Rav Avi Shafran is the chief public relations officer for the Agudah so naturally, in the course of doing his job, he paints everything he can about the organization and its members in a positive sense.
When I first discovered his columns I quite enjoyed them and even looking back on them now I still recall why. Unfortunately, in recent times I have found him to become more and more narrow in his focus. Whereas he once tried to write about Orthodox Jews in general, it has become clear in recent months that when he uses the word Orthodox he means only those who identify with the Agudah, that is: the Chareidi community, not the rest of us. But again, that's his job so one cannot criticize him for doing that. If the Agudah would like to believe they are the "real" Orthodox Jews and the gold standard to be followed, that's their business.
But sometimes his apologetics go a little too far, like in this column published recently at Cross Currents. The column starts off well enough, dealing with the recent mention by the Israeli government that they are prepared to give up the most important parts of Yerushalayim to our enemies in return for an illusory peace. I thought that this column, from the way it started, would once again emphsize the central place Yerushalayim has in our hearts and religion, as opposed to that of our enemies who only seem to be interested in it when Jews are running the city. Consider:
After a bowl of cereal, the blessing “Al Hamichya” would mention Jerusalem two more times. And for any meals including bread that might have followed, one of the main blessings that comprise the grace after meals would have the Holy City as its subject as well, beginning with a reference to “Jerusalem Your city” and ending “Who in His mercy builds Jerusalem.”
And, then, in each of the day’s two remaining prayer services, as in the morning one, the silent “Amidah” prayer includes a similar blessing.
It is hard to believe that any people, entity or government could arrogate to claim a closer connection than the Jewish one to the city nestled in the Judean hills, the city toward which praying Jews for millennia have faced thrice daily, and face to this day.
And it is even harder to believe that a government of a self-described Jewish State would even consider, much less announce, its contemplation of placing Jerusalem on the cutting block of negotiations with an enemy.
Yet that is what is happening before our incredulous eyes
But after that statement of Jewish patriotism, something changes. As if to remind his readers that while he is opposed in principle to Yerushalayim being given away to our enemies, he is certainly not a sinful Zionist, he rushes to remind us of the lack of sanctity of the State of Israel:
But we know that the true, complete (territorially as well as spiritually) “Jewish State” will arrive only when the Messiah does, and that the Third Holy Temple will be built by the hand of not man but G-d. Thus, the reflexive form in our prayer: “May it be Your will that the Temple be [re]built.”
I certainly say that line when I pray three times a day but I don't recall any part of the petition stating "and until then I can do nothing but wait for You to rescue me from exile". Indeed, nothing about wishing the Temple would be rebuilt precludes building a Jewish state. Indeed, the Bible in various places notes that Jewish rebirth will precede the building of the Third Temple so there is nothing preventing one from ascribing a form of Jewishness to Israel today.
It's this final line that really got my attention:
To be sure, from a haredi perspective, it doesn’t make any inherent difference what temporal flag flies above the hewn stones of Jerusalem’s walls. The city’s holiness is neither heralded nor preserved by such banners.
Get it? According to Rav Shafran, the Chareidi perspective is that one could see Israeli flags, or Arab flags hanging over the walls of the Old City and it's all the same to them.
The implications of this statement are incredible. How can one not see what inherent difference the temporal flag makes? If an Arab flag flew over the Old City, does anyone seriously believe there would be a single yeshivah, Chareidi or otherwise within its walls? And what does this say about Jewish achdus? Sure, you Dati Leumi believe there's holiness in them there walls and see a religious need to continue Jewish sovereignty over the city but for us here Chareidim, well we don't care. Didn't that attitude cause enough of a schism during the withdrawal from 'Aza?
What's more, this sets up a contradiction with the rest of the article, implying that while Yerushalayim is holy and sacred and we dream of returning it to its glory, in the meantime we really dont' see anything special about it that means only we can control it. If there is no inherent difference in what temporal flag flies above, then Yerushalayim is negotiable and that is something no Torah observant Jew should ever suggest.
I trust that Rav Shafran will clarify his remarks in the future.