously high compensation they got.)

I think that covers everything. Chag Sameah

Ben Bayit said...

It is illegal and immoral for someone to profit individually from the spoils of war. It is also against the halacha. Making a distinction between the obligations of the state and of the individual has a place, to the extent that war and wartime activities generally fall under the rubric of samchut hamelech/shilton. but to the extent that YOU as an individual rejects the state's poistion - as you clearly do on your blog - you have a halachic and mortal obligation not to profit from the spoils of war. See RAv Avraham Sherman's article on International War and Halacha for a discussion of the dispute between Rav Uziel and Rav TP Frank re: dealing with the orchards in abandoned fields during shemitta. You obviously have to hold like Rav Uziel and the fruits are not fruits of shemitta. Likewise you cannot profit from the "fruits" of your illegal war plundering. You are simply making a distinction that has no basis in law unless you are willing to accept the State's position on this matter - and as you are not - you must return the flat (or the profits) to some recongnized custodian of abandoned arab property. Keeping the profits is simply gezel. It is not just a moral issue - it is a leagl one as well.

Jerry Haber said...

Ben Bayit, you clearly misunderstood Rav Sherman's article, as well as the mahaloket between Rav Uzziel and Rav Tzvi Pesah Frank cited therein.

Rav Uzziel did not dispute the legality of the state of Israel's establishing a Custodian of Absentee Property, and settling, for example, Jewish refugees in Palestinian homes, or approving sales of those homes. Adrabah, because the state of Israel did not claim ownership of the abandoned property, it showed that even the state of Israel, much less the Palestinian owners or the UN, did not recognize that ownership had changed. So even according to Rav Uzziel, Israelis are permitted to buy and sell property formerly owned by Palestinians. They do it by virtue of the Custodian of Abandoned Property law, and not by virtue of the state claiming onwnership.

Rav Tzvi Pesah Frank said that, takhlis, the Jews owned it, no matter how the State presents it to the world. If that's good enough for him to require taking maaserot, fine with me. That has something to do with the price of bananas, but not much.

Rav Sherman goes on to dis the UN (well, that's a shock), and to claim that territory obtained in a just war belongs to the occupier, and that Israel's wars were just. Just the sort of pilpul that one expects from lawyers -- religious and secular --who shoot first and paint the target around where the arrow lands. Not surprisingly, he attempts to weaken the claim of international law and international conventions, using standard conservative and anti-internationalist arguments that, one suspects, were popular in South Africa during apartheid, Iraq during Saddam Hussein, etc., and the US during the second Iraq war. But, as usual, scratch a rabbi, speaking on matters pertaining to politics, and you will see the ideological agenda underlying it.

I used to waste my time reading this kind of halakhic stuff, but then I realize that it's all pilpul. I must prefer reading experts in international law and morality than rabbis. At least the former cite abundant legal precedent and have expertise and knowledge in their subject.

You can't beat rabbis when it comes to questions of kashrut, shmittah, etc., but I don't ask those kind of she'elot of them.

(Still, I should thank you for giving me the reference. Why is it that Ben Zion Uzziel is so often on the side of the angels?)

As for your accusation of moral hypocrisy, I will -- bli neder -- get to it in the next few days.

Ben Bayit said...

I'm glad you read the piece. I did not misunderstand it - Rav Uzziel's point is clear and Rav Sherman makes that very argument - that once the Custodian was set up and time has passed the de facto changes on the ground become de jure.

The point I am making is that YOU believe that we have to look at the situation as it was in 1947-1948 and that ANY transfer of ownership owing to war is illegal and immoral. SO you are stuck at Rav Uzziel's point at stage 1 when taking over the property is simply gezel - thievery - which makes it a legal issue and not just moral. As far as moral hypocrisy goes - you are the one who said Baka lefties have a moral issue to deal with, not me. However, I do think it is morally hypocritical to suggest that somehow the declaration of the state was illegitimate and that the war of 1948 was illegitimate, and then to profit by it. Let's be honest, nice liberal Jews from abroad bought homes in Baka PRECISELY b/c they were old Arab homes. The pouplation in parts of Baka back in the 1970's was basically no different than much of the katamonim and pat. In the 1950's it was a refugee slum that had a lice infested population and no running water or indoor plumbing (even amongst the Ashkenazi refugees). In the 1970's young couples moving there into small flats were taking a huge chance by moving into a drug-infested neighborhood with lousy schools and a high crime rate. But the liberal Jews went to Baka b/c they liked the Arab houses - that's why they went there and not into katamonim or pat which has slums even though the population they were buying out was the same. In many instances it was even easier to get the population out as they were often considered squatters and thus the liberal Jewss who moved there utilized government to evict the mroroccan "squatters" so they could then "buy" the abandoned Arab properties.

It is certainly not liberal to profit this way from someone else's real estate.

(I also fail to see how the State taking "ownership" is different than setting up a custodian. BTW, the later laws set up a development authority and the custodian was allowed to transfer title to the development authority who could then further sell the properties. In effect the custodian - state body - now manages a pool of funds and perhaps some land as well. If that is somehow different than the state taking "ownership" I fail to see it)

Ben Bayit said...

"At least the former cite abundant legal precedent and have expertise and knowledge in their subject. "

and as such I'm sure you are aware that Yoram Dinstein (no right-winger is he) is of the view that the Jews are not an occupier anywhere in mandatory Palestine and that Michla Pomerance is of the view that Humanitarian Law is so arbitrarily applied when it comes to the area of self-determination as to render it meaningless. Maybe Rav Sherman was relying on their opinions but forgot to quote them in all the pilpul..............