Despite their support for the settler struggle, in the ultra-Orthodox mainstream there is a clear abstention from active protest.
A delegation from the ultra- Orthodox newspaper Mishpaha (Family) visited Gush Katif about two weeks ago. This newspaper, which is usually a good reflection of the mood and desires of the ultra-Orthodox public, is walking a fine line these days between the ultra- Orthodox street's visible support for the struggle against the disengagement and the determination by those who set ultra-Orthodox policy not to join the protest. Thus, despite its orange front pages and supportive articles, the paper avoids taking a direct stance or calling for protest. "We went down to this beautiful region to see with our own eyes the injustice that is about to take place there, to look into the jaws of the approaching destruction," wrote the founder and chief editor of the newspaper, Moshe Grylak, in his weekly column. He rhapsodizes about the landscape, the "precious people" and the sadness about the synagogues and ritual baths that will be demolished. But in conversation with him, Grylak explains the ultra-Orthodox dialectic on the disengagement in a single sentence: "There is identification with the individual who suffers, but there is no identification with the perception of redemption." And he adds bluntly: "Who told them to settle there?"
The sweeping and surprising success of the orange campaign among the ultra-Orthodox public is evident in the cars and children's bicycles adorned with orange ribbons. But the picture is more complex. Despite the popular support, in the ultra-Orthodox mainstream there is a clear abstention from active protest. Even Yated Neeman, the organ of the Lithuanian Degel Hatorah movement, which reflects the dovish views expressed by its late leader, Rabbi EliezerShach, is feeling the pressure. Its editorials have expressed reservations about the orange ribbons, along with satisfaction in discomfort of religious Zionism, which has clung to the Jewish state as the beginning of redemption.
However, there too they admit that the fears that the ultra-Orthodox community would be swept away was premature. With a few exceptions, mostly from the Chabad court, which is known for its extreme right-wing affinities, there were no ultra-Orthodox at Kfar Maimon. Moreover, as the date of the disengagement approaches and the protest on the right increases, it seems the bright orange is fading among the ultra-Orthodox. The alienation and the indifference are increasing and the plans for vacations during the traditional period - beyn hazmanim - when the yeshivas are in recess, are in full swing, even though the dates fall on the implementation of the disengagement. Even in the city that has covered itself in orange, Bnei Brak, it appears the disengagement has been forgotten. If the street is burning, it is only because of the inhabitants' decision to incinerate the mountains of garbage that have inundated he city since the municipal employees' strike began.
The brotherhood of the oppressed
"Ninety-eight percent of the ultra-Orthodox are against the disengagement," said a Jerusalem Hasid whose rebbe is known for his rightist opinions. Last month a few admors (rabbinical leaders) went to Gush Katif to express solidarity and to pray with the inhabitants for the evil decree to be rescinded. In her book "Hem mefahadim" ("They are Afraid"), Zvia Greenfeld shatters the common assumption that the ultra-Orthodox are moderate on peace issues and describes ultra-Orthodox society as extreme right wing.
The author, who lives in this society, analyzes the involvement of the ultra-Orthodox in the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in 1996, and explains that they worked hand in glove with national religious society to defeat the left and the peace camp - the elites. The brotherhood of the oppressed.
What is happening this time? Now, too, the root of the solidarity is emotional. The ultra- Orthodox speak in one voice about hatred for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, more than about love for the Jewish settlers in the territories. They stress the uprooting of Jews from their homes. Why, then, is this society not coming out into the streets to demonstrate and protest en masse? Why are posters and bulletins condemning the disengagement not plastered on the walls of every street?
"Perhaps the bridegroom wants this. It is not clear that the bride will be all that happy," responds researcher of ultra-Orthodox society Dr. Menachem Friedman. He explains that although ultra-Orthodox hearts lean toward Gush Katif, the rabbis are not giving public permission and are not letting loose the troops.
The split still exists
Even though he agrees with the description of the rightward tendency of the ultra-Orthodox public and the negative feelings toward Sharon, Friedman believes the split that has always separated the ultra-Orthodox and the national religious public still exists, socially and mentally. "Sharon is perceived as the crude, rapacious Israeli. And what we are seeing today in the ultra-Orthodox street is against the Israeli left, against Shinui or the Labor Party. But the national religious public and the ultra-Orthodox public are different worlds with respect to their way of life, their position on mingling of the sexes and military service."
The ultra-Orthodox do not forgive Sharon for the great betrayal, the fact that he did not bring them into his government in his first term, but preferred Shinui. "But the ultra-Orthodox aren't going to demonstrate in mixed demonstrations and won't run to the hills," says Friedman. "The culture of religious Zionism, of not giving up a single inch, is not the ultra- Orthodox public's culture. Even though it has become less anti-Zionist in recent years, it will definitely not identify itself with the Zionists."
In the more strictly Orthodox reaches of the national religious public, says Friedman, the disengagement has caused a deep rift, a retreat from the redemptive project and a crisis of faith. This is very far from the ultra-Orthodox perception. The ultra-Orthodox are in essence far more pragmatic. "It isn't by chance that the very Orthodox national religious built yeshivas and synagogues and cemeteries in Gush Katif. The admor from Boston who visited there links himself to historical Judaism and very Orthodox national religious Judaism through the study of Torah in Gush Katif. This has turned out to be a good invention that touches ultra- Orthodoxy's most tender nerve. But as far as they are concerned, the Jewish people has been through enough disasters. This is a trauma, but for this it is necessary to endanger the Jewish people?" says Friedman. This is also, adds Friedman, why Rabbi Elyashiv gave an order to his emissaries to vote in favor of postponing the disengagement in the Knesset, but this was done in a low-key way.
"The national religious did not identify with our public's Sabbath war and the demonstrations against the desecration of graves," says Bezalel Cohen, who belongs to the Lithuanian community. "The Yesha Council is not a natural partner. The abstention by the ultra-Orthodox is anti-Zionist." He says with a smile that although it is hard to remove the orange ribbons from the bicycles, there can be no expectations of organized protest. The identification of the Orthodox with the opponents of the disengagement, he says, stems from anger at what is considered Sharon's dictatorship and the way he makes decisions. But this is not a reason to get tens of thousands out into the streets.
Yeshivas are standing firm
"During the early days of the state, the underground groups appealed to the heart, but the heads of the yeshivas were opposed. During the British Mandate, ultra-Orthodox youth enlisted in the Irgun and the Lehi," says Friedman, "even at the Hebron yeshiva." The question, he says, is the extent to which the rabbis are giving a free hand. It seems they are standing firm. "The demonstrators among the national religious public are in fact the group of strictly Orthodox national religious students," he says. "They are their Palmach and they are receiving encouragement and incentive from the heads of the yeshivas and the teachers, because it is in accordance with the ideology.
"However, in the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, the yeshiva heads still maintain the spark of a moderate principled stance and they are keeping their youngsters on a short leash. If they allow them to demonstrate, it will give rise to two evils for them: battles of opinions with the Zionists and the risk that this rapprochement will in the end lead to leaving religion. In the big Hasidic courts they are keeping even more apart than the Lithuanians and the supervision of the younger generation is even stronger. The nationalist admors - the rabbi from Boston, the rabbi from Talna - don't have divisions."
"Rejoice not in the fall of thine enemies. Yeted Neeman running amok is not a Jewish virtue," says Grylak , commenting on the Lithuanian bastion's Schadenfreude. He says he is against the disengagement, but agrees that there will not be a public call from ultra-Orthodox rabbis to participate in the protest against it. "The ultra-Orthodox definitely feel there is an atmosphere that is out to get all the religious. But to the rank-and-file ultra-Orthodox individual I say: You haven't been in the army. Why are you meddling?"