As we know, a couple of weeks ago, an observant soldier from the territories refused to shake the hand of the IDF Chief of Staff because of the disengagement from Gaza. This was not incidental and was not an unusual event in these troubling days. On the contrary, it has become the norm. Today the Jerusalem Post reports that:
Rabbi Avraham Shapira decided it would be inappropriate to invite IDF officers to Jerusalem Day celebrations at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav.
In the past the yeshiva has made it a point of inviting high-ranking IDF officers to address students as part of the festivities of Jerusalem Day.
“Jerusalem Day commemorates our miraculous victory in the Six-Day War and the joy of liberating the Land of Israel”, said Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, Shapira’s close aide.
“It’s not fitting to celebrate this day with IDF officers who are planning to give back this redeemed land.”
Magnus added that there were many students in the yeshiva who had family and friends who were expelled from the homes in Gaza and North Samaria.
“How can you expect us to invite people who are responsible for the expulsion,” said Magnus.
In other words, “You folks, defenders of our country, many of whom spent countless years protecting our settlements and lives, are no longer welcome among us because you have served as you were supposed to – objectively, neutrally – in maintaining a democratic order from the government of Israel.”
Sadly, this is the norm now.
Israeli soldiers were accused of being Nazis before the disengagement. The Israeli government was accused of being Nazi-like before the disengagement. Those of us who expressed outrage at the use of these horrid symbols were told that it’s a normal turn of events and that Zionism itself was being undermined.
Who made this decision? A group of people who believe that somehow their Zionism is greater than that of those of us who don’t subscribe to a Greater Israel vision. As part of their campaign, they let us all know that they are the true torch-bearers of Zionism, that those to their left are absent true love for Israel, true Zionist beliefs, strength of faith, virtuous and moral lives. They claim and claimed that the Israeli government was undemocratic, acting undemocratically and unjustly.
In short, they were saying they were not only right, but that the essence of God’s will and justice in our world were being undermined by the actions supported by the majority of Israelis and their government.
Some of wrote and said back then, including some of us here on Jewlicious, that this will end horribly. That these words were undermining the unity required to sustain the state of Israel and its society. That these words were undermining the IDF and its role as a defender of the state of Israel.
It has now come to pass that those EXTREMISTS have indeed caused phenomenal damage to the perception, among large portions of the Israeli population, of the legitimacy of the IDF and the Israeli government. In their hubris, these folks and their leaders, many of whom are rabbis, have used and continue to use the language of faith to push this new agenda. The result, of course, being that many among their community, especially many of the young, have taken to accepting these ideas as correct, just, moral and representative of how things should be. After all, this must be what God wants. We are no longer talking about a small group, or an Yigal Amir who has lost his moral compass. We are now talking about a large segment of Israeli population that is turning away from the state, becoming insular and even hostile to the state.
There is nothing sadder than seeing this happen. I recall thinking over the years, whenever I saw a sandal wearing settler, long beard in tow, kipa on the head, long unruly hair, the inevitable plaid shirt and the wrinkled skin around the eyes burned from working in the sun, that these folks were pioneers. They were a new generation of those LEFTISTS who had built the state. Israel tried to accommodate the needs of this group in many ways. The settlements were subsidized, built up and defended. Along with money and support, Israel was willing to take the inevitable international heat around this issue. Hesder yeshivas were created with the intent of respecting the interests of the observant members of this group and in return, this group provided some superb and highly motivated soldiers to the IDF.
The rift, however, is becoming too great to bridge easily. The hostile language, the symbols used to accuse the IDF and Israel’s government, the angry leadership of some religious leaders in a community with many devout and observant Jews, are combining to distance this group from the mainstream.
What a shame. What a sad state of affairs.
I say to those who belong to this community: nobody is doing this with acrimony or hatred towards you. The disengagement, and now the discussion over “convergence” are representative of an evolution of circumstances that have led many people who love Israel no less than you, and who believe it is their place no less than you, to conclude that the only way to protect and preserve the state is by moving into lines that establish a clear demographic majority and have far greater likelihood of international acceptance. Perhaps you are right and these plans are wrong. However, you must also have some humility and accept that you may also be wrong. None of us are God and not a one of us – even the greatest rabbi – can claim to know what is the desire of God. We can only guess.
We have been able to re-create Israel after millenia of pining to return. Isn’t it incumbent upon all members of this society to work towards hegemony; toward brotherhood? Why did all those soldiers, most of whom, historically, were secular Jews probably belonging to a Left wing party, sacrifice their lives and limbs? They did so whether the assignment was in Syria or outside a settlement in Samaria. They did so because of their sense that they were protecting a greater ideal, which included you and your beliefs as well as their families and their beliefs. Politics was the battleground where diverging interests could be expressed, but what was off the table was the IDF and the symbols of the first Jewish state in millenia.
Take some steps back. Gather your leadership and let the moderates prevail. Distance the extremists who view things from a selfish and hubristic point of view. It would be a shame to watch you separate from the rest of Israel. Where can you go? What will you do? Is the Galilee not worth renewing? Is the Negev unimportant? Is Jerusalem not worth your efforts?
(***Dear prospective commenter: save the personal attacks, I’m not interested and won’t respond; address the topic if you have something to say)