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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=63659&mador=1&datee=12/19/99

Is the Golan in the Holy Land?

By Shahar Ilan, Ha'aretz Sunday, December 19, 1999

While there is no real halachic argument over the West Bank being an integral part of the Land of Israel, or "Eretz Israel," the Golan Heights are different kettle of fish. There is no consensus within the rabbinical community as to whether or not the Heights are a part of Eretz Israel, and thus holy ground.

With halacha, as with wine, a ruling's value grows in proportion to its age. In politics, however, there is a particular importance given to what rabbis of the present generation say, especially the spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. It appears that on this topic, the rabbi has already formed an opinion. Yosef's ruling, which appears in the book "Yechaveh Da'at" (part 2, 11), treats the Golan as outside the borders of Eretz Israel, and thus, outside of its sanctity.

The ruling responds to the question of whether Israeli soldiers on the Golan and in the Sinai should pray for rain at the times determined for Jews within Eretz Israel or for those residing outside its borders. The starting point of Yosef's ruling is that the Golan is outside the borders, and "a land next to Eretz Israel." He writes that "we are discussing a large public of IDF soldiers and reservists who have families within Eretz Israel, whose needs and sustenance are brought to them from Eretz Israel, and who intend to return at the earliest moment that the security situation allows." Therefore, he concludes, they are to say the blessing for rain at the same time as those residing within Eretz Israel.

Rabbis have conceded that from Yosef's ruling, it is unambiguously clear that the Golan is outside the borders and sanctity of Eretz Israel. A senior Shas official has noted that Yosef says in his enrichment lessons that the Golan is outside the borders of Eretz Israel, but that in the matter of biblical tithing (to the Levitical priesthood), the Golan was to be considered within Israel.

The right-leaning Haredi newspaper "Yom Hashishi" stated in this weekend's edition that the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren - no left-leaning compromiser by anyone's estimation - had also judged the Golan to be outside the confines of Eretz Israel. If this position is accepted among the religious public, the argument over borders would then shift to the matter of security or halachic judgments on whether the new borders would increase or decrease the endangering of life.

But other interpretations do exist. A halachic article by a former leader of the Bnei Akiva movement, the late Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriah, determines that the Golan is the inheritance of half of the tribe of Manasseh (Menashe) and therefore a part of the Promised Land. According to Neriah, the Golan is not even subject to the faults mentioned in regard to the lands East of the Jordan river, and "is included within Eretz Israel, and all the praises said of Eretz Israel are also said of it.

(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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