Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5764 - November 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Downfall After the Illusion of Pride

by Yisroel Spiegel

The religious Zionists, especially the pioneer settlers who are involved with all those politics, don't have it good. "Ever since Rabin's murder, the religious youth and its educators have been targeted for strong, even diabolical, verbal abuse," grumbled Yisrael Harel, former Secretary General of the Yesha [Yehuda, Shomron, Aza] Council in a weekly column that appeared a year ago in Ha'aretz.

He specifies: "`This is Hamas youth.' Avraham Burg said it and repeated it. This is what Uzi Benziman called those who, immediately upon their evacuation from Chavat Gilad, hurried back to their places of voluntary service at Magen David Adom, or their work with the elderly.

"The rabbis," said Shimon Peres, "are the subversives."

"Outlaws," dubbed them the Defense Minister.

"Subdue the rebellion!" cried the chorus of demonstrators at the threshold of the Defense Ministry offices. Such language was never applied before the only rebellion that ever really took place in the State of Israel: the Arab uprising of October 2000.


His comments are accurate. This is the style and this is the manner of speaking in the national media these days. Even before, and certainly after, that historic Shabbos of riots when the army evacuated a hilltop settlement as a preview to the forced and well-covered evacuation of Chavat Gilad in the Shomron, about which the Defense Minister was so adamant. According to all the signs, this was prompted by electoral reasons within his party.

None of the Leftist politicians, like the media people who accompany them enthusiastically and against whom Mr. Harel is so bitter, had any doubt that if there was any hooliganism in the country -- its only address is the `Noar Hagevaot,' the youth of the hilltop settlements. If there was any lawbreaking, that was the only place where it could be found -- by the settlers and their rabbinical leaders. And if there were anything threatening the State of Israel -- it was present by those selfsame `Hamas youth,' as Avraham Burg was not loathe to calling them.

But we must pay attention to something that ties these factions all up. Today they are the most bitter opponents of the religious Zionists who identify themselves with the right side of the political map. All of them, up until the recent past, were close partners with what is termed Zionism and `settlement.' Hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder they marched together, ever since the ridiculous and artificial liaison which they tried to create between those who deny the Torah and those who keep it, where they stubbornly and foolishly believe that Eretz Yisroel is what will unite them despite the vast chasm that separates the believers from the nonbelievers.

What breaks their hearts is the fact that the bitter reality slapped them in the face and burst the false bubble of illusion which they stubbornly blew on for so many years.


If sorrow fills your hearts, as Yisrael Harel so graphically describes, then there is reason for it, for it can be likened to what was written, "All of her friends betrayed her; they became her enemies" (Eichoh 1:2). Are they not continuing along the selfsame lines as the Zionist founders, secularist and religious alike?

Their sole dream was to renew the settlement of Eretz Yisroel, and yet, they are now being called such disgusting names and loathsome titles. True, on the fringes of their societies one can find rowdy rioters, some of whom physically antagonize soldiers and police in the course of the evacuation of their settlement, but the great majority of the religious youth who were present there in order to protest the evacuation had nothing to do with the violent few.

The feeling of having been abandoned by their comrades is to be found in the short and fascinating piece by Ari Roth in the weekly "Besheva." He describes a visit to the Beit Herzl museum in the Hulda forest. "It is a simple story of pioneer immigrants who come to settle the land, outright Zionism. Chalutzim come to make the desolation bloom again. They settled the land, planted trees, dug wells, suffering disease and Arab attacks and even fell, protecting their homestead." And when they left the museum, writes Roth, they were asked by the pleasant guide, an old inhabitant of Hulda, to write several words in the visitors' book. He agreed, and wrote, `I am full of hope that the settlers of our times will be wise enough to continue this Zionist endeavor that began here.'

The guide looked at him and asked, "What is the connection between contemporary pioneer settlers and those you saw here?"

In reply, he said, "Turn the film back and listen to what the narrator said: `1929. Local Arab rioters attacked the settlers, killing women and children.' I asked him: But all this took place already in the 20s and 30s, before the War of Independence in '48, before the Intifadah and before Arik Sharon went up to the Temple Mount. So why did they massacre those Jews? Because you kibbutzniks provoked them. You came to settle an area populated with Arab villages. You were extreme settlers. That's why they murdered you."


That is probably the very crux of the whole story: that is the true essence which the settlers of today have in common with those of yore who are determined to carry on the Zionist saga, in partnership with the Zionists of a generation or two ago. But the distance and disparity which has been created since that period cannot be measured or imagined. It is like the difference between the Zionist pioneer youth and the New Ideal of the Jewish Youth of whom they boasted so in the past, and the abusive epithet of the `Hamas youth' with which one of the central leaders of the Zionists dub those young folk, to say nothing of the organized media campaign to besmirch the movement of mitnachalim, which only a decade ago was termed by the late Yitzchak Rabin, `A cancer within the heart of the nation.'

The religious Zionists truly believed that the magical charm and power that exists in the Land of Israel would cohere and unite the atheists and the believers, no less and even more than the partnership between those who maintain the identical credo of lifestyle and belief of Torah and mitzva- observance. The fact is that they preferred those apostates over the faithful: they separated themselves knowingly and consciously from chareidi Judaism and all those who continued to adhere to the standards of the ancient tradition without any compromise, cleaving faithfully, uncompromisingly to the leaders and the wise and holy men of the generations. But the religious Zionists sacrificed their connection with those close to them for the sake of an alliance with those so distant from them on Shabbos and festivals, in the home and at the Jewish table.

It is no wonder, then, that now, after they are being abandoned and cast away by those allies with waves of bottomless hatred, they are hurt and bitter. The settlers, who began their downfall decades ago, says Yisrael Harel, are, "the sacrifices of prejudices and hatred" and "they look around them and ask: Why is this hatred campaign being carried on endlessly? . . . They remain openmouthed in face of the new wave of abuse and vituperation, but are especially hurt by the lies that deny their personal integrity, that confound and misrepresent their motives and distort the intent of the sons. These latter beg them not to become upset or sad . . . and the parents know that despite these words, deep in their hearts and despite all the words of consolation, they are really weeping."


They have what to cry over, as does the prophet, "Over these do I weep . . . " To cry over the illusion that has shown up their ideals, that has turned into disappointment, after so much time has elapsed. Our leadership already indicated and foretold it at the inception, a century ago when Zionism was initially founded, and even before, when the Mizrachi movement was first established, uniting with the secular Zionists.

At that time, they turned their backs to the warnings of the leaders of that generation who cautioned and defined with pinpoint precision the very essence of Zionism and its true goal. They then predicted and clearly envisioned the difficult developments to which we are today witness.

HaRav Hakodosh R' Elchonon Wasserman ztvk'l, Hy'd wrote in 5682 (1922), that is, eighty-two years ago, "An Open Letter to the Rabbis of Mizrachi" (published in Der Yid, Warsaw, and reprinted in Kovetz Maamorim veIgoros, p. 210). In it he presents some acute questions: "It is known and clear to us all that the heads and leaders of Zionism are apostates to the hilt and, according to daas Torah, it is forbidden to join them even for holy purposes. If so, explain to me, my worthy friends, where have you found within the Torah any heter to openly, brazenly join forces with them?

"And if you think," continues HaRav Elchonon Wasserman so poignantly, in words that are today so clearly and painfully realized, "that they are capable of bringing salvation to the Jewish people in a material sense then, my friends, you do not understand something very elementary: that people like those, who established for themselves a goal to eradicate -- G-d forbid -- Hashem's Torah from the Jewish people, are capable only of being the emissaries of Satan, whose job is only to destroy and not to build, to uproot and not to plant. Before they ever succeed in building even one thing, they will have destroyed thousands of other things . . . And even if it appears to us, in our mortal eyes, that they are accomplishing concrete things, we know clearly, according to the holy Torah, which reveals to us what is concealed, that `the favors of the wicked are bad for the righteous' (Yevomos 103). "


Only today, over eighty years after the warning of that saintly leader, are the founding fathers of the settlers beginning to witness the depressing reality that "before they succeed in building even one thing, they will have destroyed thousands of others." And yet, to our dismay and hurt, they still fail to grasp that the core and beginning of their sin lies in the fact that the founders of Zionism "established as their goal to eradicate Hashem's Torah from Jewry." This is the fulcrum of the corruption and damage and distortion.

The Mizrachi people have become trapped, despite all the warnings, in the terrible error that Zionism is the beginning of a New Judaism. They failed to understand that Zionism is the end of the ancient Judaism, a dead end, as the Zionist writer, Chaim Hazaz, himself wrote: "Where Judaism ends -- that's where Zionism begins."

And despite the terrible crisis that confronts them, in the face of the wave of hatred that washes over them purely because they continue to maintain that their hityashvut is a Zionist ideal, they continue to wallow in their delusion, as if `true Zionism' suffered from the battle against the settlements.

They fail to understand that the work of destroying everything of the past is a very tenet of Zionism. It matters not what that past, that `yesterday' was, whether the `yesterday' of the beis midrash and the Jewish shtetl, or the `yesterday' of the settlement movement, or of the crumbling kibbutz movement of which hardly anything remains save for hoary and bitter members who bemoan their own terrible economic and social neglect.

It is most symbolic how Ari Roth, mentioned before, vividly and humorously describes the old man from Kibbutz Hulda, and scores his `victory' over him, showing how the settlers of today carry on what he and his comrades did seventy and eighty years ago. He pays no attention to the fact that the story is an old one, framed in the archives of the Herzl museum, in other words, that it is all ancient, irrelevant history, exactly as HaRav Elchonon wrote, "That before they succeed in building any one thing, they will have destroyed thousands of others."


The weeping of those who bemoan the waves of hatred and venom which wash over the mitnachalim is sincere, but even at this point, they -- those who still adhere to the credo that is anchored in Mizrachi -- would be wise to make a self- reckoning with regard to that hatred, poison and misrepresentation against those who envisioned those developments and value-bankruptcy at the onset -- and those who still follow in their way.

This has always been the sin of Zionism, which waged a propaganda war against those who refused to toe their line and accept their credo. And all Zionists were united in this hatred, including the religious ones who often even surpassed the efforts of the secular ones. Too limited is our space to describe the abundance of venomous distortions and accusations which they published against their opponents, showing no quarter to great or small, attacking and abusing gedolei Yisroel who opposed Zionism. And this they continue to do today as well, including Yisrael Harel.

Not long ago, Harel published a vitriolic article against the roshei yeshiva in the period of the Holocaust who, he claims, refused to save the students who fled to Vilna and its environs. And had not Dr. Zerach Warhaftig risen up, he maintains, the whole episode of the Shanghai rescue of bnei Yeshiva would not have taken place! He bases his claim wholly upon -- the book written by Dr. Warhaftig, himself. Harel himself, apparently, felt that this proof was inadequate, for he mobilized Efraim Zuroff to his aid, who several years ago spread a false and wicked description castigating the Vaad Hatzolah founded by the Torah leadership in America, through lies based on more lies, all designed to discredit chareidi Judaism.

With the selfsame whip of distortions which they used to flog the chareidim, they themselves are now being flogged by those who should have been their allies, in whose protective shade they sought to stand, and whose glory they wished to share in their victory over ancient Judaism. But as great as was their illusion, so is the downfall of the religious Zionist vast and terrible. A true downfall that comes after the false pride and boasting of Zionism,

"Before misfortune, comes pride" (Mishlei 16:18). And Metzudos Dovid comments there, "Before the misfortune hits the wicked, he first enjoys pride and great power, for this compounds his pain."

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