Homesh and Al Walaja are two villages separated by religion and thirty-two kilometers. Both are currently declared “illegal” by the Israeli government. Homesh was initially evacuated in 2005 as part of the disengagement from Gaza. That disengagement included four West Bank settlements that had been built illegally—taking Palestinian lands. In recent years, there have been attempts to re-establish this settlement.
Tragically, last week, an Israeli was gunned down by a passing Palestinian car as he exited from the Yeshiva bus. His memory should only be for a blessing. However, his presence at a site that the Israeli government had destroyed sixteen years ago led to his violent and unfortunate death. No one should be killed for learning Torah in this day and age. And there are nearly unlimited places inside the state of Israel and in legally defined places in Judea and Samaria where Jews can learn Torah and live a life they see fit.
I mourn Yehuda Dinentman’s (zl) needless death, because it came about as a result of hubris and a lack of understanding of the first ethical thrust of the Jewish people—the dignity of each and every human being. This was land that the Israeli government said belonged to Palestinians and it was that fact that led to the Israeli government in 2005 forcing evacuation from this settlement. Yehuda Dimentman’s memory should be for blessing—and we should never condone the death of anyone by violence.
I am a strong believer in the vision of the Zionist dream. I am also a firm believer that “two-states for two people” remains possible. I believe that minority residents living in the Jerusalem municipality deserve an opportunity to live without fear and with the hope that their identity will not be used to compromise their inheritance. These two villages represent two very different realities impacting the State of Israel. In the case of Homesh, it impacts the possibility of ensuring a resolution for the Palestinian people and their desired state. For the villagers in Al-Walaja, it is their established connection to this neighborhood—but for which they cannot gain legal recognition. As Jews, we are called upon to resolve both cases with an eye towards equal justice. Both of these cases are calling out for resolution. Ensuring that Homesh remains “illegal” enables the possibility of one day seeing peace between Israel and the Palestinians emerge. As it relates to Al-Walaja, it is to demonstrate that we are finally able to implement a Biblical ideal that is repeated thirty-six times in Torah. That ideal and ethical norm is to treat the minority person in your midst as one of your kinsfolk themselves. We remember the slavery in Egypt where such was not the case. It should be the case in the modern state of Israel for generations to come even as we continue to fulfill our inalienable right to return to Zion.
Rabbi Morris Allen