Stop Selling Us the Messiah

For 51 years we've been sending our sons to control another people, to die and to kill, so the religious Zionists could adorn themselves with grains of the Whole Land of Israel. It's time to change course

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at an event in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 29, 2018.
Meged Gozani

I don’t believe in God and even less in those who have appointed themselves his emissaries in the Netanyahu government. I grew up in a home where every corner held reminders of God’s failures during the Holocaust. My parents didn’t believe in God, either. Instead there prevailed in our home a belief in man and his right to life, welfare and dignity. With no one to blame and no one to pray to, I understood that responsibility lay with us; that human potential doesn’t lose its luster when God is removed from the equation, but shines with an even stronger light.

Secularism is no guarantee against irrational thinking, ignorance or just plain malice. History insists on making this point repeatedly (see under: Donald Trump). But religion and its envoys do not guarantee morality or common sense, either, and this, too, has been proven above and beyond what’s required.

Most of the Israeli public supports civil marriage and gay marriage, public transportation on Shabbat and the separation of church and state, but the secular public has become accustomed to thinking about the tension between religion and state in terms of infrastructure work on Shabbat and supermarket closures. It is easier to recognize the religious campaign when it declares itself as such, but not all of our Knesset members are as honest as the Shas and United Torah Judaism MKs.

Take, for example, the outrageous campaign against the integration of women into the army. Many are trying to hide this project’s religious roots under various guises, from security to evolutionary biology. The people behind this operation realize that their interpretation of Jewish tradition is not sufficiently convincing, so for the sake of imposing Torah and mitzvot they are even willing to invoke evolution.

Another example of an attempt to conceal naked religious proselytizing is the attempt to disguise the distribution of funds to personal associates through organizations that promote “Jewish identity” in the education system. This is a carefully chosen term that emits a little Yiddishkeit, while they are actually selling the Third Temple to our children.

But the real religious struggle is the one being conducted over the country’s borders. The claim by Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett that “Jerusalem is above the rational” is one example of this, like his claim that “a people cannot be an occupier in its own land.” Since the borders of sovereign Israel end at the Green Line, Bennett clearly means the borders of the biblical Land of Israel.

Religious Zionism, whose ideology sets the tone for the government, has made an enormous effort to rebrand the settlement project to sell it to us. Less religion, more security. But the goals of the messianic project have not changed with time. Only its marketing people have changed.

Religious Zionist representatives are of course permitted to invest their political power in realizing the vision of the Whole Land of Israel. What is forbidden, as well as ugly and despicable, is dishonesty. For 51 years we have been sending our sons to control another people, to die and to kill, so that this messianic gang could adorn themselves with grains of the Whole Land of Israel. There are people living in Israel who have lost loved ones on the altar of this vision, and Habayit Hayehudi is apparently convinced that it’s possible to continue to sell us the Messiah as if it’s ice cream.

If I were a believer in God, I would say that no fast day could mitigate sending people to their deaths by telling lies. But I don’t believe in God; I believe in people. This country is our responsibility and if we don’t want the blood of our children to continue to pave the way for the Messiah, we must open our eyes, take hold of ourselves and change course. God isn’t going to do it for us.