I know, I know, I’ll be accused again of hating settlers, blah blah blah.

But this is an interesting opinion piece originally printed in Eretz Acheret, then Maariv and now reprinted by the Jerusalem Post.

The writer, Bambi (I kid you not) Sheleg, is the editor of Eretz Acheret, a serious magazine trying to address social issues in Israel. The current issue includes a couple of articles by strong Leftists, so it seems the magazine is disposed in that direction. It is funded, in part, by the Avi Chai foundation. Bambi seems to come from a religious Zionist background and apparently lives in the territories (I glean this from the article but would welcome more specific info if anybody has it). The article is well worth reading. Here are some choice excerpts:

In the years following the Yom Kippur War we came to believe, with true sincerity, that we were the flag-bearers of the Jewish people. After all, we had not forgotten the Torah of Israel and its values; we knew from whence we came and where we were going; we had more humility, we were imbued with faith.

The Yom Kippur War had not badly shaken our world of beliefs, as it did with the leading strata of Israeli society up until then. Just the opposite. That war actually strengthened us. The more mature among us discerned a leadership and ideological vacuum, the need for a new ideal to “uplift the people’s spirit” – then at an ebb in wake of the war’s tragedy – and charged toward the new and exciting goal: settling Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Thus the great internal disengagement of religious Zionism began.

This disengagement had many and varied aspects: On the one hand, it strengthened our branch of Israeli society in a truly amazing fashion. We built extraordinary communities and large families. Our people grew strong and became part of all facets of society: academia, the media, the army and politics.

The economic situation of many of us improved unrecognizably. Our various educational networks, the state-religious and the national-haredi schools, became more powerful, both because of the fact that they were given more money than the regular state schools, and because many of us give education the highest priority and devote their lives to it.

DEAR FRIENDS, this is so difficult for me to write: We were wrong, and we misled our society. On the way to redeeming the land of our forefathers, we forgot our people. We looked out for ourselves and our children very well, and we forgot so many children of other people.

While we were busy with the Land of Israel and settling and fostering our ostensibly ideological identity, so isolated from those of other people, awful things took place. There are a million and a half impoverished people in Israeli society, and the overwhelming majority of them are not among our ranks.

We looked out for ourselves, did we not? The beautiful settlements we built, the huge and ostentatious houses in so many of them, we thought this was something we deserved by right. While our schools flourished – and we made sure our children received more and more hours of schooling – there was no one to look out for the other children.

We strengthened our own small and prestigious state religious schools and national haredi schools and neglected, even when we held the Education Ministry portfolio, all the other school systems. We acted like any self-interested sector, not as a worthy leadership.

We have no interest in the rights of workers, which are gradually being eroded – not of Jewish workers and certainly not of foreign workers; we have nothing to say about Israel being a world leader in the trading of women, and we of course have nothing to say about the Palestinian issue.

Except for a very few in our society, we don’t even notice their existence. The Palestinians are invisible. They are a phenomenon of nature. We only see them when they strike at us.

And to all this it must be added that the institution closest to us, the one our people still control, the rabbinical courts, function like the legal system of a third world country, and we do almost nothing to change this disgrace.

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