Behind Burning Eyes

Anyone who deluded himself into thinking that the results of the Likud referendum would turn out differently must not have sensed the spirit behind the ballot box.

Anyone who deluded himself into thinking that the results of the Likud referendum would turn out differently must not have sensed the spirit behind the ballot box. In a well-organized operation, with a sense of sacred mission, the national ultra-Orthodox adherents from the outposts gripped hands with the ultra-Orthodox from Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and Betar Illit who are disappointed in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But the ultra-Orthodox are only partially and temporarily bound to the soil, while the real dynamo behind the vote is in the possession of the national ultra-Orthodox. The soil is sacred, and the Likud, like the democratic game and the whole country, is a means to an end in the struggle over it, a struggle that is purely religious in character.

Sound overstated? A study published a year ago by Prof. Shlomo Kaniel from the School of Education at Bar-Ilan University examined the "psychological aspects of the settlers in the hills of Judea and Samaria." Kaniel, one of the most interesting and courageous scholars in his field, differentiates between the "hilltop youth" and the "hilltop settlers." The latter is comprised of young families and a small number of bachelors living either on hilltop settlements or in outposts, and range in age from soldiers in their late teens to those in their late 30s. All in all, this group encompasses about 600 people, among which Kaniel sampled 56 settlers from 27 outposts and hilltops.

Kaniel did a rare thing: He did not hide his admiration for these young idealists, but neither did he whitewash any of the findings that might be disturbing to him as a member of the national religious camp, Gush Emunim, who declares that democracy is dear to him, and that the state is the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.

The study showed that 52.8 percent of the settlers define themselves as very religious or national ultra-Orthodox. They do not accept the Chief Rabbinate's kashruth supervision, they believe in the vision of the rebuilding of the Temple, and they live without televisions and newspapers. Among this group, 75.5 percent live in a mobile home or shipping container, and 62.9 percent state that the primary reason they went to live on the hilltops is to fulfill the commandment to settle the Land of Israel. For 49 percent of them, the most important things in life are the love of God, the worship of God, the fulfillment of the commandments, the kingdom of God, and Jewish morality.

What exactly is this Jewish morality? Some 73.5 percent said that the solution to the Jewish-Arab problem is "expulsion, war and vengeance." A minority supported annexation according to halakha (Jewish law), transforming the Arabs into the biblical ger-toshav - foreigners living in the land. A debate is ongoing in this group, between extremists who support taking revenge against the Arabs (vengeance even has its own dance at weddings, based on the last words of Samson), and the moderates who oppose this, even though most of them believe that those taking revenge should not be censored.

Some 26.5 percent do not believe that the hilltops will be evacuated, but if they are, 38.8 percent declared that they will exercise passive resistance, 22.4 percent will actively resist, and 10.3 percent are wavering between active and passive resistance. According to Kaniel's weighted calculations, the total number of supporters of active resistance is over 41 percent. But even these statistics pale against the next finding: Some 20 percent of those who were asked oppose army service because, they say, the army does not operate according to the way of God, while the level of confidence in the army, the Shin Bet and the police is 3 on a scale of 1-5.

The settlers, Kaniel stresses, are disappointed in the functioning of the secular state, and reject the "religion" of democracy. All believe that there is an ideological and religious war taking place between Judaism and extreme Islam, and some see the state and Zionism as a process that has ended. Therefore, it is possible, according to them, to take the extreme step of not serving in the army.

It is doubtful that when Likud voters knew, when they saw those young people with their burning eyes and their sandals - reminiscent (as Kaniel puts it) of "the legendary biblical sabra," that this was the spirit moving within them. Someone should pay attention: this is an evil, fanatic-religious spirit that turns its back on all that is dear to most of the Israeli public. This is the spirit that will decide whether we live in a sane state, or die for the sanctity of the hilltops.