Sharona Margolin Halickman

The spies of our generation

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

According to their website, Jewish Voice for Peace is the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world. They explain: “We organize our people and we resist Zionism because we love Jews, Jewishness and Judaism. Our struggle against Zionism is not only an act of solidarity with the Palestinians, but also a concrete commitment to creating a Jewish future we all deserve. We are fighting for a thriving Judaism and Jewish communities, for a municipality of Jewish cultures and for the future of the Jewish people.”

The viewpoint of Jewish Voice for Peace, which may seem shocking, is actually nothing new and goes back to the ten spies who were afraid to go to Israel and convinced the rest of the nation that Israel wasn’t worth their while. Because of their actions, those spies died and B’nai Yisrael spent forty years in the wilderness while that entire generation died out.

We read in Bamidbar 14:37: “Those men died- who spread evil slander against the land- in a plague, before God.”

Why is it so bad that they spread evil slander about the land? Does the Land of Israel get insulted?

According to Rav David Stav, we learn from the Torah a basic way in which we are supposed to behave. We can argue and disagree, but we shouldn’t speak evil about the land. We will all be hurt if the Land of Israel has negative vibes associated with it.

Rav Stav explains:

Throughout history there have been groups of Jewish people who rejected Israel and tried to disassociate themselves from the land. There have been different excuses and the result was that they remained in exile.

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi called this phenomenon “cherpa,” disgrace, as it says in Sefer HaKuzari, “You found the place of my disgrace.”

In Tehillim 106:24 which summarizes the history of B’nai Yisrael in the wilderness, there is an allusion to the spies: “They despised the desirable land, they didn’t believe His word.”

At the end of the day, those who relate to the Land of Israel will be able to go there and connect with the Jewish nation, while those who despise the Land will remain outside in the wilderness.

Rav Stav concludes:

The Zionist movement is a continuation of the process that the heads of the nation like the Vilna Gaon and his students already put into motion. They wanted to attach themselves to the Land of Israel. The Zionist movement is the “tikun,” correction for the sin of the spies. Those who love the land, even if they have differences amongst themselves, will always remember that it is a “land flowing with milk and honey.” If we remember who gave it to us as a gift and refrain from despising the desirable land then we will reach the level of Kalev ben Yefuneh, one of the two good spies, who said (Bamidbar 13:30), “We can surely go up to the Land and we shall possess it.”

The entire Jewish religion is centered around Israel. Just open a Tanach (Bible) or siddur (prayer book) and you can’t escape it. Most of the Tanach takes places in Israel or revolves around the yearning of the Jewish people to return there. Our holidays are set up according to Israel’s agricultural calendar as are our prayers for rain. Three times a day we pray asking to return to Zion and for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

While not every Jew can make aliya at this time or even visit due to all different types of circumstances, that doesn’t mean that they don’t love the land or that they aren’t yearning to return.

May all Jews who love Israel have the opportunity to come back home!

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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