By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
“And the field was handed over... to Avraham” [Bereisheet 23:20].
The Regulation Law
The “Regulation Law” which passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset (to legalize the settlement of Amona, among other places) was greeted with cries of “shame,” and accused of such crimes as expulsion, evil, and robbery. The loudest of them all was that very righteous man Benny Begin, who holds an impressive record in preventing any attempt to support the settlers of Yehuda and the Shomron by enacting laws to legalize their possession of the land. At the same time, he strongly defends the right of the Bedouins to get legal permission to keep the lands which they robbed. (I am not overly surprised to read reports that his son Avinadav is a permanent figure in the demonstrations against the IDF at Bilin.) Begin the father claimed in an interview on Reshet Bet on the radio that “the purpose of the Regulatory Law is to allow robbery through legal means.” After his statement, there is no longer any need for the moralistic cries of the political left, which wraps itself in the cloaks of the Supreme Court with such claims as: “No law anyplace in the world will give approval for the robbery of private lands.” (As quoted in the press.)
Is this a matter of simple law, or is it rather politics at its worst?
Regulating the Market
The issue of “regulation of the market” is a concept of Israeli law (and perhaps in other legal systems) which has been copied from the Hebrew law, as a Jewish legal principle that is contrary to the laws of the evil city of Sedom. This ancient rule, which can be traced back to the time when the city was overturned by a Divine act, rules that if in all innocence somebody purchases property which was stolen or robbed and has been brought to court to return it – he will be required to compensate the rightful owner the for value of the property but he will not be required to return the land itself after he invested time and energy in developing it. (This is a brief summary. As with all laws, there are many details and regulations which are beyond the scope of this article.) This principle was adopted as part of the “Law of Land Rights” in Israel (5729-1969). Section 10 of the law reads as follows: “Innocent purchase – If one purchased the rights to regulated land for full payment, based on the formal land records, he will maintain the rights to the land even if the records were in error.”
This law is similar to another Jewish law which appears in the Choshen Mishpat, “in a similar way one (who is by strict law justified) is not allowed to abide by the rules of Sedom.” There is also a rule in Jewish law of a “stolen beam” which was used in the construction of a building. The one who used the beam is not forced to destroy the building in order to return the beam itself, but instead is required to pay for it. This is in the same spirit as an entire set of “decrees by Yehoshua Bin Nun,” most of which require owners of land to take legal action beyond the strict limits of the law, because “this was the condition that Yehoshua made in giving them the land” [Bava Kama 30a]. See also an article by Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, “A Settlement Built on Stolen Property” (Techumin, volume 32).
The Supreme Court: “At the Place of Justice there Is...” [Kohellet 3:16].
The storm about Amona is a stark example of the futility of the verse, “He looked for justice but found oppression” [Yeshayahu 5:7]. I will explain my harsh words, including the missing word in the above subheading which quotes a verse from Kohellet. It is possible to accept with some difficulty the words of the State Attorney when he threatens that the Regulatory Law will be rejected by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, based on “international law” that forbids taking possession of land in captured areas. We can even believe his second threat, one that is more sharply focused: “He made a law and it will not be changed (by the Supreme Court?)” [Tehillim 148:6].
Today, my anger is directed towards “the place of justice” – the Supreme Court. Everybody is convinced that the law will not meet with their approval! Does something that is acceptable and good and just in the Israel Property Law become robbery, injustice, exploitation, and “evil” (that is the word missing in the subheading...) when it is enforced in the area of Yehuda and the Shomron, like hundreds of other Israeli laws? If the “rules to support a repentant” are to be given a status in Israel equal to the “law of respect for man and his freedom,” who has appointed the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to take the seat of the ICC in the Hague? Is it the task of the Supreme Court to decide what is constitutional in Israel, or to warn the Prime Minister how difficult it might be to cope with the rulings of the Hague or to struggle against the lame-duck President in the United States?
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According to the traditions of our sages, Adam was buried in the Machpeilah Cave, and that is why Avraham wanted to buy it. I have not found any answer in the sources to the following question: What would have happened if Efron had refused to sell the cave, even for all the wealth in the world? I will appreciate receiving an answer to this question from my readers...