Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Sivan 5762 - May 22, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Collapse of a Historical Bridge -- Relations Between National-Religious and Nonreligious at the Breaking Point

by S. Chemed

For the last two or three generations the National- Religious have woven a golden dream of forming an inseparable bond with the national-nonreligious. With Torah-based religious life in the background, they envisioned a bridge of unbounded love for Eretz Yisroel and a partnership in building the Land that would unite both groups despite the wide gap between the religious and non-religious themselves.

Now it has become clear that this was utterly mistaken. Not that the religious-nationalists have any regrets over the links they formed. They have yet to reach the conclusion that they made a poor investment that has generated little or no profits and has brought major losses: a massive number of young religious people have crossed over the bridge to the other side.

As HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy'd said in his well- known admonitions, the bridge carries only one-way traffic. The reason for the collapse of this "historical bridge" is that the non-religious nationalists grew weary of their partners and at a certain point said, "Stop! We no longer share a common goal." The issue of Eretz Yisroel may have been relevant in the past, but it is no longer of great significance within the secular camp.

We have Nothing in Common with Them!

The following letter to the editor, appearing in Ha'aretz some weeks ago, serves as a typical example: "A clear line has to be drawn between us and them. The straight-thinking Left must sharpen the debate within the Nation. Whoever speaks of national unity while our soldiers are at the front joins Effi Eitam and his cohorts. They are not our allies and we have nothing in common with them. The straight-thinking Left must remove itself from this criminal war being waged for the sake of peace in the settlements and engage in a head-on battle, telling Effi Eitam and his friends: You do not belong with us. Dispute within the nation is a sign of sanity and the only path to peace."

This letter is noteworthy for the object of its wrath. In this case the villains are not members of Neturei Karta in Jerusalem, Satmar chassidim in New York or chareidim united under the banner of United Torah Judaism. After all, Ha'aretz writers and readers severed ties with them generations ago. Instead this rebuff is aimed directly at the National-Religious, with whom they have had a longstanding alliance, and the arrows are being shot primarily at "Effi Eitam and his cohorts."

Here's a bit of valuable information for those who do not follow the news in the political arena: Recently Effi Eitam, a brigadier general (res.) who shed his army uniform one year ago after thirty years of military service, was elected chairman of the Mafdal Party. He retired from military service even though, based on his talents and extensive experience on almost every front, he might have continued and even vied for the post of Chief-of-Staff. However, in the end, his beard and yarmulke were his undoing.

His biography is also interesting: Born on Kibbutz Ein Gev and raised with a secular upbringing, during his military career, particularly as a result of the Yom Kippur War, he did an about-face and began to keep Torah and mitzvos.

Realization of the Zionist Dream

Eitam's illustrious career is of no avail to him against his new opponents, not even the "national" part of his identity, for it is based on the passe school of thought that adheres to the concept of Eretz Yisroel as a middle ground that ties Jews together, even those who are not united on the basis of mitzvah observance. Why are his partners of yesterday rising up against a man with such an exemplary record of nationalism, military excellence and perseverance toward Zionist goals? How are they so different from him? Has the place of religion in national life -- Shabbos, kashrus, education -- become a point of contention between them? The truth is that in this area they never had anything in common.

The Mizrachi movement, the forerunner of the National- Religious movement, used to constantly tell chareidim, "We have nothing in common with you. But with secular Jews from Labor, Mapai and even Mapam, although they are so far from every matter of religion, we have a tight, solid and real partnership."

Yet today this partnership is dissolving due to differing viewpoints on the only goal they ever shared in common: the building and settling of the Land.

The degree of hostility the various factions of the Left show towards the National-Religious sector's largest enterprise-- the towns and settlements over the Green Line--is often underestimated. The settlers remain the only kernel carrying on "the realization of the Zionist dream," though until about thirty years ago settlement was the ideal of every movement within the Zionist camp.

All of the Zionist youth groups directed their young members towards building settlements, which was considered the highest aspiration. They organized core groups charged with carrying out this mission, primarily through the kibbutz movement. Many members of these groups filled the ranks of the Nachal Brigades, which were sent to reinforce existing kibbutzim following their military training, or went to frontier areas to set up military holdings that eventually became civilian settlements, generally kibbutzim.

The religious and the non-religious went side-by-side, united by the Zionist dream, each within its own specific sphere of activity. At a certain age all of the members of the youth group were sent to the kibbutzim belonging to their movement: Mapai's Ichud Hakibbutzim, Achdut Ha'avoda's Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Hashomer Hatza'ir's Hakibbutz Ha'artzi, and the National-Religious movement's Hakibbutz Hadati. Others went to rural and agricultural settlements associated with the Moshav Movement, which was also a part of the Labor Movement.


Today almost nothing remains of this high idealism that valued settlement above all. The kibbutz movement is rapidly withering away as, one-by-one, kibbutzim transform into regular communities. The faithful few who remain true to the original calling populate the chains of settlements set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip; although not kibbutzim and generally not based on agriculture, the settlement concept has certainly remained alive in them. They absorb the brunt of the Left's indignation, a deep-seated animosity articulated through harsh abuse toward those who remained the last of the banner-holders of the Zionist dream.

This development highlights the National-Religious movement's shortsightedness in failing to comprehend that Eretz Yisroel, Hashem's nachaloh to Am Yisroel, is wholly unsustainable through a partnership with those who uproot His holy Torah from the Land, and the longstanding belief in such an illusion has now been proven to be an illusion.

Members of the National-Religious movement considered themselves smarter than gedolei Yisroel who said such attempts are doomed to failure, warning that Eretz Yisroel does not support transgressors. He who denies the entire Torah cannot maintain his standing even in the single enterprise of yishuv ha'aretz, regardless of any notions that they are engaged in "revolutionary" or "pioneering" tasks. They will eventually brandish the sword even to chop down what they left behind a short time before.

The same applies in the case of Ephraim Eitam, a high- ranking officer whose wealth of experience in battle should have provided him open passage into the elite ranks of Israeli society, but to the Left he too has become a sign of tumah that must be kept at a distance.

The Promise of a New Society

Yisrael Harel, former chairman of the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council, is deeply distraught over this development. Despite his frustrations with the Left, he still feels no affinity whatsoever for the chareidi sector, which clings fervently to its uncompromising faith in pure Torah and cannot be misled by either religious or secular Zionist conjurers in any of their various forms. Harel is particularly distraught when he hears foreign journalists pose the question, "Will the State of Israel celebrate its 75th Independence Day?"

In an article fraught with pain and sorrow he writes, "The conviction that Israel's days are numbered comes primarily from Jews. Of course the Arabs are pleased to confirm the prophecies of doom. By the time they [foreign journalists] arrive at a conversation on the issue of settlement they have spoken with dissenters, Four Mothers [from Lebanon], academics, writers and journalists who have already given them an earful of dibas ha'Aretz. Some of the people they speak with do not believe their grandchildren will live in Israel. One journalist, the spine, perhaps even the heart, of the nation's conscience, proclaims, by thinking about what the future holds for his own grandchildren, that there is no future for a Jewish state."

Yet in the same article Harel displays a glimmer of hope that could come out of these developments. "When the leading grumblers leave, those who spread evil winds, those whose hearts are bitter here and whose lives here contradict their beliefs and their aspirations, then we will be left with a less polarized, but still diverse society; an optimistic society, with a fundamental sense of justice and less of a guilt complex; a society, unlike today's, where the basic values held in common will exceed those that divide . . . "

Perhaps the time will finally come when everyone will come to understand that unity can only be achieved among those who truly believe in Hashem and His Torah, that carrying out the Torah is the foremost principle they share in common and that the Land was intended as an inheritance for them alone.

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