By the Grace of G‑d
9 Adar I 5719
[February 17, 1959]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

His Excellency
Mr. David Ben-Gurion,
Prime Minister of Israel


Yesterday I sent you my official reply to the question of Registration, and I have to apologize for the delay in my reply till now for a number of reasons. What is written further is not official, and not even semi-official.

It was once fashionable in certain circles to suggest that the Jewish religion and religious observances were necessary for those living in the Diaspora—as a shield against assimilation. But for those who can find another “antidote”—in the place of religion, particularly for those living in Eretz Yisrael, within their own society, where the atmosphere, language, etc., (apparently) serve as ample assurances of national preservation, the Jewish religion was superfluous—what need had they to burden themselves with all its minutiae in their daily life? But the trend of developments in Eretz Yisrael in the last seven or eight years has increasingly emphasized the opposite view: That however vital the need for religion amongst Diaspora Jewry, it is needed even more for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. One of the basic reasons for this is that it is precisely in Eretz Yisrael that there exists the danger that a new generation will grow up, a new type bearing the name of Israel but completely divorced from the past of our people and its eternal and essential values, and moreover, hostile to it in its world outlook, its culture, and the content of its daily life; hostile—in spite of the fact that it will speak Hebrew, dwell in the land of the Patriarchs, and wax enthusiastic over the Bible.

I do not wish to dwell on this painful subject at all for obvious reasons (especially since I see no need for further elaboration). One of the reasons is that I fervently hope that this calamity will not come to pass. Eventually, members of that generation itself will vehemently rise up against that danger, and will take measures to ward off the evil. Indeed, it is just recently that an intense ferment has been felt in Eretz Yisrael and abroad demanding a spiritual content to life; if a deeper probe is made, it becomes evident that the yearning is for something transcending the reason of man.

The thirst of the youth of our eternal people will certainly not be quenched by rationalizations and theories that are the product of contemporary mortals, which will share the fate of those ideologies which made their debut only yesterday and which are no more today. Here is the place for the Law of Moses and Israel, the Oral and Written Law, our independent values dating from the day the Jewish people stood before G‑d, our G‑d, at Horeb, and the great voice was heard which did not stop: “I am G‑d your G‑d . . . You shall have no other gods . . .”

Needless to say, I do not speak here of a theoretical religiosity which serves only as a purely philosophical world outlook, or as the subject of lectures at weekends and holidays. I speak of a pervading and practical way of life, which includes the weekdays too, and all such matters which are usually termed “secular.” Our faith is, after all, essentially one of practical deeds.

Now is the ideal opportunity to transform the whole canvas of life in Eretz Yisrael and direct it into the abovementioned channels. This opportunity is knocking at your door, for you have been granted the ability and privilege to use it to the best advantage, a privilege and opportunity which are not given to every man, and the likes of which have not presented themselves for many decades.

It is more than likely that the aforementioned lines will astonish you. Do I really imagine that by means of this letter I can change or influence an outlook many decades old, and in particular, the outlook of a man who has seen the fruit of his labors? But, since in my opinion the situation in Eretz Yisrael is as described above—the situation in itself, the essential truth of the idea, the unique and most wonderful opportunity granted you—it is they which speak, appeal and demand. I am sure that even without my letter you have often reflected on this. But I could not allow myself to pass over this in silence—at a time when I am engaged in writing on the subject of Registration, which is part and parcel of the general background outlined above. I felt it my duty to refer to this, at least in a private letter to you.

At this opportunity, and begging apology for the delay, I thank you for sending me your booklet. Let me base my next few words on what you wrote in the booklet when referring to Eretz Yisrael: I mean the expression “the Holy Land.” Now, the epithet “holy,” like that of “Jew,” has had its content defined and consecrated by generations of our people, from the time of the Giving of the Law—when the title “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” was bestowed on us, and when the Jewish people were granted the Holy Land according to its borders, “the land of the Canaanite and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates”—till the present day and including it.

Yours truly,