Imagine if the Knesset passed “חוק היובל”.
וְקִדַּשְׁתֶּם אֵת שְׁנַת הַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל יֹשְׁבֶיהָ
“We commit after 50 years of settlements to release our attachment to land so that order can take hold. We love our land, but the Jubilee teaches us that owning it all is not an end unto itself. We sanctify this 50th year by promising peace, the holiest gift we can offer. We reach out to our Palestinian neighbors and hope that they will negotiate with us in earnest.”
This law would be meaningless practically of course. It certainly wouldn’t bring peace tomorrow. It wouldn’t change our bargaining position vis-a-vis settlement blocs either. But it would be an affirmation to the world, our neighbors, and to ourselves that we want this situation to end and that we are willing to make sacrifices to make it happen. The Bible could finally inspire us to peace, my dream as a religious Zionist.
But instead the Knesset adopted a different, equally meaningless but equally momentous law. The “Regulation Bill” allows Israel to claim private Palestinian land from its owners in exchange for other land or compensation. It paves the way to legalize many illegal outposts. It is meaningless because it’s basically a sure thing that the Supreme Court will strike it down. But it is momentous because this is what our government has decided matters: Not peace, but grabbing more land as our own. We have decided for Palestinians that we are allowed to take their private land. The Palestinians didn’t vote for this government but even their land is subject to its rules. I fear that this bill proclaims that our thirst for land is deeper than our need for peace or even for democracy.
The Torah teaches “You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”. I wish our government would take this teaching to heart.