Nebuchadnezzar, Me?

The settlers' mission was to "sear the souls of the soldiers" as they said themselves. This was mental violence.

Several dozen Border Police fighters lined the path leading to the synagogue in Morag. A settler teenager, about 17 years old, with a beautiful face and the bloom of youth, approached one of the Border Police, Second Sergeant Eyal Nagati. She came up very, very close to him. He is a lean young fellow, not one of the muscular types. She taunted him with the usual words: "Look me in the eye ... What will you tell your children? ... Think about your mother."

Nagati, a bit taller than her, tried to focus his glance over her head. For a moment, he looked like someone focusing his view on the flag during a national ceremony. The teenage girl did not relent. He turned his head to the right. He covered his mouth with his hand. She moved closer and closer to him, almost touching him. For a moment she stopped speaking, gave him a sweetish smile, seductive; it was almost an erotic provocation. Eyal Nagati did not crack, but he was lucky his commander came to replace him. Nagati looked like someone who was rescued from a great danger.

There is something frightening in the power of the mighty human machine that evacuated the settlers, a combination of the army, police and Border Police. Only insensitivity and stupidity could lead someone to dress Israeli police in uniforms like those used in fascist, repressive states. There is also something deterring and threatening in the sudden psychological transformation the security personnel underwent. By nature, they have no more self-restraint than most Israelis their age, and many of them have demonstrated severe violence in the past, including against Arab and Jewish citizens during demonstrations. In Gush Katif, they appeared to be disciplined robots. But here and there it became evident that some of them had not lost their ability to weep; apparently, this was also part of the emotional training they were given. There is something encouraging in this.

Several soldiers and an officer with the rank of lieutenant stood at the entrance to a home in Neveh Dekalim. Opposite them were a few boys and girls jumping and screaming, spouting Jewish history. Our father Abraham, our teacher Moses, King David, the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar, the expulsion from Spain, Eichmann, Hitler. One of the soldiers could no longer restrain himself. "What are you comparing to the Holocaust?" he retorted, and added something about the decisions of the majority in a democracy. And suddenly a historiosophic discussion developed, like in a high school classroom. The lieutenant was quick to restrain the soldier and sent him away.

In the end, the officer, Udi, remained alone with the children of the settlers. Rosy-cheeked, bespectacled, he looked like a good student. He bit his lips, his whole body reflecting an effort to absorb more and more verbal blows. His uniform bore the symbol of the state. "Do you even know where this menorah comes from?" screamed one of the girls, waving a picture of the Titus Gate in Rome before his eyes. Lieutenant Udi cracked: Very quietly and slowly, in a deep voice, apparently hurt to the depths of his soul, he asked, "I'm Nebuchadnezzar?" A more superior officer hurried to pull him away.

It is not easy to identify with the power of emotions the settlers demonstrated; although their pain is indeed pain, it is also a political weapon in their hands. The evacuation of the synagogue in Morag was a dreadful sight, something akin to a trance. Worshipers wrapped in prayer shawls let soldiers drag them outside of the building, screaming to high heaven in a scene reminiscent of paintings of pogroms from the Middle Ages. Finally, the soldiers led Rabbi Yitzhak Wasserman down from the pulpit, and the rabbi, his face contorted in tears, was dragged outside. Five minutes later, the rabbi stood at the entrance to the synagogue, looking quite relaxed and fresh, and answered questions from journalists.

At the synagogue of the hesder yeshiva in Neveh Dekalim, the settlers pulled the soldiers and officers into the circle of dancing in a great show of religion and politics - "The Temple will be built, will be built, will be built." The chief artillery officer, Brigadier General Danny Kasif, did not forbid the soldiers from being swept into the dance circle, but was careful to refrain from dancing himself.

The orange forces operated as a united and well-trained group. Most of them did not use rifles or stones because "a Jew does not hurt a Jew." The violence that erupted in Kfar Darom was an exception. Most of the settlers employed myths and symbols, tears and kitschy cliches, and here and there also brandished infants before the soldiers, all in the messianic spirit characterizing a fanatic cult whose faith is dearer to it than life itself. They may be praised for refraining from attacking the soldiers, but their effort to exert a powerful emotional impact on the soldiers should not be ignored.

When the leaders of religious Zionism now claim that the few thugs do not represent their public, they should be reminded that the settlers' mission was to "sear the souls of the soldiers" as they said themselves - that is, to leave them with an emotional disability that would prevent them from participating in the future in evacuating settlements in the West Bank. This was mental violence.