Religious Zionism Hijacked

Who would have believed a few years ago that Israel's religious Zionists would go completely cuckoo?

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A month ago I was asked as "a leading public figure whose opinion is very important to us" to write a few words about the religious community’s contribution to Israeli society. I was even asked to send a picture "that will appear on a page reserved for you in our special annual magazine." The letter was signed by Dudu Saada, chairman of the newspaper Besheva, a free weekly of settler radio station Arutz Sheva. Why not, I said, it's another chance to criticize the Order of the Bennettian Brothers. The article is printed here as I sent it, without time-related updates.

Forty years ago Kiryat Shmona’s rabbi approached me; we were neighbors at the time. The rabbi said he wanted to start a hesder yeshiva combining military service and Torah studies, and the Defense Ministry had refused. Those were tough years for the city, which was plagued by terror attacks and Katyusha rockets. So I said: Let dozens of young men come – all of them wielders of swords – and boost the residents’ spirit. I phoned then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres, and he agreed at once.

I admire Rabbi Tzefania Drori for remaining faithful to his city for decades. But today I wouldn't help set up a hesder yeshiva. Not only do hesder students do less time in the army, their rabbis have appropriated the right to be the source of military authority.

Religious Zionism was once a glorious movement, one that turned into an offensive movement. Since leaving the country and settling in the territories, it is only interested in the territories, as if the springs of salvation only flowed in the east. This is the movement that sowed the spirit of heresy against the state’s democratic institutions, the movement that defied official Israel and permitted political subversion against it. Gush Emunim, the spearhead, never recognized Israel's governments, it only exploited them for its needs through subterfuge.

In its current incarnation, the successor of the Mizrahi religious Zionist movement supports a despicable person for chief rabbi, someone who calls on us to “concentrate all the Amalekites in extermination camps.” And a weak attorney general plans a hearing for him, as if there were something unclear about his halakhic decisions, as if it hadn't been proved that the incitement has already crossed the lines of clear and present danger. Arab students are attacked and expelled, their cars are burned, and the graffiti on the walls says “Arabs out,” “Death to the Arabs” and “Don't touch our daughters” – all in the sacred community of Safed.

If Meir Kahane were alive, he’d be the preferred candidate. It’s said that if we closely examine the sermons of many rabbis we’ll find similar abominations. And this writer and his readers weep about that. What’s the use of Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon's Talmud studies? What does she really understand from the text, and what does she think about the “administration for love of the homeland” - the Jewish Identity Administration?

The military rabbinate – another religious Zionist satellite – keeps female soldiers from view for fear that someone will feast his eyes on a tanned ankle. In cemeteries, it buries non-Jewish soldiers in separate rows, and a foolish defense minister believes that this is an improvement. Those who stood together, in one row, will lie separately.

Who would have believed a few years ago that Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook’s students would go completely cuckoo; that they would separate 6-year-old boys and girls because of the evil instinct, as preparation for the university of life? Religious Zionism is furious when the prime minister’s murder is laid at its doorstep. But what skullcap can cover the heads of the murderers from the Jewish underground and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and of those who extract a 'price tag’?

I wrote and sent the article. Besheva gave it a think and decided to do without my "few words." I’ll find consolation in Haaretz’s readers.

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz at Mount Herzl. Israel buries non-Jewish soldiers in separate rows.Credit: Reuters

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