Our country, our people, our struggle and extremism

I was not going to post about this topic because I know there are many at Adass Yisrael, the Melbourne Chassidic Charedi organisation, who were upset at what happened and I didn’t want to pour petrol on a raging fire.

Then I received the following video [hat tip MD]. It shocked me to my core. If you understand Ivrit, just a little it will likely do the same to you. Make sure you turn on annotations and captions in youtube for English.

The Palestinian Arab rendition of Hatikva

It is plain to see that they have butchered the words of Hatikva to issue calls for the destruction of our homeland and annihilation of our people. We are sixty short years away from a scourge that made no difference between a Rebbe or Mechalel Shabbos. A scourge that didn’t care if someone was from Satmar or from Mizrachi. The common theme is that

עם לבדד ישכון

But who is the עם?

Two incidents occurred with the approval of Rabbinic decree at Adass on Yom Haatzmaut. Now, nobody is saying that people have to give שבח והודאה to Hashem if they feel that the state is a cataclysm for עם ישראל but is this אחיך בלבביך?

Both incidents are outside the rules of Dinim Mefurashim in Shulchan Aruch according to all Rishonim.

  • We don’t say Tachanun at a Bris Mila (שו”ע, סימן קלא, סעיף ד). The Kaf Hachaim says that even other minyanim in that building don’t say Tachanun כה”ח, סימן קעז. The Mishna Brura says that even if the Ba’alei Simcha aren’t there  (משנ”ב, שם, ס”ק כב). Yet, when a recent Bris was held on the 5th of Iyyar (yes, we can assume that they didn’t accept the 6th of Iyyar this year because that was designed to lessen the chance of עבירות) yet at Adass, the Rabbi declared vocally that Tachanun had to be said. The SADNESS and CALAMITY of the establishment of a State overrode in his unpublished and unsourced opinion (I know about the Chazon Ish 60 years ago) the clear requirement not to say Tachanun because there was a Simcha. Perhaps they should have worn sack cloth at the Bris and said Kinos on the floor? When I look at this action in the context of the youtube link above, I feel sick in my stomach. Isn’t it clear to one and all that Tachanun would not have been said because of a Bris? Isn’t it known that the right-wing Satmar branch of Adass are closer to Neturei Karta and the breakaway than they are to the rest of the community and Adass has lurched to the right over the years, especially as the sane voices of holocaust survivors dwindle.  Would this happen at Chabad? No. Would this happen at Beis HaTalmud? I’d venture to say no. Even though Rav Kotler was no uber supporter, he had a fidelity to Halacha. Someone correct me if they say Tachanun at Lakewood on Yom Ha’atzmaut if there is a Bris.
  • There was a poor Adass fellow who was sitting Shiva for his father. During the Shiva,  the Halacha is clear that we do not say Tachanun. Nobody is talking about Hallel with or without a Brocho or anything like that. Tachanun is not said in the mourners house. Yet, because it was Yom Ha’atzmaut, they decided to say Tachanun in contrast to an open halacha שולחן עורך אורח חיים סעיף ד’ ובמשנה ברורה סק”כ. This is a time when the Midas HaDin is threatening and we dare NOT mention sin (Tachanun) in the house of an Avel. But here, the existence of a State of Israel and the possibility that this might be seen to be supporting Yom Ha’atzmaut, was seen (unpublished and unsourced) as more important than the fearful notion of מידת הדין מתוחה, וצריך ליזהר שלא להגביר מידת הדין עליו

So what does one do? My suggestion is that all who are friendly with people from Adass and who agree with my viewpoint express objection in strong terms and ask them why those who were not happy with the unhalachic ruling, decided to say Tachanun. This is not a הוראת שעה from a נביא.

במקום שיש חילול השם אין חולקים כבוד לרב

I fully accept that the Rabbi(s) who must have issued this ruling are careful with the minutest detail of Halacha and are honest and ehrliche Jews, but I simply cannot reconcile this alleged breach of Halacha in the context of that sickening youtube video.

Nobody says one has to agree with ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו … I know many Rabonim who cleverly say סמיכת when it is politically wise to do so, or who add the word שיהא. These are eschatological matters which really don’t concern me too much. I’m happy with plain גאולה as soon as possible.

I consider these actions as tantamount to matching the antics of the ערב רב who visit and visited those despots who seek to dismantle the only Jewish homeland we have, and have had for thousands of years.

It’s a Shame and a Shande ואין פוצץ פה

Visiting their “Rebbe” Arafat’s Tziyun
Holocaust survivor, Moshe Ber Halevi Beck, with Ahmadinajad, ימח שמו וזכרו

Agudas Yisrael and Yom Ha’atzmaut: then and now

[Hat tip to Mark]
The letter below was penned by famed Rosh Yeshivah of Telz in Cleveland and member of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah in the USA, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch ז’ל. I had heard about the sentiments, but it is all the more powerful when one reads the actual letter. Well, not quite the actual letter, but a translation of the letter, which I lifted from the following article.

    

With God’s help, Sunday, Parashat Bechukosai, 5714

My respected friend, Mr. David Ulman, Shalom and with eternal blessing!

First I would like to express my gratitude to you for contacting me to request clarification with regard to the holiday of Independence without judging or criticising from afar. Now let me respond to the matter with clarity.

  • The copy of the advertisement that you sent to me is indeed correct. Furthermore, this event was attended by the Women of Agudath Israel and Pirchei Agudath Israel. The reason that their attendance was not mentioned [in the ad] is simply due to the fact that they decided to attend later [after the flyer was published], and they became an official part of the evening’s program.
  • Before we discuss the actual matter we must first clarify the following questions:
    1) Is Yom ha-Atzma’ut a worthy matter for the Ultra- Orthodox community to deliberate and to express a stance regarding it[s celebration]?
    2) Is it worthy of celebration?
    3) Is it worthy for the members of Agudath Israel to unite with the members of Mizrachi in a fashion which allows us to express our approach and influence others to act according to the spirit of Agudath Israel?

In my humble opinion, one must respond to these questions as follows:

  1. The independence of Israel and the establishment of the State are important events in the life of our nation. It is worthy for members of Agudath Israel to participate when there is a possibility to express their thoughts and views before a large forum in order to influence them regarding the approach of the Agudah and to refute the negative sentiments against Agudath Israel.
  2. In my opinion, despite all of the defects and deficiencies in the leadership of the State of Israel, its mere existence, which happened via revealed miracles, is of great significance that deserves recognition and appreciation. This recognition must be publicly expressed for two reasons: First, because the truth must be expressed. Second, that all should know and recognise that our war against the Government of Israel is not targeted against the existence of the State.
  3. Participation with Mizrachi in a fashion that Agudath Israel is free to express its views was recognised as the correct approach by creating a religious front that Agudath Israel is always willing to renew. Although I know that we disagree with Mizrachi on our fundamental beliefs, and in no way are our views consistent with each other, and consequently our actions are totally different, still there are many issues on which we can work together and, through this, strengthen the ultra-religious and its influence on the life of the nation.

After this preface let’s discuss the issue of our participating in the celebration of Yom ha-Atzma’ut. The collective meeting for Yom ha-Atzma’ut was not particularly festive; it was simply a symposium conducted by all the Orthodox factions and gave everyone the opportunity to express their views. Of course, if we would not have attended, the meeting would have turned into a platform focused on criticising Agudath Israel and its leaders who are the “Gedolei ha-Torah.” Our participation on the other hand caused the speakers to speak politely and allowed Agudath Israel to express its views in front of more than one thousand people. Hence even if we would not have related to the State of Israel in a positive fashion, our participation would still have been of value. However, in my view since the creation of the State of Israel is indeed an important milestone in the life of our nation, our relationship to it, therefore, is positive, and our participation is obligatory.

Our participation together with Mizrachi is despite the fact that the religious political front was canceled. In Cleveland there is a religious front by the name “Orthodox Jewish Association” comprised of representatives of ultra-orthodox synagogues, Agudath Israel, Mizrachi, Young Israel and representatives of the educational institutions of the ultra-orthodox. A condition was established that if there is any issue with which one of the participants disagrees, the organisation cannot act. For example when rabbi… came here as the representative of the so-called Jewish Agency’s Torah Department, during their month of propaganda, and most of the organisation’s members were willing to participate in an open forum, Agudath Israel and our educational institutes did not agree, despite our personal relationships with rabbi…. Of course Mizrachi acted independently, but not in the name of our joint religious organisation. Due to this organisation, thank God, we were able to eliminate non-kosher at United Jewish Appeal banquets and gatherings and accomplish other positive outcomes that strengthened the religious position and its respect in the community. Therefore, if we would not have agreed to organise the Yom ha-Atzma’ut gathering of course we could have stopped the organisation from attending. However, our view is positive [towards Yom ha-Atzma’ut] and therefore we did attend. It is noteworthy that nothing was done without consulting with us. We oversaw all preparations to insure all would be in accordance with our interests. For example, no irreligious attended and all women sat in a separate section behind a Mechitzah etc….

To summarise, I feel it correct to clarify why this was conducted this year and not in previous years. The reason did not emanate from our side but from the side of the other factions. In past years all the Zionist factions would conduct the gathering in accordance with their approach and of course we are neither part of them nor their ways. But this time they approached us with a proposal that the gathering would be only with religious people in accordance with the spirit of Torah and asked us if under these conditions we would be willing to participate. And thus, despite the fact that this year we are actually at war with the Mizrachi even more so than in previous years, we still feel it was the correct approach to demonstrate to them that on issues on which we are in agreement we can work together.

In general, I already expressed my view that we lost a great deal by refraining from recognising correct issues just because the irreligious and those manipulated by them, the Mizrachi, agreed to them, because through agreeing with them we would have strengthened their false opinions. In my opinion, our views did not find receptive hearts within the nation not because of our stance against their incorrect views; rather it is because of our negative position against the correct views such as learning Bible, speaking Hebrew and Eretz Yisrael. The populace cannot understand our concerns and, moreover, when we emphasise our positive views they will accept us and allow us to fight the falsehoods. In addition, I must express that this attitude of ours is not unique to our life in America. We acted this way in Lithuania as well despite the fact that then, as now, we were totally zealous concerning anything that, God forbid, is not in accordance with the spirit of Torah. We did not regress because of persecution, denouncement and sometimes even suffering, sorrow and much damage to our holy Yeshiva.

With this I am your friend, I respect you and bless you, 

Eliyahu Meir Bloch

Tachanun on Yom Ha’atzmaut

I understand but do not accept the view of Hungarian Satmar, Toldos Aron, Shomer Emunim and similar, that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan and should be rejected. Such a view, in the opinion of many great sages is not justifiable, and its tenuous reliance on the three oaths is seen as an halachic fiction.

I understand, but do not agree with the view of Chabad and some other Chassidim and Misnagdim, that “it is what it is”. They contend that the establishment of the state wasn’t a necessary event in the development of events leading to the Mashiach. However, given that the State is a reality, they will support the people within the State. Chabad, for example, refrain at all costs from saying the State of Israel. Listen carefully. They will always say Eretz Yisroel, following the practice of the last Rebbe, who I believe only referred to it as the “State of Israel” but once.

I understand and accept the position of those who see the State of Israel as being an eschatological reality created by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and that it will eventually lead to ובא לציון גואל, but who will either

  • not say hallel
  • will say hallel without a bracha
  • will say hallel with a bracha

They do not disagree with the metaphysical importance of the State, but have halachic techno-legal reasons for their particular practice. For example, the Rav didn’t say Hallel and at Kerem B’Yavneh we said Hallel without a Bracha.

I do not understand why people who do not agree that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan (e.g. Satmar) or who are passively ambivalent about the eschatological significance of a State (e.g. Chabad) not only say Tachanun, but insist on saying Tachanun. It is related that the Chazon Ish, who was saved from the events of the Holocaust by no less than the efforts of Harav Kook ז’ל, insisted on saying Tachanun.

In Melbourne, a number of years ago, when a Bris occurred at the ultra-orthodox Adass Yisrael congregation, Rabbi Beck insisted that Tachanun be said davka because it was Yom Ha’atzmaut and that it would be entirely wrong for someone to come away with the impression that Tachanun might not have been said on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

It is well-known, that Chizkiyahu the great King, in whose generation the Gemora tells us (in Sanhedrin from memory) that Torah study and knowledge was in a high and unprecedented state, failed to materialise the Geula because Chizkiyahu became too haughty and felt that it was unnecessary to utter special praise (Shira) to Hashem and thank him for the miracles that Hashem wrought on Am Yisrael.

Shira, praise and thanksgiving, is the power to see the illumination of the future in the present. It is the power to perceive our existence as a link between the past and the present, and the power to raise everything towards an all-encompassing Geula.

Therefore after crossing the Red Sea, in “Shirat Ha’Yam” – it states: “Az” Yashir. Az– “Then,” past tense, is a reflection on the past, “Yashir” – “will sing praise” in the future tense. There is the joining and encapsulation of the past and the future, thereby giving meaning to the present.

The Torah is also referred to as “shira.” We seek to find Hashem in every nook and cranny and aspect of life—in every corner. This is the approach to Torah that elevates the world. Torah that creates a superficial division between the Yeshivah and the external, real world, is not the ideal.  Yahadus desires to interpret everything, and of course, especially the manifestation of God’s name

It is possible to study Torah as in the days of Chizkiyahu, to the extent that even the children are expert at the laws of tumah and tahara, yet still the Geula is hindered and delayed.

Yeshayahu expected Chizkiyahu to offer praise, and sing shira to elevate the entirety of reality. Chizkiyahu failed and the world was set back in reaching its goal.

One’s individual Torah, despite it’s great value and benefits, is not termed Shira. Only the transcendent Torah that strives to see how everything is bound to Hakadosh Baruch Hu is described as shira.

Those who separate the Torah from the State as if they are two entities are not singing.  This is how Rav Kook explained the criticism of Chizkiyahu. “That in his days briers and thorns covered Eretz Yisra’el,” for Chizkiyahu did not demonstrate how the Torah is also connected to the land.

In justifying Chizkiyahu, some have posited that the miracle of his victory over Sancherev was not as great as the sun standing still (in the days of Yehoshua) and that is why Chizkiyahu didn’t sing Hashem’s praises. Mortals, however, are not qualified to  judge which miracle is greater or more substantial. Judging such things is an expression of haughtiness, and this is what Chazal meant.

Shira dissolves the temporal manifestation of ingratitude, as supplied by the Yetzer Horah.

What is most puzzling to me is that even those who don’t recognise the need to especially sing to Hashem still insist on making this a day like any other and continue saying Tachanun. Yet, on their own days of celebration (e.g. a special day in a Chassidic court), they suspend the saying of Tachanun.

Why?

Yom Ha’atzmaut: Remembering Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal הי’ד

If you have not heard of Rav Teichtal,

A younger Rav Teichtal, הי''ד

may Hashem avenge his murder by the Nazis, I suggest you borrow or buy a copy of אם הבנים שמחה Eim Habanim Semecha (EHS) which has also been translated into English. Rav Teichtal is known throughout the world of Halacha, as the famous Posek and author of  Responsa שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר. In fact, I’d venture to say that many Rabbis, save the centrist or religious zionist, would only know of him because of his שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר. Most certainly, when I was a lad, most people, including centrist and religious Zionist Rabbis hadn’t heard of  אם הבנים שמחה because the Charedi anti Zionist world banned the book and exerted extreme pressure on the family not to republish it.
When I was learning in Israel, there was never a time that I went into a bookshop without asking whether they had a copy. The closest I got, was just before I left, when someone gave me the address of a family member, and suggested I might try knocking at their door. I didn’t have the guts to do that. How pleased I was, some twenty years later, when it was republished. When it appeared in English, I was both surprised and not surprised. I was surprised that something I couldn’t lay my hands on appeared in English, but given the compelling nature of the Sefer, I was not surprised that others sought fit to translate it with haste.

Rav Teichtal was the long term Av Beis Din and Rav of  Piešťany, in Western Slovakia.


On the 10th of Shvat 1945, as Rav Teichtal was transported to the concentration camp in Mathhausen. Rav Teichtal’s son related (see introduction to EHS)

After starving their victims for a number of days, the oppressors tossed each of them a meager crust of bread, with the evil intent of having them fight pathetically for their paltry allotment. Indeed, one of the Ukrainians grabbed the portion of a Jew – my father’s neighbor – who was desperate for this crust of bread. This angered my father, who demanded the return of the theft. The other travelers begged my father not to get involved, since it might cost him his life. But he said “How can I stand by when the wronged man’s life depends on this food?” Indeed he insisted on taking a stand, and the Ukrainians, with the cooperation of the Nazi soldiers, rose against him and killed him, after torturing him mercilessly.

Prior to the the outbreak of World War 2, Rav Teichtal was as anti-zionist as his mentor, the Minchas Elazar of Muncasz. Rav Teichtal had written anti-zionist polemics like the majority of his Hungarian Charedi colleagues. Describing the views of the Muncazer, Rav Teichtal wrote (EHS):

 “The Minchas Elazar opposed resettling and rebuilding the Land [and] based his entire opposition on the idea that salvation must happen with miracles and wonders. In his opinion, anyone who tries to [bring salvation naturally] denies the redemption which will occur miraculously.”

Rav Teichtal הי''ד later in life

During the war, while hiding in Budapest, he wrote (EHS):

“A large portion of our Israelite [European Jewish] brethren who
were killed would have been saved if they had already been in Eretz
Yisrael. And now, who will accept the responsibility for the pure
blood which has been spilled in our time? Similarly, all those who
deterred the Israelites from going to Eretz Yisrael and participating
with those building [the land] cannot purify themselves and say:
‘Our hands have not shed this blood.’
“Those [anti-Zionists] who have a predisposition on this matter
[fleeing to Palestine] will not see the truth and will not concede to
our words. All of the evidence in the world will not affect them, for
they are smitten with blindness, and their inner biases cause them
to deny even things which are as clear as day. Who amongst us is
greater than the [twelve] spies [meraglim]? The Torah testifies that
they were distinguished, righteous individuals. Nonetheless, since
they were influenced by their desire for authority, they rejected the
desirable Land, and led others astray, causing this bitter exile…
[These] spies were prejudiced by hidden motives. The same holds
true in our times, even among rabbis, rebbes, and Chassidim. This
one has a good rabbinical position; this one is an established Admor,
and this one has a profitable business or factory, or a prestigious
job which provides great satisfaction. They are afraid that their
status will decline if they go to Eretz Yisrael. People of this sort are
influenced by their deep-rooted, selfish motives to such an extent
that they themselves do not realize that their prejudice speaks on
their behalf. People of this sort will not be convinced to accept the
truth, even if they are shown thousands of proofs from the Torah…
The holy kabbalist [Rabbi Eliyahu of Greidetz] who resembles
an angel of the Lord of Hosts states explicitly that the reason
there are tzadikim who oppose [aliyah] is because the kelipot [evil
forces] have become strong within them. It entices them to nullify
this great matter for which the Holy One Blessed Be He constantly
longs. He longs for us to return to our forefathers’ inheritance, for
every Jew has an obligation to strive to return to our Holy Land, as
I will prove unequivocally from the words of our Sages.

The מקובל Rav Eliyahu Greidez, mentioned above, was none other than Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher, ז’ל to whom many Jews in Poland flocked, to receive ברכות and advice, and in whose memory Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu was named.

The Kabbalist, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher ז’ל, one of the theological founders of Religious Zionism

Perhaps the most heart-rending story that served to motivate Rav Teichtal to be transformed from an anti-Zionist into a religious Zionist was (see here) :

“What can we say; how can we speak, and how shall we justify ourselves? God has found the sin of your servant.” I shall tell you a story.

In a small town there was a shamash (sexton) of a synagogue who died, leaving behind a widow. The people of the community thought about how they could provide her some financial support, for at that time there was no pension for widows. Perhaps it would be possible to allow her to continue the work of her late husband. On the other hand – it is not proper for a woman to serve as the shamash of a synagogue. Eventually it was decided that she would carry out those activities that could be performed outside the synagogue, while the tasks of the shamash during prayer times would be filled by the worshippers themselves, on a voluntary basis. Thus the woman would be able to continue earning the salary that her husband had received.

It came time for “selichot,” and as part of her job the woman had to get up and go about from house to house in the village, waking the people for selichot. She took the special “selichot stick” in her hand and headed for the most distant house in the village – the home of Weiss Shendor. When she knocked on the door, Weiss Shendor awoke, alarmed at the disturbance at such an unusual hour. When he opened the door and saw the wife of the shamash, he asked what she wanted. She explained that as part of her duties she had to go from house to house, waking everyone for selichot. When Weiss Shendor heard this, he tried to persuade her that it was not seemly for a woman to go about outside so early in the morning, in such cold and wet weather, and that it would be better if he did the job in her stead. The woman accepted the offer and handed him the “selichot stick,” and Weiss Shendor set off to waken the people.

Upon knocking at the first house he was asked to identify himself. He answered, “I am Weiss Shendor, and I have taken it upon myself to waken the people for selichot.”

The house owner was incensed. “Weiss Shendor? A pork-eater like you isn’t going to wake me forselichot!” With that he slammed the door and went back to sleep.

He went off to the second house and again came the question, “Who is it?” Again he gave the same reply, and again the same response: “Weiss Shendor? A Shabbat desecrator like you will not come and wake me for selichot!” Again a door was slammed in his face.

The same thing happened at the next house: “A swindler and gambler like you will not wake me forselichot!” – and so on, at every house throughout the entire village. The wake-up round ended with nothing more to show for itself than a trail of scorn and disdain. Not a single person got up for selichot.

When the congregation was gathered for the morning prayers, the rabbi asked: “What happened this year, that no one came to the synagogue for selichot?” The people started justifying themselves and explaining that it was all Weiss Shendor’s fault. He was a shady character who was notorious throughout the village; it was he who had come to awaken them for selichot, and that was why none of them had come.

“Fools!” responded the rabbi. “It’s true that Weiss Shendor is guilty of everything that you’ve accused him of, but this time he was waking you for selichot; he wasn’t doing any of the bad things that he’s known for. So why didn’t you get up?”

[Here Rabbi Teichtal burst into tears and shouted:] It’s true that the Zionists desecrate Shabbat and so forth, but it was they who awakened the nation and shouted, “Get out of the rubble; the gentiles hate us, there is no place for us except in Eretz Yisrael” – and we didn’t listen!

Let us only hope to be worthy of correcting the distortion and having God accept us in the promised land”

These days, alas, not much has changed in respect of the Hungarian ultra-Charedi establishment and the State of Israel, as seen by the following Pashkevil (click to enlarge), appearing now in Jerusalem.

Pashkevil condemning Yom Ha'atzmaut: 2011

Charedim and the State of Israel: then and now

This story originally appeared in שבת בשבתו in 2001 in a weekly Parsha sheet put out by מכון צומת and was retold by Rav Aviner.

During the 1929 riots, on Friday, the 17th of Av, rioters ran wild throughout the country, cruelly ransacking and murdering. In the afternoon, thousands of inflamed Arabs stormed out of the Mosque of Omar after being saturated with the hateful incitement of the Mufti, Haj Amin Al-Huseini, and marched forward, armed with knives and clubs. Most of them advanced towards the neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael, with cries of “Slaughter the Jews.” At the head of the inflamed throng marched an Arab sheik, waving a long sword and firing up the rioters not to have pity on men, women or children, since it was a holy war — a jihad.

Jaffa Gate

When the rioters reached the Italian hospital, two Charedi youths emerged from the flour mill at the southern edge of Meah Shearim and advanced towards the rioters. One of them, who had curly side-locks flowing from under his hat, pulled out a pistol and shot straight into the mouth of the sheik walking in front, and he died on the spot. The inflamed masses were seized with fright and they began to flee in the direction of Damascus Gate, while the two youths chased after them, throwing a hand grenade which killed three more rioters. Moreover, the rioters trampled one another to death during their escape.

That same bearded youth who fired the pistol was the saintly Rabbi Aharon Fisher, father of the illustrious Rabbi Yisrael Ya’akov Fisher,

Rav Yisrael Ya'akov Fisher ז'ל

Chief Rabbinic Justice of Edah HaCharedit in our own times [now ז’ל, this was correct in 2001].

The next day, the great Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld,

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ז'ל

who lived in the Old City, had to go to Meah Shearim as a Mohel [circumciser]. His family and friends were terribly worried about him, and they begged him not to go, but he insisted. He would not forego the mitzvah.

The eighty-year-old rabbi, clad in his tallit, walked to Meah Shearim not by way of Jaffa Gate, but by way of Damascus Gate, a troublesome spot even in normal times. He walked calmly along the same route where thousands of murderers had walked, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of circumcision, and he returned by way of Jaffa Gate. When he was later asked why he went precisely by way of Damascus Gate, he responded, “So that the Arabs would not think that they had succeeded in banishing the Jews from even one corner or street in Jerusalem.” And why had he returned by way of Jaffa Gate? “Such is my regular custom, in order to fulfill the words, “Walk around Zion. Circle her” (Psalm 48:13) (BeDor Tahapuchot, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Sonnenfeld, pages 226-229;393-396).

It is well-known that the illustrious Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was not a Zionist. Quite the contrary, he ascribed to the opposite view. He was the most Charedi of Charedim, and an opponent of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.

To say that the Charedim did not sacrifice themselves for this land is a severe libel.

Meah Shearim was established on a spot where people were afraid of bandits.

The Charedim sacrificed themselves for the Land, or more precisely, for the word of G-d, who commanded us to settle the Land.