Toward the Edge of the Abyss

The rabbis calling for refusal to obey evacuation orders are misleading the entire public and shattering, with their own hands, the covenant between religious Zionism and its leadership and the state.

The call by two former chief rabbis, Mordechai Eliyahu and Avraham Shapira, for soldiers to refuse obeying the military order to prevent pullout opponents from entering the Gaza Strip is not a halakhic ruling. It is a blatant act of incitement and political sedition that is prompting many soldiers to violate the state's laws. The inciting rabbis are drawing a false comparison between the disengagement and the desecration of the Sabbath. In so doing, they are misleading the entire public and shattering, with their own hands, the covenant between religious Zionism and its leadership and the state.

The fact is that other rabbis - the head of the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, for example - believe that the opposite is true, and that every soldier, as religious as he may be and as much as he may believe in the sanctity of the land, is bound to obey his commanders and the decisions of the government and the Knesset. The rabbis of the right will, of course, argue that this ruling is political. If so, theirs is a great deal more so.

The Israeli public is witnessing the unfolding of the most dangerous scenario of all, which is tearing apart the thin fabric of democracy and civil solidarity. This act of sedition threatens to whip up individuals and groups within the army. The phenomenon is particularly severe in the hesder units. The Israel Defense Forces was forced Sunday to disband a company afflicted with this scourge, and there are grave concerns that with the intensification of the conflict at the entrance to Gaza, the inciters will influence and sway others.

The Chief Rabbinate was established as an arm of the state. It was defined as an entity that is supposed to function subject to the democratic structure adopted by the country, to represent and serve all of Israel's Jewish citizens. Within this framework, the rabbis were supposed to tone down the inherent conflict between religion and state and, in contrast, to express a consistent desire for the synthesis between statehood and tradition. Until a few years ago, the rabbinate generally upheld these principles, while sanctifying, sometimes in an exaggerated fashion, the state and the army.

Religious Zionism sought to be incorporated in all fields of life and society. The IDF, whose adherence to the orders of the executive authority is one of the cornerstones of democracy, was an important target in this integration process. The religious Zionist movement is proud of having successfully incorporated those who wear knitted kippot into the army.

But from this same religious Zionism that strives for integration grew Gush Emunim, which aggressively worked to crush the democratic system. Its violent messianic agenda is now yielding rotten fruit in the form of the disastrous phenomenon of refusing to obey army orders. Standing proudly at the forefront of this movement, which is leading the IDF and Israeli society to the edge of the abyss, are the two inciting rabbis, along with hundreds of rabbis employed by the establishment who are echoing their sentiments.

Another former chief rabbi with much influence, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has been speaking in whispered tones. Another one, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who has his eye on the President's Residence, isn't saying a thing. These two also will be called to task over the unraveling of the covenant between religious Zionism and the state. More seriously, they are to blame for the even more tragic enfeeblement of the foundations on which the national home stands.