The Right / Religious Zionism sets its sights on leading the country
In the spirit of last week's Torah portion, Vayeshev, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen of Alon Shvut sees the destiny of religious Zionism as akin to that of Joseph. Rosen, who angered many colleagues several months ago by suggesting they give up and bid farewell to Gush Katif at a dignified funeral-like ceremony, thinks that "the tribe with dreams, the religious Zionism tribe - which Gush Katif symbolized at its best - is simply hated."
Rosen divides the tribe's conduct into four sects: "Some say, `Let's move on, let time do its part, and may the Lord have mercy;' some say, `We'll engage field battalions across the broad public, persuade by the power of faith, and love will triumph;' and some say: `They don't want us? We'll disengage from the state, won't serve in the IDF. A disengagement for a disengagement.'" But Rosen affiliates himself with "the fourth sect" - "We must aspire and position ourselves more firmly, conquer from within and realize the dreams of kingdomship."
Rabbi Uri Sharky, a senior member of Machon Meir and a rising force in religious Zionism, speaks in a similar vein. Sharky belongs to a growing stream within that camp that wants "to think big." He believes an immediate change of approach is called for: "We have to get used to the fact that we must take over the country's leadership, and that we have to make that our target. The era is over when we thought it was enough to have `our own' people integrated into all the centers of influence in state systems to get what we want. It turned out the seat corrupts, because he who integrates into the system also plays into the hands of the norms dictated by it."
Sharky talks about changing the current standing of the Supreme Court, the Shin Bet security service, the police SWAT unit, school systems, the culture and media, and the decision-making set up in the government and Knesset. He proposes thinking teams to formulate a "manifesto" of their demands for major changes in society, alongside an explicit demand to head the country. Sharky proposes that the religious right develop its own media outlets, and thinks the mere internal decision about a new direction will set the wheels of revolution in motion.
Gush Katif evacuee Rabbi Judah Zoldan estimates it will take years: "There's no doubt that opponents - mostly on the left - will enlist all their forces to keep up from influencing and determining. But have no fear, for many years we were afraid to express and fight for our faith in how a Jewish country really ought to behave that was founded after long years of exile; perhaps the time wasn't ripe, but today - when there are numerous and fresh forces - the time has come."
One way or another, rabbis like Sharky and Zoldan are saying what Moshe Feiglin has been saying for years: "We are destined for greatness." Feiglin is trying to conquer the leadership of the country from within the ruling Likud party, and to establish "a Jewish agenda." The rabbis who now speak Feiglinish are still searching for a suitable framework, but there's no doubt that the target already has been marked out.
Even Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the rather staid chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, has changed tack: "We will not disengage from the state and will not unsettle faith in the just path. We will now surge with greater vigor to upgrade the country." But he also makes clear: "The criticism, and it is harsh, is of the government alone and the branches of government. We will remain statesman-like in our regard for the state, but not in our regard for its institutions and people, who displayed callousness and moral insensitivity. We demonstrated greater responsibility to the state. We are the primary continuation for its future and its existence."
Ariel rejects the premise that religious Zionism is in crisis. "It's the political-existential Zionism that is in a profound crisis. The idea that once the state arose it would remove the central dangers to the Jews' existence was not borne out. The state did not solve the Jews' problem; on the contrary, it made it worse. And the scapegoat for secular Zionism's frustration is religious Zionism."
"The Jewish revolution" and the proclaimed ambition to attain the country's leadership will not come to pass in the 2006 elections, but those heralding it are saying explicitly: We are setting off on a long journey, different from the one we have been on so far.