Mar 28, 2005
The Honorable Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister of Israel
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
The Rabbinical Council of America represents almost one thousand Religious Zionist Orthodox rabbis, located in America, Israel, and around the world. We have accumulated a seventy year history of support and identification with the State of Israel, modern Zionism, the men and women who serve in Tzahal, and our fellow Jews throughout the length and breadth of the land of Israel. Many of our members have made aliyah, some even bringing with them members of their congregations and communities. And every year we hold a conference in Yerushalayim, the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people.
We write this open letter to you, at this time, in the matter of the pending withdrawal from Gaza.
We do not take a position as an organization either in favor of, or opposed to, the withdrawal. Indeed we, like Jews all over the world, are deeply divided over this very difficult matter.
And we are also very mindful of the words of our beloved deceased leader and teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, when he said in 1970, regarding the withdrawal at the time, “I do not live in Eretz Yisrael and I have no right to express my opinion on these matters… In the areas of territory, policy, and pikuah nefesh – the experts are the Chief of Staff and the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces, and the government of Israel. If they will conclude that it is possible to compromise over territory without threatening the life of the yishuv and the existence of the State, we should rely upon them.”
Thus we too do not presume to offer an opinion on the matter of withdrawal, to you, to your government, or to the experts in Tzahal.
Nonetheless, Mr. Prime Minister, we are particularly concerned for the unity and brotherhood of Jews, not just in Israel but around the world. We fear deeply that unless special steps are taken to prevent communal strife and violence, there will be untold damage to the fabric of the people of Israel and the Jewish nation all over the world.
For this reason we write to you to respectfully urge that you consider a national referendum on the subject of withdrawal. Only by doing this, we believe, will the people in the vast majority, accept whichever decision is made, and then be ready, willing, and able, to move forward as one nation into the future.
We understand the argument that a referendum will delay implementation of your intended steps, and we also understand the argument that the Knesset can act without going back to the people for a national referendum.
But we would submit, with all respect, that even if true, it would be better for the nation, and especially for those opposed to your stated intention to withdraw, to let the people speak, in full democratic fashion. What is at stake is much more than territory. It is the unity of the Jewish nation, and the fundamental principle of ahavat Yisrael.
We therefore urge you, even now, to consider and put in place, a referendum of the citizens of Israel.
Sincerely, and with love of Zion,
Rabbi Kenneth Auman
Rabbi Basil Herring
Executive Vice President