June 6, 2005
We are in the midst of Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the liberation of the Holy City. Last night, here in Hebron, we had a festive prayer service at Ma’arat HaMachpela, which followed with singing, dancing and a D’var Torah – a short Torah lesson about Jerusalem. I then went home and enjoyed a small holiday meal and read a little about Jerusalem, and studied the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, revered dean of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, son of Israel’s first chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook.
The commander of the forces liberating the “Old City” and Temple Mount was a student at the Yeshiva, and immediately following arrival at the holy site, he sent an army jeep to bring Rabbi Kook (and a second sage, the “Nazir,”) to the Wall. When journalists converged on Rabbi Kook, asking him for his reaction to the liberation, he repeated, again and again, “We have returned home, we have returned home. No force in the world will ever be able to move us from here.”
Yet, it is a known fact that when the Mufti of Jerusalem attempted to hand over control of the Mount to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, he was rebuffed. Dayan refused to accept the ‘keys’ to Temple Mount, leaving them with the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust. (Dayan committed the same crime here in Hebron, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.) And this morning, hundreds of Arabs hurled rocks at Jews and police in and around Temple Mount and the Kotel, the Western Wall.
One of the favorite games people play on days like this are ‘where were you when…’ I remember (I was thirteen at the time) reports of impending war in Israel, and then, one morning, when we turned on the radio during breakfast, we heard the news that war had broken out. To this day I can clearly hear my father’s reaction reverberating in my ears, (and he was not one to swear), “Oh sh…”
Later that day, or the next day, we attended a special service at our synagogue, praying for Israel’s survival. Then, not too long after that, I think it was early evening – I was already in bed, and there were whoops of joy from downstairs – Israel had liberated Jerusalem! And then, all of a sudden, the war was over, in six days, a total Israeli victory over millions of Arabs who had sworn to ‘throw the Jews into the sea.’ Wow!
Israel was in a state of euphoria – seventh heaven. There was a tremendous sense of accomplishment, of unity, and of miracle. Mission impossible had become reality. Unfortunately though, with only few exceptions, it has been downhill ever since.
The almost irrational urge to withdraw from the ‘occupied territories’ (see: http://www.israelnn.com/article.php3?id=2343) which began simultaneously with their liberation, is on the verge of becoming reality.
One of the results of the Six Day War and the liberation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza was the emergence of a new socio-political force, today commonly known as the ‘nationalist religious Zionist camp. Religious Zionism, i.e. a religious Jewish approach to returning to Eretz Yisrael, had already existed for hundreds of years, beginning perhaps during the age of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu, in the eighteenth century. Yet the driving force behind resettling the land of Israel, the push to transform the liberation from a dream-like ecstasy into an on-the-ground reality, was led by the students of the two Rabbis Kook, whose Torah teachings focused on the significance of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people. These were the people who stood in the forefront, guiding the way, beginning in Hebron, and spreading out to all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Late last week, a journalist asked me my opinion of a question evolving amongst contemporary Jewish ‘thinkers,’ linking the planned expulsion from and abandonment of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, known as ‘disengagement,’ to the future of this ‘nationalist religious Zionist ‘ entity. He directed me to an article appearing in the Spring edition of Azure by Yossi Klein HaLevi called ‘Unsettling’ [http://www.azure.org.il/magazine/magazine.asp?id=248]. The fundamental issue raised by HaLevi can be summed up in the following paragraphs:
“Much has been written about the possibility of violence that might accompany the withdrawal; no less troubling, however, is the possibility that the disengagement will alienate significant elements of religious Zionism from the Israeli mainstream and from Zionist ideology. One increasingly common critique voiced among religious Zionists is that secular Zionism has ended its mission; some even question religious Zionism’s historic decision to enter into a partnership with secular Zionism… Those voices strengthen isolationist trends evident in recent decades within a part of the religious Zionist camp… little thought has been directed toward the question of how religious Zionism will find a place in Israeli society if and when the greenhouses of Gush Katif are abandoned.
(Religious Zionism) did succeed in creating a broad and dedicated community from which Israeli society may yet learn a great deal, and which represents classic Zionist values–including the importance of Jewish reconnection with the land of Israel, regardless of its final borders; the value of defending the Jewish state through military service; a belief in Zionist idealism…the importance of building family-based communities; and the centrality of Jerusalem to Jewish history and identity. Indeed, it is religious Zionism alone that has consistently advocated a strong role for Jewish tradition in the formulation of Zionist theory and policy… The vitality of the Jewish state and the Jewish people depends in no small measure on the continued vitality of religious Zionism, and on its continued commitment to the general Zionist enterprise (my emphasis).
The author then attempts to show why nationalist religious Zionists should not view the planned expulsion/abandonment as a total collapse of all that they believe in.
All well and good, except that HaLevi misses the main point, that being the fact that Sharon’s ‘disengagement’ is not the end of the game, rather it’s only the beginning. How so?
First, the Israeli retreat is unilateral. It’s not incorporated into any ‘peace plan’ or treaty. Israel is effectively throwing in the towel. The enemy has won. This fact is backed up by today’s news: “The Bush administration is showing signs of easing its hard-line approach toward Hamas, in response to the militant group’s rising political clout in the Palestinian territories and appeals for flexibility from European allies, officials and diplomats said.
The White House acceded to Hamas running candidates in Palestinian elections, even though it has refused to disarm and Washington lists it as a major terrorist organization.[http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/584613.html]
If Israel is willing to flee from its own land, thereby endangering its civilian population in all major cities, (as the former Chief of Staff, General Moshe Ya’alon stated upon his forced retirement from the military) why shouldn’t the U.S recognize and deal with Hamas? The United States didn’t recognize the PLO until Israel initiated talks with them. The same thing is occurring again. Ya’alon warned, ‘we’ll either have to give them more, or go back and fight the terror ourselves.’ It seems that Sharon has already made his choice.
Second: Only a couple of days ago the Sharon administration’s chief hatchet man, Dov Weissglass, (who will probably be remembered in Jewish history together with Josephus), stated in no uncertain terms: Following the ‘disengagement’ we will ‘clean up’ all the ‘illegal hilltop communities.’ Again, we are talking about evicting hundreds, if not more, families, from their homes and their land.
Third: The best kept non-secret in Jerusalem is that this summer’s planned events are ‘Disengagement: Phase One.’ Everyone knows that after Phase One is Phase Two and then Phase Three. It is openly talked about. Sharon’s hatchet man number two, Ehud Olmert, publicly, privately, (and proudly), speaks of ‘the next, inevitable ‘disengagement.’
Fourth: I have written previously, and will not elaborate now, that Shimon Peres’ original goal in advocating Oslo was to break the back of the Nationalist Religious Zionist entity, which he views as a threat to his dream of a secular Switzrael, which is populated by, among others, Jews.
In short, Yossi Klein HaLevi’s premise that nationalist religious Zionists are the ‘glue’ of State of Israelis, and that the State still needs us, is predicated on the assumption that the so-called Israeli leadership really wants us. However, the points enumerated above prove the opposite: If Oslo was a spanking, now they are getting out the whip. Rather than attempting to placate the victims of the planned expulsion, the administration plans to continue full speed ahead, rampantly running down everyone in their path. So much for HaLevi’s final words: “Meeting those challenges requires the best efforts of our most committed people; religious Zionism has a crucial role to play.” Clearly, we are not wanted.
The glue of Am Yisrael is not any individual or group. The glue of our heritage is a collective: our people, our land, our Torah. Today- Jerusalem Day, Tomorrow, Hebron Day – these two place, these two days, represent, perhaps more than anything else, the essential elements of our existence. Hebron and Jerusalem – the super glue of our being. The super glue that ties together Morag and Kiryat Shmona, the super glue that binds secular and religious, the super glue that links Jews from New York and Yemin. An eternal lifeline of our past, present and future, which can not, and will not, ever be broken.
With blessings from Hebron.