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11 June 2008

The Real "Religious Zionist"

There has been a lot of buzz concerning Caroline Glick's The Two-Pronged Assault on Religious Zionist.

As usual, Glick makes several good points, supported by her keen observations and logical deductions.

Yet, her piece prompted me to provide my Esser Agaroth on what I believe to be a deeper issue here, who is a Religious Zionist.

I know that the following rabbis did not asked to be dragged into this debate, at least not on this blog. However, I would like to start off with a few rabbinic examples of Religious Zionists.

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel shlit"a of the Temple Institute and Sanhedrin is arrested for having the audacity to discuss halachoth (Jewish Laws) which are contrary to Israeli Law.

Now that's "religious," but is it "Zionist?"

The late, great Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz"l, Rosh Yeshivath Merkaz HaRav Kook, took a clear stance that soldiers in the IDF should refuse orders which contravene halachah, like kicking Jews out of their homes, and assisting the government to turn over Jewish-controlled land to goyim, even more so, Arabs which have sworn to destroy us.

He even publicly ripped up the opposing opinion of another popular rabbi. There are those who have tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress this story. But Yes, Rabbi Shapira most definitely did do this.

I say yes, as Rabbi Moshe Tzuri'el shlit"a reminds us: "Zionism is simply a part of the Torah." Now that's "religious" AND "Zionist." I would expect nothing less from someone who was in the same class at Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshivah with Rabbi Dov Lior shlit"a and Rabbi Zalman Melamed shlit"a who led the last stand in Azza at the K'far Darom synagogue.* No one could argue that was "Zionist," or could they?

Other rabbis are called before a beth din, accept upon themselves its authority, say they're coming, then don't show up. That doesn't sound very "religious" to me. Does it sound very "Zionist?"

I don't know. I suppose it depends upon what your definition of "Zionist" is.

Then, of course, we have the YeSh"A Council, which makes secret deals with the government to evacuate Jewish strongholds in Yehudah and Shomron (Judea and Samaria). And then lies about it. Now THAT doesn't sound very Zionist. It doesn't sound very religious either. That's because it's not. Neither is beating up religious Zionists, and then lying about that, too.

It certainly does not sound like the YeSh"A Council, which receives its budget directly from the Office of the Prime Minister, is very religious or Zionist.

If "Zionist" means that you believe in Zion as the Jewish Homeland then my friend, the Hassidishe rabbi in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Me'ah Sha'arim, would consider himself a "Zionist." However, if your definition of "Zionist" is Shimon Peres's definition of "Zionist," then you can count him out.

Truly the only meaningful disagreement in hashqafah (perspective) between the religious Zionist and the religious non-Zionist vis-a-vis the Jewish Homeland is not the "where;" it's the "when," "how," and "by whom." Do we take an active part in staking claim to Israel as the Jewish Homeland, the concept of which originates from our Holy Torah? Or is our action to be manifested in prayer and learning Torah alone, waiting for the Mashiah to come and do everything else?

Unfortunately, this difference seems to be played up more than the similarities between the communities. Community leaders across the board are guilty of this, including the secular left, which has a penchant for "mixing in."

Unfortunately, Caroline Click is right. There is an alliance between the non-Zionist and the left wing. I would correct her on one minor [probably unintentional], nit-picky point. It is the leadership of the religious non-Zionist community which maintains the alliance. On Glick's side, voting records tend to indicate that this leadership reflects the opinions of their communities.

I can answer that.

The Belzer Rebbe shlit"a tells his hassidim, "You have the right to vote, but not the right to choose."

How many Belzer and Gerer hassidim and Litvaks have told me they would gladly vote for Baruch Marzel, for example? A lot. I know that they are honest, because in the same moment they tell me that they can't go against their Rebbes. Thus their pipe dreams of rebeldom fade away.

I am not saying that Baruch Marzel is the answer. I am only using him as an example. Just as many of the mamlachtim are unsatisfied with what they're getting, or rather what they're not getting, from their so-called religious Zionist rabbis, and are thus having to search elsewhere, such as in Breslov or Breslov-influenced communities, the non-Zionist youth and young adults are also searching outside of their communities for the answers to their answered questions. "Da'as Torah," which unfortunately has become a glorified substitute for "because I said so," () is becoming an increasingly unsatisfactory response to their halachic questions.

Rabbi Me'ir Kahane hy"d said that when you ask a halachic question, you are entitled to a halachic answer, and "Da'as Torah"

(Watch, as all kinds of "religious Zionists" run away, screaming in horror, as I single-handedly dash all of their PR hopes to de-demonize the settlers, simply by mentioning "his" name.)

But, I digress....

So, what does it mean to be "Religious Zionist?"

I'll tell you what being a "Religious Zionist" inherently does NOT mean. It does NOT mean blind and undying loyalty to the "almighty" (leHavdil) state, in particular a state which increasing shows distain for the Torah, the ONLY justification the Jewish People have for laying claim to Israel as its homeland.

Blind loyalty to the state equated with "Zionist" is the most profound and fundamental error made my both the mamlachti majority of "religious" Zionists and the religious non-Zionists.

Confused? You should be. That's the whole point, to get you to worry about words and labels, to confuse you with hashqafah so that you are prevented from getting down to the nuts and bolts to the actual halachah of how we are to relate to the Land, to those currently have power over it, and to those you are supposed to have power over it.

I may be accused of wanting my cake and eating it, too. But at least I don't hand out cake to reward the soldier for kicking me out of my house.

The point I am attempting to drive home here is that there are many Jews who refer to themselves as "Religious Zionists." Yet, there are clearly two camps, not one: The Torah Zionist camp, headed by the rabbis mentioned above, and the "Mamlachti" camp led by rabbis such as Yuval Cherlow mentioned by Caroline Glick. Admittedly, the "Mamlachti" camp is clearly the majority. We must ask ourselves why. "Loyalty" apparently has its rewards.

The Hesder Yeshiva program faces constant threats of funding cuts, discrimination against the soldiers it produces. Hesder Yeshivah soldiers are now unable to serve in the prestigious Golani and Paratrooper brigades. Soldiers have also received disciplinary actions for refusing to participate in mixed-gender events. Such actions wouldn't have anything to do with the many Hesder Yeshivah Heads signing declarations in support of refusing orders to evacuate Gaza and the Northern Shomron, would it?

Meanwhile, the "mamlachti" pre-IDF "Mechinah" Program flourishes.

No doubt I will be accused of encouraging the various rifts within the Jewish People to continue, contradicting the efforts of others to unify Jews.

Ask yourself this question: What is the value of Jewish unity, if we are unified and moving the wrong direction? Israel was pretty unified around the Golden Calf. And we are still paying the price for it.

In addition, I am hoping that by clarifying some terms which thrown around quite freely, that those like-minded individuals out there, struggling with the insanity of blind and undying loyalty to any non-Torah entity, will finally realize that they are not alone. And there is no requirement to call yourself a "Religious Zionist" to be a part of this unity.

However you choose to self-identify, if your loyalties lie with the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Torah, EVEN when that contravenes the dictates of the State [and state] Of Israel, and you believe that Israel is the Jewish Homeland, because HaShem gave it to us, and 60 years ago began to give it back to us, then you are a real Religious Zionist.


* Rabbi Dov Lior is the Chief Rabbi of Qiriyath Arba-Hevron. Rabbi Zalman Melamed is co-Chief Rabbi of Beth-El and the Rosh Yeshivath Beth-El

Cross-posted on Esser Agaroth

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