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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Why the monarchy is good for Israel

Daf Yomi Gittin 80

In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II came to Alberta for our centennial celebration.  Rabbanit Batya and I had the good fortune of being invited to the official state dinner with the Queen.  Nevertheless, she didn’t limit her interactions to leaders of the province; she made sure to make a number of public appearances, including a visit to the Provincial Museum, which was subsequently renamed the Royal Alberta Museum.

My mother-in-law, Sylvia, happened to be in town and was thrilled to have the opportunity to greet the Queen.  Spending her formative years in France, she had always had immense respect and wonder for the royal family and was also looking forward to reciting the special bracha one makes when one sees a monarch.  Anticipating busy crowds, Sylvia set out early to get a good spot on the road where the procession was due to take place.  Can you imagine her surprise when she was first in line and only about a hundred people showed up to greet the Queen?!

The truth is, many people believe that the monarchy is an antiquated relic of earlier forms of human progress.  In our age of tabloid magazines, respect for the royal family has all but disappeared.  Is it time to become a republic?

Ulla taught: Why did the Rabbis’ institute that a gett (bill of divorce) must be dated according to the year of the national monarch’s reign?  For the sake of peaceful relations with the monarchy.
Rashi explains: The monarch will say that the fact that we include them in our official documents demonstrates that they are important in our eyes.

As Jews, we have three reasons to support the monarchy.  First, as the Gemara here states, we are so concerned for good relations that we are prepared to recognize the monarchy on our religious documents!  How much more concerned must we be about supporting them throughout our societal and political interactions!

Second, we are bound by the principle of dina d’malchusa dina – we must obey the law of the land.  Believe it or not, it is still treasonous to act against the monarchy.  And so unless they are corrupt or oppressive, we are halachically obligated to support them.

The third reason is practical and has to do with our love for the State of Israel and the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in Israel.  Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised ‘settlement construction’ in ‘East Jerusalem.’  In 1967, Israel captured the eastern part of its capital city from Jordan.  Prior to 1967, no modern sovereign nation-state had ever laid claim to the area.  And so when Israel claimed it as its own, it did not steal it from anyone.  Contrary to popular myth, the Palestinian people never owned the territory and in fact rejected the United Nations’ offer to have it in 1947.

And so despite the fact that the nations of the world wanted to recognize that piece of land as Palestinian territory, they never claimed it as their own.  Israel was the first modern state to stake a legal claim in the eastern part of Jerusalem.  To draw an analogy closer to home, although there were indigenous people living in the land that today we call Canada, those people never staked a modern legal national claim to the land.  The first do so were the British and therefore Canada today is under the rule of the Queen of England.

And so when PM Cameron criticizes Israel for building homes in East Jerusalem, he might as well criticize every public action carried out by the Canadian government, with the approval of the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General.  Who gives them the right to build on land belonging to Inuit and First Nations people?

In other words, as long as Great Britain retains its stake in Canada, as long as the monarchy remains in place as our sovereign ruler, Britain has absolutely no right to criticize Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem or the Golan!

Of course, the major difference between Israel’s ‘occupation’ and Britain’s is that nobody denies that the British came here from abroad and colonized Canada.  In contrast, everyone agrees that the Jewish people are the true indigenous inhabitants of the Land of Israel!  The only complication is that for the two thousand years that most of our nation lived in exile from our homeland, others came and repopulated the area.  And so upon our return home, they too claimed indigenous status.   But never did they claim to establish a nation-state; and never did Israel occupy sovereign territory that belonged to anyone else.

Really, we should not have to defend our right to the Land of Israel.  Anyone who has ever read the Bible, or studied a little history or archaeology knows who the rightful owners of Israel are.  But until Moshiach comes, we live in an international society and we must play by their rules.  May we merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen!  

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