Eretz Yisrael Time

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Sunday, April 02, 2006
Reprint of: Ibrahim's Mirror
Posted by David Bogner on April 2, 2006

This is a very troubling post to write, and it will be doubly so if people leave comments based on their prejudices rather than their intellect.

My intention is to demonstrate an example of how even relatively small disputes here in our region often have many layers of complexity. Much as we would love them to be... things are rarely black and white. As you will soon see, there is plenty of blame to go around.

There is a man who does some light yard work for us from time to time who, for the sake of this post, we'll call Ibrahim.

Ibrahim lives with his wife and children in a neighboring Arab village, and like many people in his village he cultivates a few dunam of table grapes to supplement his meager income. The land he farms is his by legal purchase and document, but he has had several recent disputes with his Jewish neighbors over where exactly his property ends.

In a recent show of solidarity with Israeli residents in my area, a visiting group of American Jews spent a few days enthusiastically planting trees out on the hills between our town and Ibrahim's. Whether by accident or design they planted many of the trees on Ibrahim's land.

It is Ibrahim's opinion that the trees were deliberately planted there to create facts on the ground that would eventually erode his claim to the land. I've tried to assure him otherwise, but in my heart I'm not so sure.
Ibrahim is not a wealthy man and did not consider for a moment pursuing a solution to the problem through legal channels. Instead, a few nights ago he went out and hooked his beat up old tractor up to the new trees and one-by-one, pulled them up by the roots.

Whether his action was expected or someone simply overheard the tractor and called the authorities is still not clear. What is clear is that the police arrived and promptly arrested Ibrahim. Not only that, they impounded his battered old tractor to boot.

Ibrahim pleaded with them not to confiscate his tractor as it was essential to his ability to work his land and provide for his family... but the more animated and agitated he became the more adamant (some witnesses even say spiteful) the police commander was in assuring him that he had lost the tractor forever.
Finally the police called in some IDF soldiers to help subdue Ibrahim and make sure there was no trouble from the large group of men from his village that had gathered on the scene upon hearing the noise and seeing the flashing police lights.

This story is terribly troubling to me from many standpoints.

First of all, as much as people would like to say otherwise, the land in this area has been extensively surveyed and everyone living here has had ample opportunity to present documentation showing their claim to all parcels of land that are inhabited, cultivated or even idle.

I'm not talking about the issue of 'occupation' or 'conquered land' at the moment, but simply about land that was legally purchased by, deeded to, or inherited by private individuals. Of course, landmarks change... surveyors make mistakes... and documents are sometimes forged or altered. But for the sake of the small picture, the people here know pretty much to the inch who owns what.

Therefore, if a well-intentioned bunch of foreign Jews head out to plant trees, they almost certainly have a very good idea on whose land they are planting them. After all... this kind of thing doesn't happen without some local guidance.

Secondly, although the laws in this part of the world may seem rather primitive or arcane to an outside observer, there are laws... and Ibrahim should have known better than to eschew proper channels in order to take the law into his own hands. By taking the course of action he did it now appears to the courts (real, and of public opinion) that he was doing the land-grabbing and not the Jewish tourists (or the local Israelis who organized the tree-planting outing).

Lastly, with tensions always high in this area I have to question whether the intention of the Israelis who sent the Jewish tourists out to plant trees wasn't to use their combination of enthusiasm and ignorance to shave off a few precious meters of Ibrahim's land, knowing he was too poor to mount a meaningful legal challenge.
I've shared this with you today for several reasons.

First, no matter who you are or where in the world you are reading this you likely aligned yourself with one side or the other based more on who you wanted to see as right rather than who had the stronger claim to actually being right.

Second, in almost every modern altercation over property in this part of the world, mistakes are made... poor judgment is exercised and blame can easily be assigned in more than one direction.

Lastly, if you honestly disagree with the previous two points I have some news for you:

What I have told you to this point is nearly all true.

The only minor details I have changed (which shouldn't matter to a fair and balanced consideration of this case) are the following:

a) Ibrahim is not my sometime gardener... he is the husband of my children's piano teacher.

b) Rather than being a Palestinian farmer from an Arab village who cultivates a few dunam of table grapes on legally purchased land... he is a Jewish farmer from a legal settlement who cultivates a few dunam of wine grapes on legally purchased land.

c) The contested tree-planting was not performed by a bunch of American Jewish tourists under the guidance of some local Israelis, but rather by a bunch of European tourists at the behest of local Palestinian leaders.

Everything else is exactly as I've described it... legal title to the land where the trees were planted... taking the law into his own hands... the confiscated battered old tractor... the IDF troops called, etc.

Of course you are free to continue reading the news as you always do, and to award the black or white hat to the players based on your current world view. But I try very hard to read the news as if with a mirror.

Wherever and whenever possible I try to reverse the roles, religions, nationalities and motives of the players involved to see if my sympathies remain as firmly in place.

I am here to tell you that when I have looked at the news using such a mirror, neither Israeli nor Arab comes away wearing pure black or pure white.

I don't expect to change anyone's mind here... and this was actually not my intention. I just want some of my readers to try using what I've come to think of as 'Ibrahim's mirror' for a few days to challenge their own objectivity.

See the original post with comments here.


Anonymous said...

joe, the issue is in fact non-existant because under Halacha no Goy is ever allowed to own any land in any part of Eretz Yisrael. They are not even allowed to lease fields. So rather then looking through ibrahim's mirror you should look through Halacha, and according to Halacha those Arabs never had the right to any land anyway, and even considering their rights we are performing a Avera by allowing a legal possibility of Goyish control of Eretz Yisrael.

JoeSettler said...

Did you even read the post?

Why don't you go and complain to the Sanhedrin?

Anonymous said...

Great post, inspiring work, Joe Settler, w/nice O. Henry-esque twist at the end.
Needless to harp (or diatribe/monologue :-() Civil Rule, versus Military, will minimize such injustice. Would challenge anonymous' Halacha interpretation, too, but not here. Ge'er Tova have rights in the Talmud, and all depends on how one poskins - ways can be found for the Stranger, if one truly desires.

JoeSettler said...

Go to Treppenwitz and praise him. He wrote it.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous Halacha guy: in this situation, we can't bring our own laws and ideas to say that the Arabs have no right to Ereyz Yisrael. I go to school in London weaing a kippa among all peoples- muslims and arabs included- and i would never think of bringing the idea you brought up into conversation: whether or not it is Halacha!

Anonymous said...

Joesettler, is there any way for your friend to get his tractor back?

And while his post may have been irrelavent to the subject anonymous is correct that goyim are forbidden from owning land in Eretz Yisrael, and yes Ger Toshav do have rights but there is no Halachic debate that they may not own land. There has been consistant halachic agreement on this issue from the Gemara.(check out Gemara Sanhedrin) Through today. Check out Rambam Mishne Torah Hilchos Melachim and Kol Torah Shebaal Peh by the Chazon Ish.

David what is your point? So YOU wouldnt bring up Halacha in London that is irrelevant to the fact the the Halacha applies in this day whether or not the Goyim like it.

Milhouse said...

While it is indeed forbidden to sell land in EY to a goy, it is crystal clear in halacha that goyim can own land in EY, and if they do it is their property, just as much as a Jew's property is his.

For instance, in any discussion of mitzvot hateluyot ba'aretz, you will find specific mention of whether a goy's property is exempt. Generally it is - hence the heter mechira; the controversy is over whether the sale is a) permitted, and b) genuine, but nobody claims that a genuine sale, whether permitted or not, would not be effective.

And a goy's property in EY must be respected, and must not be stolen. Instead, it's a mitzvah to buy such property, so much of a mitzvah that the deal may be concluded even on Shabbat. According to our anonymous halachic expert, we should just take the land! Why pay money for it, and conduct business on Shabbat?

Indeed, open a chumash and learn Parshat Behar, and you will learn that a goy can even buy a Jew as a slave, and the Torah recognises the validity of this transaction, and commands his relatives to buy his freedom, not to simply kidnap him from his owner and set him free. And this law applies specifically when yad yisrael takifa, because at other times it doesn't matter what the halacha says, the goy is going to take no notice. So let's hear no more of this nonsense, Rabbi Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

milhouse, you are wrong. A goy may lease certain types of property but may never own Land in Israel. The Rambam rules this way as does the Chazon Ish in Kol Torah SheBaal Peh. The sources you quoted are refering to land leased to goyim not owned.

In fact the Mitzvah incumbent upon Jews is to CONQUER Israel, not buy it. If we are too weak for conquest then we resort to buying. This is the opion of the Ramban and it is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch.

In fact Goyim are forbidden from owning Jews but if it is only possible to rescue a Jew from slavery through purchase then he is bought back. The maccabees went to war to rescue Jews and the Rambam comments it was a great Mitzvah.

JoeSettler said...

New rule.

Anyone who wants to say that it is assur/mutar for a goy to buy/lease land in Eretz Yisrael must now bring chapter and verse for their position. No more the Halacha says, or the S"A says, or the Rambam says.

You want to make claims, then back it up like you were in Yeshiva or a Beit Din.

You also must also prove it within 5 (non-run-on) sentences.

Anonymous said...

kahaneloyalist: my point is that we can't back ourselves up to the world by quoting TaNa"Ch or Talmud to them!Neither can we chuck people off their property because it says we can in whatever verse!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. joe - knew it wasn't yours, compliment was for bringing the post forward from Treppenwitz, and will go and tender kudos there, too.
"Ge'er Toshav" (not my previous mangling) important issue. Know basically nothing, near Apikores, except seems cat among pigeons...?

Non-Halachically would say no Land ownership to anyone who's not taken LOYALTY OATH and Citizenship; leased Land possible but revocable to peace-keeping residents (non-citizens). Figure Gedolim can find way.

Re: - Mitzvah to CONQUER. Israel too "weak" to create direct representative government = too weak to Conquer. Must buy for now, when former changes can discuss latter.

Anonymous said...

joesettler, alright here are a few of the many sources that hold as I wrote.

The original source for expelling the Goyim is Devarim 12:29

Rashi on Gemara Gittin says it is a Mitzvah to expell the Goyim and take their property ches amud beis.

Rambam Hilchos Shabbas perek vav halacha yud alef rules the same way.

Also check out Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 306:11

Ramban Sefer HaMitzvos Mitzvah number four it is a Mitzvah to conquer all of Eretz Yisrael and we must fight the nations there as we fought the Sheva Haamim whatever the time. The Ramban rules it is Avodah Zara to not perform this Mitzvah.

Ohr HaChaim wrote in his perush on Bamidbar perek lamid gimel pasuk nun gimel if we dont drive out the inhabitants we will be unable to conquer all of Eretz Yisrael and we will lose what we do conquer.

Rambam Hilchot Melcahim in the mishne Torh perek vav, Also Hilchos Issurei Biah perek 14 explains what exactly a Ger Toshav is and part of a Ger Tosha is a inability to own land. according to the Rambam ibid. only a Ger Toshav amy live in Israel.

While there are some differences on the exact definition of Ger Toshav see Ravid's perush on Rambam hilchos Melachim and Ramban perush on Devarim perek chaf pasuk yud alef all agree Goyim may not own land in Eretz Yisrael.

The Chazon Ish wrote in a letter published in Kevetz Torah She'Bal Peh wrote that it is issur for a Jew to sell any part of Eretz Yisrael to a Goy and if a Jew does so they should be put in Cherem. He went on to say that "if this was a government that feared Hashem they would expell the Goyim".

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu wrote a public letter forbidding the ownership pf Land in Eretz Yisrael by Goyim, it hasnt been publsihed in a ny books yet so I cant give a source.

On a related not the Rambam wrote in Iggeret Taiman(page 183 in my edition) there is no greater enemy to the jewishg people than Yishmael.

JoeSettler said...

That was more than 5 sentences.

Anonymous said...

kahaneloyalist: The sources you bring do *not* support your claim that a non-Jew is forbidden by halacha to own land in Eretz Yisrael. You are completely misrepresenting some of these sources. Some of them are red herrings that have nothing to do with this issue, while others *do* deal with the issue, but say the exact opposite of what you claim.

I don't have time right now to address every one of the sources you cited, but I'll deal with a few of the most important here.

The Rambam in Hilchot Shabbat 6:11, which you cite, says that a person who buys a house in Eretz Yisrael on Shabbat is allowed to tell a non-Jew to write up the purchase contract, since the Rabbis don't forbid telling a non-Jew to do a melacha on Shabbat if it would stand in the way of settling Eretz Yisrael. This halacha has absolutely *nothing* to do with "expell[ing] the Goyim and tak[ing] their property", as you purport.

Regarding the Rambam in Sefer HaMitzvot #4: The Shivat HaAmamim are (1) the Hitti, (2) the Girgashi, (3) the Emori, (4) the Canaani, (5) the Perizi, (6) the Hivi, and (7) the Yevusi. They do *not* include other nations, even the other nations in and around Eretz Yisrael that B'nei Yisrael fought against, such as Ammon, Moav, Amalek, Edom, Aram, and Plishtim. According to nearly all opinions, the Arabs are Yishmael -- not part of the 7 Nations, and therefore not covered in Mitzva #4. (This should not be interpreted as minimizing the threat of Yishmael to Am Yisrael -- but that threat hardly justifies your twisting and misrepresentation of this halacha as explained by the Rambam.)

As you state, the Rambam defines the conditions imposed on a Ger Toshav in Hilchot Melakhim 6. But he does *not* say that those conditions include the "inability to own land", as you claim. To the contrary, in Halacha 4, he states as follows: "The king [of Israel] should stipulate with them that he will [a] take half of their money, or [b] [take] all of their land while leaving them their chattel, or [c] [take] all of their chattel WHILE LEAVING THEM THEIR LAND". Thus, the Rambam is stating very clearly that the king may choose an option that explicitly allows a non-Jew to own land in Eretz Yisrael -- in direct contradiction of your claim. (In fact, this halacha alone settles the whole argument, since it directly invalidates your claim.)

You cite Hilchot Issurei Biah 14 as another place where the Rambam prohibits a Ger Toshav from owning land. In fact, the Rambam says no such thing there -- that perek doesn't even mention anything having to do with owning land.

The Hazon Ish's letter says, as you correctly state, that "it is [a]ssur for a Jew to sell any part of Eretz Yisrael to a Goy". This is a far cry from saying that a goy is unable to own land in the first place. (I presume that you comprehend the difference.) You are thus misrepresenting the Hazon Ish, too.

I'd say that you failed Joe's challenge. And not just because you used more than 5 sentences.

JoeSettler said...

Solid response.

I'm also cancelling the 5 sentence rule.

Anonymous said...


First and foremost I quoted the RAMBAN's sefer Hamitzvos not the Rambam.

And the Ramban says to fight any nation that is in Israel as you fought the Sheva Haamim. So any nation must be fought as we fought the Sheva Haamim. So it is correct that we dont fight the nations around Israel as we fought the sheva haamim but we do fight anyone who is in Israel.

The Chazon Ish also said that if the government feared God they would expell the goyim this obviously precludes goyish ownership of land.

I will get around to showing I am correct in my interpretation of the Rambam as well once I have a chance to check the sources

Anonymous said...

The previously posted comment was deleted, modified and republished below. Whatever your opinion, there is a NO CURSING rule on this blog, don't break it again.

I dont care what the arabs can own cannot own in Israel. The fact that they are our enemies means there is an obligation to destroy them and to thrown them out. Since when did it become 'halacha" to let a murderer rent a room in your house? The big shot experts here are full of **** and are trying to evade the essential issue through clever use of "interpretation". The halachot of arab land ownership mean didly squat when that arab has sworn to kill you (which amounts to that thing know...hillul HaShem)

JoeSettler said...

(I meant the previous anonymous post, not kl's).

Anonymous said...

kahaneloyalist: Sorry about the confusion between the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Ramban and the Rambam. However, it doesn't change anything. The Ramban says that we have to conquer Eretz Yisrael and fight the nations there. Nowhere does he say, suggest, or imply that a Ger Toshav from one of those nations cannot own land.

Your statement that since the Hazon Ish said that a God-fearing government would expel the goyim, "this obviously precludes goyish ownership of land", is a total non-sequiter. It most certainly does *not* preclude goyish ownership of land; you are simply putting your own words into the mouth of the Hazon Ish.

Finally, regarding your "interpretation" of the Rambam: To back up your claim that the Rambam prohibits a Ger Toshav from owning land, you cite Hilchot Melakhim 6 -- where the Rambam says the EXACT OPPOSITE! Please explain: If it is assur for non-Jews to own land, then how can the king allow them to retain ownership of their land, as the Rambam says in Halakha 4? This COMPLETLY refutes your assertion. I look forward to your explanation of how your claim regarding the Rambam can possibly be correct in spite of H. Melakhim 6:4, which explicitly contradicts it.

To anonymous: Please show me where I said that there is a halacha that you should "let a murderer rent a room in your house". I never even addressed the issue of whether the Arabs should be expelled. (For the record, I happen to think that they should definitely be expelled.) I was responding to kahaneloyalist's specious assertion that the halacha prohibits a non-Jew (*any* non-Jew, btw) from owning land in Eretz Yisrael. No such halacha exists. You begin your post by declaring that you "dont care what the arabs can own cannot own in Israel". So then stop reading these comments, because we do care, and that is the subject of our discussion. Please spare us your obtuse ravings and foul mouth.

Anonymous said...

Since there is some debate regarding my initial sources hear are some additional sources that are even clearer
Talmud, Avoda Zara 21a
Rambam, Hilchot Avoda Zara 10:1-6
Shulhhan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 151:7-10

Anonymous said...

The problem with this rule is that the facts are spun in the news to make an objective person side with the people/group/terrorists that they happen to want them to. So although this is a step in the right direction it's not a cure all.

Anonymous said...

I love your website. It has a lot of great pictures and is very informative.

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