The undersigned was educated in a religious boarding school near Kfar Hasidim in the north. Boys and girls studied together. The girls would crochet skullcaps for the boys, and the institution was under the sponsorship of Hapoel Hamizrahi, a moderate Zionist party, from which the first advocates of Greater Israel eventually emerged.
Most of the counselors and teachers were Yekkes − German Jews. Discipline was strict. We had to wash every day in cold water, and only on Fridays did we get to enjoy a hot shower. The concept “exclusion” did not exist at the time. On Friday evening after Kiddush, girls and boys danced together. Nobody died and nobody was born as a result.
Near the school there was a yeshiva we liked to visit, but not to tease the students who studied aloud while twirling their side curls. We, the wearers of knitted skullcaps, would go there to engage in fly-catching competitions. For some reason, the yeshiva was full of flies.
Only later did we discover that they would continue to study and we would go to the army. They would continue to study, and we could be killed or wounded. During those days of adolescence we didn’t think that in time two mutually hostile Jewish nations would arise here: a Zionist majority in a secular state versus a violent and thuggish ultra-Orthodox minority.
It’s a minority that aspires to force its beliefs on the majority, and then there’s a tiny minority that aspires to force Greater Israel on the majority, whatever the cost. All that as opposed to the legitimate political movement that used politics to fight against the return of the territories, and as opposed to the Labor Party, which initiated the settlements in the naive hope that what we occupied would remain in our hands.
The sobering-up process after that dream started very slowly, not only in the Labor Party. Even the greatest settlement builder sobered up. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that the time had come to awaken from the dream of Greater Israel. He said so, evacuated settlements, and disappeared from our lives. And then came Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Today it’s clear that without returning the territories not only will we not have peace, we will deteriorate from one war to the next. The political Greater Israel movement gave rise to the hilltop youth, and the struggle became violent. Let it cost what it will.
Despite their large skullcaps they incite Arabs, uproot their olive trees, destroy their homes and desecrate their mosques. Nor do they hesitate to lift a hand against the police and the army. It’s hard to believe that Israel, a nation that for generations suffered pogroms and the burning of synagogues, can tolerate this behavior.
What we have here is creeping insanity, which is reflected in various types of violence. The expression “price tag” does not mean an eye for an eye, but seven eyes and fists for an eye. These violent people are reminiscent of the bad guys in Westerns, who gallop into a remote town and fire in all directions. In everyday language that’s called hooliganism.
The destroyers of peace will emerge from among us, say the country’s citizens, referring to the rotten fruit produced by the legitimate settlement movements. They ignore the police, the army and the state and are liable to cause a catastrophe by burning the Al-Aqsa Mosque, for example, or by some other irreversible act.
Who would have believed that a well-known yeshiva head would declare that “it’s better to face a firing squad than to hear a woman’s voice”? Who would have believed that someone would try to separate the sexes on public buses − women in back, men in front, as was once customary in South Africa? The extremists are distorting the Jewish spirit, which has always been moderate and conciliatory.
The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, was quoted as saying, “Become a mensch, and only then strive to become more holy.” We could cite hundreds of quotations about the humanity of Judaism. The question is where are the admorim − Hasidic leaders − today? Where are the chief rabbis who receive a salary from the government? Where are the municipal rabbis and the yeshiva heads? Why are they remaining silent?
And above all the question is: Where are the security agencies? Is it possible they could reach terrorist leaders Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai and Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus − at least according to foreign sources − and can’t reach the Jewish terror leaders in the West Bank? After the events of this week the time has come to wield a strong hand against the price-tag people.
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