Monday, November 16, 2015

President Navon: Chazon Ish Predicted to Ben Gurion that Israel would become Shommer Shabbos during 1952 meeting

 Update: Recording of President Navon talking about the meeting

Guest post by RaP

From Yated Ne'eman, November 13, 2015. Pages 31-32:


The 5th president of Israel, Yitzchak Navon, passed away at the age of 94...Navon became Prime Minister David Ben Gurion's political secretary in 1951...he was present during Ben Gurion's famous visit to the Chazon Ish on October 22, 1952. Two years ago he spoke about the visit to the chareidi Kol Hatzibbur news outlet. Navon was the last living person present at the meeting.

Navon proceeded to tell Kol Hatzibbur about the visit...

'...He [the Chazon Ish] was short with shining wise eyes. He greeted Ben Gurion pleasantly...Ben Gurion began by saying': 'I have come to you to ask how we, religious and non-religious Jews, can live in the land without exploding from within. There are people with different hashkofos. How can we live together in this land?'

The Chazon Ish replied: 'There is a halachah that if two camels are walking in one path towards each other and there is only room for one of them. The camel with a load has right of way. The camel without a load must make way. We are like the camel with a load of mitzvos incumbent upon us and you must give way before us.'

Ben Gurion said, striking himself on the shoulder: 'Do you think this camel has no load? National security isn't a load and mitzvah? Settling the land and immigrant absorption isn't a load? These aren't mitzvos?'

[The Chazon Ish] said to him, 'In the zechus of this, that we study Torah, you have the capability of doing what you do.'

[Ben Gurion] said, 'But those who sit on the borders, who guard you, is this not a mitzvah?'

[The Chazon Ish] said to him, 'They survive in the zechus that we study Torah.'

Ben Gurion repeated, 'But if these army bochurim didn't get to you, the enemies would slaughter you.'

The Chazon Ish said, according to my notes: 'On the contrary. In the zechus that we study Torah, they are capable of living, working and holding guard.'

Ben Gurion said, 'I don't denigrate Torah, but if no people are alive, who will learn Torah?'

The Chazon Ish replied: 'The Torah itself is a tree of life, an elixir of life.'

Ben Gurion said, 'Protecting lives is also a mitzvah, for, The dead do not praise G-d. But nonetheless, I ask how can we live here together?'

The Chazon Ish said: 'I see chillul Shabbos, cars, journeys on Shabbos. People travel to the sea instead of davening, learning Torah and living Jewish lives. This is provocative and shocks the soul to see such chillul Shabbos in the land of our forefathers.'

Ben Gurion said: "...One cannot force them to keep Shabbos. And if they don't go to the sea, do you think that they will come to shull?'

The Chazon Ish said, 'I believe, that the day will come when everyone will observe Shabbos and daven.'

Ben Gurion said: 'If they want, I will not oppose it. Let them do it. But it cannot be forced upon them. There cannot be religious coercion or anti-religious coercion. Each person should live as he sees fit.'"

Navon related how the two gave up the discussion and parted ways.

'So the argument went on, more or less repeating the two positions without drawing nearer to each other regarding substance...In the end they rose, parted from each other in very friendly fashion with a handshake, and we went out...'"


  1. Actually, the title is a little inaccurate. The prediction was already made by the Torah and Neviim. The CI only (according to this record of events) stated his belief in the Torah which predicts this outcome.

    It also raises a question, which should be obvious ( I take it it is not assur to raise a question on a Gaon of Israel). If the success of the army is only based on the learning of Torah scholars, why then did this not work in previous times, both recent and ancient>?

    1) In Europe, in the period when there were great yeshivas and Gaonim?

    2) In Chazal's time, when the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and again when Bar Kochba was defeated, ending the Jewish presence in Israel?

    3) In Yoshiyahu Hamelech's time, when Yoshiyahu had effectively achieved what the Chazon Ish had prayed for, for the mass majority of Israel to be Torah observant?

  2. Nice to see that 63 years ago, a haredi leader could respectfully agree to disagree with someone who did not share his ideology.

    Has that happened since?

    Even as regards to haredi leaders' discourse with ANYONE, even religious ones who are not haredi?

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  4. I beg to disagree. The Chazon Ish was not predicting that Israel would keep Shabbos. Ben Gurion went to the Chazon Ish to ask how Klal Yisroel could be unified, as Navon stated at the beginning of the interview printed in Yated Neeman. To this, the Chazon Ish replied that the loaded camel has right of way and that the country should be run on Torah lines. He was not making any prediction.

  5. The Chazon Ish is reported to have cordially shaken hands with BG. That says quite a lot. There is also no mention of him removing his glasses!

  6. It has been 63 years and the Chazon Ish's prediction did not happen.

  7. Who says it needs to happen all at once? There are many, many baalei teshuva in EY.

  8. The great disagreement was about Yeshiva students in the army. BG was quite adamant about this. Eventually, he met with Reb Isser Zalman Melter and there was a standoff. Reb Isser Zalman Meltser began to cry as he described the damage to Yeshivas when its students would leave the Yeshiva to do army duty. When BG saw that, he said, "Okay, if you are crying about it. You can have your Yeshivas." The Chazon Ish then said, "In the merit of what BG did to save the Yeshiva, he will live a long life." And that is what happened.

  9. So I'm confused.

    We are told by a few "Gedolim" that the Holocaust happened because of Zionism. Six million Jews, many of them learners of Torah at the highest levels, were wiped out because of the "sin" of Zionism. Their Torah learning didn't seem to protect them at all.

    And now here in the hotbed of Zionism it was suddenly going to work?

  10. Who promised it will work? No one. Who promised the army will work? No one. The army could lose a war and lose the State. They haven't so far? Thank the Torah learners for that.

  11. The Torah learners get to sit and learn so far? Thank the army for that.

  12. At the time, do you know if the general, non-frum public in Israel, had respect for great figures like Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer or the Chazon Ish? It is hard to imagine living in those times, or perhaps the past is more sentimental than the present.

  13. I view it as a Yissochor/Zevulun, which so far has paid excellent dividends to both sides.

  14. But that's not what the Chazon Ish, zt"l, is implying and it certainly has not been understood that way. L'hefech, it's become an ideology that justifies avoiding any gratitude on the part of the Chareidi community for what the rest of Israeli society, religious and secular, does for them. Do the soldiers protect them? Feh, it's the Torah that's protecting the soldiers so we don't have to say thank you or even utter a simple prayer for their well-being once in a while. Does the Israeli government finance the yeshivos and kollels? Feh, it's the Torah that's providing the Israeli government with the financial wherewithal in the first place.
    In other words, the more the non-Chareidim help, the more the Chareidi community can claim credit for that help and feel that it's the non-Chareidim not showing proper gratitude!
    If it was a true Y/Z partnership with both partners working together and valuing each other's contributions then we would have a stronger Israeli society.

  15. I'm not condoning what it's become. To the contrary, I feel that the yeshiva exemption is being abused by being extended to people who are manifestly not spending their time learning in any serious way. If yeshivos would clean house by removing from their rolls anyone who is not learning in a committed and serious way, secular Israelis would gain respect for yeshivos and for their vital contribution.. On the other hand, if the Israeli government would take chareidi concerns regarding the army seriously and make it truly possible for chareidim to participate without jeopardizing their frumkeit, the opposition and hostility from the chareidi side would decrease. There is fault to be found on both sides.

    But despite all that, it remains a Yissochor/Zevulun relationship, with each side contributing to the whole, only not as perfect a relationship as it might be.

  16. Yet the chilonim/daati keep demanding the chareidim show gratitude for their army service when at the same time the chilonim/daati do not show gratitude for the chareidim who learn Torah full time.

  17. maybe another way of looking at it -

    from the hareidi perspective, it is like a de facto /bedieved Y/Z relationship, and not l'chatchila, since they do not endorse the halachic necessity, let alone right of either the Government or the army. If they can benefit from the Zionist institutions, then fine. Apparently this was not the case in Brisk, who invented their own currency, to avoid the shekel.
    So according to this perspective, there is no need to praise/thank or daven for the Medina or its institutions.
    Rav Elyashiv ztl was perhaps a bridge between the two worlds. He recognized and worked in the rabbanut, but veered towards the Hareidi orbit, especially as he got older and more distant form his mentors, Rav Kook and Rav Herzog.

  18. This was a wish or belief rather than a formal prediction. BTW, is there anyone on this forum who does not share the wish and hope of the CI that one day all Jews will be shomer Shabbat?
    You don't need to be leader of the Hareidi Lithuanian world to have such a wish.

  19. "I feel that the yeshiva exemption is being abused by being extended to
    people who are manifestly not spending their time learning in any
    serious way."

    Rav Elyashev, Rav Shteinman and the array of gedolei yisroel shlita and zt'l have unambiguously made clear (as the letter from Rav Shteinman to Rav Don Segal I posted on this thread amply demonstrate) that even frum yidden who are NOT learning should NOT enlist in the Israeli Army. It is spiritual suicide as you even acknowledged. You said you'd hope that the army could make it not be spiritual suicide but haven't done so yet. The gedolim I mentioned made no such accomodation about changing the army. In any event, the army as it is construed it spiritual poison. As you see with the large horders of daati who become secular by time their army service completes.

  20. Each should show gratitude to the other, and in a perfect world, each would. But a failure of gratitude, whichever way it goes, does not cancel out the fact that each side makes an important contribution to the safety and well-being of the whole.

  21. Eddie,
    BG had great respect for the Chazon Ish, even though the meeting they had did not produce any changes for anybody. But BG left the meeting with great respect for the Chazon Ish, as stated by Mr. Nabon on the recent video. Besides this, Ben Gurion eulogized the Chazon Ish when he died saying, "His feet were planted on the ground, but his head was in heaven" which is a posuk in the Torah.

  22. BG also had respect for the Torah. His approach was more Hochmas Yisroel, but he was a believer, although he did not publicize this. So it is logical that he had respect for the Chazon Ish, since he had respect for the Torah.

  23. In any event, the army as it is construed it spiritual poison.

    Agreed. But I view the exemption of non-learners in yeshivos as poison as well. This behavior debases the Torah, exploiting it to shirk one's duty. I consider it immoral for someone who does not contribute to the nation's defense on the spiritual front to refuse to do so on the physical front as well. It is immoral to tell others to go into danger for your sake but you will do nothing to help. Such an attitude makes a travesty of the holy work of the yeshivos.

    At the same time, I accept the fact of the spiritual danger posed by the army, especially to those who are not firmly rooted in learning. One idea might be to find other ways in which they might contribute -- a civilian corps perhaps, of ambulance and bus drivers, medics, and the like. Alternatively, if chareidim were available in greater numbers, it might be worth the army's while to make real accomodation for their needs.

    In the meantime, we are stuck with this imperfect system. Its imperfections, though, should not blind us to the good and holy work being done by people on both sides.

  24. You agree that the army is poison yet you want frum men to take this spiritual poison that can and will frei many of them out? And the ones that don't completely frei out, like many of the daati hesder soldiers who join the IDF frum and leave as chilonim, it will cause a severe spiritual destruction and/or reduction. And yet you tell them to eat this spiritual poison? Are you thinking clearly?

    Now I don't agree with you that the exemption of non-learners in yeshivos is poison as well, but even if for argument's sake we grant you are correct on this point, surely you agree that whatever kind of poison it is it is a less severe poison than joining an army that makes people irreligious or reduces their yiddishkeit and reduces their spiritual strength. So even if you maintain both are bad, the army has far worse consequences.

    Now you propose that the army or the state offer chareidim some sort of national service or a civilian corps as ambulance or medics or whatnot in lieu of the spiritually determinantal army service. And that may be a fine and workable suggestion. But as even you acknowledge that option does not currently exist. Nor had it existed last year or ten years ago. So it isn't a current option. Yet the law, as currently enshrined, mandates all youths in the State to enlist in the army at age 18. Period. Exemption only available if in yeshiva. So right now, as we speak, the only option for 18 year olds who are not learning and are not up to learning and don't have the zitsfleish to sit and learn, is to enlist in the Israeli Army -- OR to pretend they are learning in yeshiva. Capish? Those are the only two existing options. So you may hope for a future alternative, but in the here and now for the youngsters facing this choice at the requisite age, these are the only two options.

    And as you acknowledged the army can result in a Jew losing his religious spirit. Anything to avoid this fate or this potential fate is justified. And if the only option is registering in a yeshiva you can't learn in, then that is, without question, the absolutely correct course of action. This is indisputable.

    And it isn't me coming up with this obvious point. All the chareidi gedolim say the same thing. Rav Shteinman, , told

    A few years ago a bochor came to Rav Shteinman (who is repeatedly in the blogs/media misquoted as having ever approved of Nachal Chareidi, something he only didn't oppose for kids from chareidi families who went completely OTD) and told him that he couldn't sit and learn and asked if he should rather enlist. Rav Shteinman told him he should rather run off to India to avoid the draft than enlist. None of the gedolim will ever advise a normal frum 18 year old who can't learn to enlist in the IDF.

  25. I don't see where you're saying anything that hasn't been said already, and that I haven't already responded to, so I'm not going to bother to respond further. It's been fun.

  26. Sure new points were pointed out. You ignored the fact that your "civilian corps" solution to replace the spiritually deterimental army service doesn't exist. And you failed to address this vital fact regarding what current normal frum 18 year olds today, who can't learn, should do. Your solution is that the frum 18 year old should currently join what you admit is a spiritually poisonous army because the civilian corps doesn't yet exist today but the youths turning 18 today can't tell the army they're not in yeshiva but are still not enlisting until a civilian corps is created.

  27. Eddie,
    I never heard that BG was a believer in the Torah sense. However, I read an interview by a Russian writer with BG who asked what was Israel? And BG answered, "If you don't believe in miracles you cannot believe in Israel." BG made military moves that were so dangerous if he did not believe in miracles he may not have done them.

    At one time, George Marshall, who was secretary of State after a glorious military career in the Second World War, cautioned some Jewish leaders that from a military standpoint he saw no way Israel could survive against the hate of all of the Arabs and the Jordan Legion with trained troops supported by British generals.

    When the British left Palestine, they turned over their forts to the Arabs fully expecting them to drive the Jews into the sea. There were two Arab armies and one Jewish army. The two Arab armies were led by people who hated each other. The Jews told one general, stay away from us and we will destroy your enemy in the other army. That is what happened.

    The Six Day War was obviously won by Nasser without firing a shot and Johnson warned Israel not to do anything about his aggressive conquest of areas critical to Jewish survival. The success of the Six Day War was a series of mighty miracles. At one point a battalion of israeli Tanks were racing through the Sinai and they saw in the distance a huge Arab army from one end of their vision to the other. The battalion commander asked, What can I do to fight all of that?
    Somebody told him, "They are all running away." And they were. Who told them to run The senior Egyptian general.

    When Sadat agreed to visit Israel after the om Kippur War, Kissinger told the Israelites, "You are truly a land of miracles." Everyone knew it. No other explanation was possible. Which is a major reason why the secular government so starved for soldiers agreed to keep the Yeshivas open. As Dayan said, "They do their share." He knew that better than anyone else.


    he was a beliver, but not frum,
    it doesn't make sense but it is significantly different from being ch'vshalom an atheist

  29. Avraham 1,
    I am 73 years old. When I was very young and walked outside with a yarmulka a man came over to me and said, "Don't you know that people came from monkeys?" He said this only out of concern for me, that I would be considered funny if I believed in religion like that. And he certainly had a point. But today, everyone knows that Judaism is becoming Orthodox, as the Reform and Conservative are collapsing.

    . Rabbi Eliyashev died at a very advanced age, over a hundred, and left behind a thousand progeny. The secular media was quick to point this out, because that meant a thousand voters. Secular Jews are having few children, and the ones born sometimes become Orthodox, or many become Orthodox, many leave the country, and the future of Israel is going to be with the Orthodox.

    When I was young the army belonged to kibbuts leftists. Today kibuts leftists are disappearing. The army is being taken over by religious people. Time is on our side, as the Chazon Ish predicted. A great gaon who died on Kiddush HaShem, Rav Teichtel, also wrote a book where he said that the secular people who built Israel will create a religious Israel. It is happening.

    A secular family may just produce enough people not to disappear But the Orthodox are exploding. The future in Israel is with the Orthodox, many of them born into secular homes, but who want a normal family and a stable israel.

  30. Reb Yosef Chain Sonnenfeld, the Haredi Rov of Jerusalem, the most ferocious of the right wing Orthodox, met regularly with Chaim Weizman. Weizman once complained that Rabbi Sonnenfeld was so sincere in his views and so pure that it was hard to argue with him. This is surely a sign of respect. But the two of them were at war, real time, but the personal relationship was something else.Today it is hard to understand this.

  31. Where is this documented?

  32. Michoel,
    The book on Reb Yosesf Chaim Sonnenfeld entitled Guardian of Jerusalem published by Artscroll. See page 374, "Though Weizman saw Reb Chaim as his chief adversary, he could not help, at the same time, but feel respect for R Chaim's integrity and consistent adherence to his world outlook. As Weizmann once remarked to one of his associates, "It is extremely difficult to fight against R Chaim Sonnenfeld's brand of pure and objective truth, especially when it flows from a warm Jewish heart completely permeated with the love of the land the people of Israel." The book has other such remarks from leading secular Zionists.


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