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Status of Land-Dependent Mitzvot in Areas Liberated in the Six-Day War

Status of Land-Dependent Mitzvot in Areas Liberated in the Six-Day War

On the halachic status of various territories conquered during the Six-Day War vis-à-vis the land-dependent mitzvot: Gaza, Arava, and the Golan Heights, and more.

Rabbi Ehud Ahituv

28 Iyar: A day of thanksgiving for the rescue and liberation of Jerusalem and the western part of the Land of Israel from foreign hands

In the month of Iyar 5727 (1967), fifty-seven years ago, the Arab wolves encircling us conspired to rise up and destroy us. With G-d's help, they were struck down with open miracles through the devotion and self-sacrifice of the IDF soldiers. Thus, in a lightening-speed war that lasted a mere six days (from the 26th of Iyar to the 2nd of Sivan), our ancestral land west of the Jordan River, and especially the place of our Holy Temple and G-d's city, which were held hostage by foreigners, were redeemed.

Therefore, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel established 28 Iyar, the day of Jerusalem's liberation, as a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving to G-d for the redemption and rescue of the entire Jewish population in the State of Israel through His faithful messengers, the soldiers of the IDF.

On the night of Yom Yerushalayim, before Ma'ariv, the psalms from the night of Yom Ha'atzmaut prayers are recited, plus psalm 122 ("A Song of Ascents: I rejoiced). Some add psalm 132 ("A Song of Ascents: Remember, Lord, for David.") The next day, during Shacharit, the psalms of Shabbat and holidays are added to pesukei dezimrah, and Hallel is recited with a blessing. It is also appropriate to hold a festive meal with songs and praises on Yom Yerushalayim.

The Halachic Discussion Regarding the IDF's Conquest in the Six-Day War

The great victory in the Six-Day War reignited the discussion about the halachic significance of the IDF's conquests in Israel's wars in general, and particularly in the Six-Day War, where we liberated large tracts of land from foreign rule. This discussion began after the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign, but intensified after the Six-Day War, in which we freed significant swaths of land from foreign control.

Furthermore, all halachic questions concerning the sanctity of the Temple and Jerusalem within the walls became more practical.

Regarding the halachic significance of the IDF's conquest, much has been written over the years. This issue was extensively addressed by Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt"l in Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 10). Articles on this topic were also published by the Torah VeHa'aretz Institute, including an article by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Goren zt"l, in Emunat Itecha issue 50; in addition to his writings and publications during his tenure as the Chief Rabbi of the IDF for almost a quarter of a century.

Distinguished contemporary scholars also addressed this issue, including Rabbi Yaakov Ariel in Ba'ohalah Shel Torah (vol. 4 §42);

This topic was also discussed in Emunat Itecha issue 52; regarding the halachic significance of the conquest in relation to agricultural produce in Judea and Samaria; as well as concerning the redemption of the ma'aser sheni within the Old City walls.

Unfortunately, some of the areas we liberated were handed back to foreign control. We pray that we will soon return there with all of Israel and be able to observe all the land-dependent mitzvot.

Below, we will briefly summarize the halachot related to the land-dependent mitzvot in the areas liberated by the IDF in the Six-Day War.

The Significance of the IDF's Conquest vis-à-vis the Obligation of Land-Dependent Mitzvot

Some believe that the IDF's conquest sanctifies and obligates the observance of land-dependent mitzvot even in places not sanctified by the Jewish people following the Exodus from Egypt, olei Mitzrayim. They argue that it re-sanctifies those areas conquered previously by the olei Mitzrayim but not by the returnees from Babylon, olei Bavel. This is because the IDF's conquest was performed at the command of the Israeli government, which has the status of a king, and it was done on behalf of and for the majority of Israel.

However, there are dissenting opinions that argue the IDF's conquest cannot sanctify or obligate land-dependent mitzvot. Effectively, a Sanhedrin is necessary to sanctify those places with a formal proclamation, which we unfortunately do not have today.

This discussion is particularly relevant in areas where there is doubt whether they were sanctified by the olei Mitzrayim but were conquered in our generation by the IDF, such as the Arava regions south of the Dead Sea to Eilat.

In practice, according to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's ruling from the early days of the State of Israel, all land-dependent mitzvot should be observed in these areas due to doubt.

Terumot and Ma'aserot after the Conquest of Gaza and the Sinai Desert in the Six-Day War

Centuries ago, some authorities wrote that there is no obligation to separate terumot and ma'aserot from produce grown in Gaza and its environs, even if it was sanctified by the olei Mitzrayim, because the initial sanctity was annulled upon the destruction of the First Temple, which nullified the obligation to separate terumot and ma'aserot in those areas.

The southern boundary of the area sanctified by the olei Mitzrayim is Nahar Mitzrayim, with various interpretations among commentators and halachic authorities regarding its identification; some say it is Wadi El-Arish, south of El-Arish, while others say it is the Nile. Some suggest it extends eastward where the Suez Canal runs today.

However, most authorities hold that despite the annulment of the initial sanctity, there remains an obligation to observe all land-dependent mitzvot in these places, including Gaza.

Following the Six-Day War, there is an additional reason to require the observance of land-dependent mitzvot in these areas, at least due to doubt. This is in light of the view that the IDF's conquest imposes the obligation of land-dependent mitzvot.

The Sanctity of Jerusalem at Present and the Obligation of Terumot and Ma'aserot in Jerusalem

The obligation to separate terumot and ma'aserot from produce grown in Jerusalem today is rabbinic, like other places sanctified by the olei Bavel.

Jerusalem's sanctity still exists today, encompassing all areas sanctified by King Solomon. Nevertheless, it is forbidden to eat ma'aser sheni there as the Temple is destroyed and we are impure from contact with the dead.

On the other hand, it is also forbidden to redeem ma'aser sheni in sanctified Jerusalem, including the City of David, the Jewish Quarter, and, according to some authorities, even Mt. Zion. Some permit redeeming it in the Mt. Zion area.

It is also forbidden to take untithed produce outside of sanctified Jerusalem to redeem ma'aser sheni outside of this area.

However, once ma'aser sheni becomes impure it can be redeemed even in sanctified Jerusalem. Therefore, when terumot and ma'aserot are separated in these places, the fruits are wetted and touched, making them impure before separation, so they can be redeemed there.

The Golan Heights as Transjordan: Olei Mitzrayim or Olei Bavel?

The halachic status of the Golan Heights has been discussed by contemporary authorities following its liberation by the IDF in the Six-Day War, by the grace of G-d.

Some hold that the Golan Heights has the status of ever hayarden, Transjordan, which was conquered by Moses but the Jewish People were not commanded to conquer it, and thus certain leniencies apply to some land-dependent mitzvot.

However, others argue that there are two reasons to be stringent regarding the Golan Heights:

1. There is an opinion that the Golan Heights is part of the Galilee and not included in Transjordan.

2. There was Jewish settlement in the southern and central Golan Heights during the Second Temple period.

For these reasons, the Chief Rabbinate ruled that the Golan Heights should be considered olei Bavel concerning shemitah, terumot and ma'aserot, with the exception of certain parts of the northern Golan Heights, which have the status of olei Mitzrayim.

May it be His will that just as we merited to rejoice in the joy of Jerusalem and the liberation of the Holy City and part of the Land of Israel from foreign rule, so too we may rejoice in the joy of redemption with the liberation of all parts of our land, the ingathering of all the Diaspora, the building of the Temple, and the establishment of the kingdom of the House of David speedily in our days.