February 21, 2006

The slide into Messy-ism

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:55 pm by yisraelmedad

June 16, 2003

Zionism has always been considered, and championed, as a secular political movement. It was a revolt from within, releasing Jews from the restraints of centuries-old Exilic belief that redemption, with the accompanying return to the Land of Israel, could only come about as a result of a religious act. The more observant Jews were, the more commandments performed, the quicker the redemption would come. Moreover, that redemption would be messianic in character.

During the period of the up-building, under the auspices of the British Mandate, one expression of this dichotomy was the attitude expressed towards central objects of Israeli nationalism that were originally religious in essence. One such example is the Western Wall.

Following earlier attempts, before and after World War I, to purchase the Wall and its adjacent neighborhood, it sprung to the forefront of Yishuv politics after a brutish incident during Rosh HaShana 1928, when British police dispersed worshippers in order to uproot the mechitza partition separating the men and women congregated there. While the socialist and secularist chalutzic camp proclaimed that not one stone in the Wall was worth as much as any of the clumps of earth being turned over by the plows of Zionist pioneers in the Yizrael Valley, scores of Committees to Protect the Wall were established.

The riots of 1929 – when Arabs, incited by the Mufti of Jerusalem, stormed out of the gates of the Temple Mount to kill, pillage and plunder the Yishuv for two weeks, with an inadequate British response and a woefully unprepared Hagana – was a turning-point. The chalutzim were not the super heroes of their own self-promotion and the religious element in the conflict between Jews and Arabs proved more powerful than previously perceived. Zionism’s “peace camp”, Brit Shalom, and later, Ihud, sought to distance themselves from religious symbols and strengthened the attitude that in politics, religion should have no place.

The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 did not really end this controversy of politics vs. religion. The existence of the state of Israel, at least in the “Green Line” borders, while a source of excitement and pride for all Jews, including what was then termed the “Mizrachi” religious stream, was not conclusive proof that God was truly involved in history. The argument over the saying the Hallel prayer of thanksgiving on Independence Day, and whether it was to be preceded by a blessing, was an indication that the tenuous relationship between religion and secularism within Zionism was still unresolved.

In 1967, a new reality presented itself. The precarious situation that Israel had faced, the military victory and the coming into contact with the historic regions of the Land of Israel all were the ingredients that readjusted the mindset of many. Natan Alterman, poet laureate of the Labour movement, dealt with the recognition that the 19 years between the two wars, the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, were a time of erosion of the idea of Eretz-Yisrael.

In an article published in Ma’ariv on June 16, 1967, Alterman wrote, “this victory is not only about the return of the Jews to the most ancient and sublime of the nation’s sacred sites… it is the erasing in essence of the difference between the state of Israel and the land of Israel.” So, while outstanding public figures of the traditional Mapai-variety cooperated with those previously considered nationalist extremists within the framework of the Movement for an Integral Land of Israel, other voices of the Left denounced the messianism they saw taking hold of Israel’s policy-makers.

The onset of Gush Emunim in 1974, after the victories of Rabbi Moshe Levinger in Hebron, Chanan Porat in Gush Etzion and the socialist kibbutznik Yehuda Harel on the Golan, sent Israel’s Left into paroxysms of fulmination. The stark realization that a messianic movement of fundamentalist restoration was all but in control was an intolerable state of affairs.

However, in mirror-image parallelism, Israel’s Left, desperate to achieve any accommodation with the enemy, took off into flights of messianic fervor. Peace was elevated to such a cultural and political value that irrationalism was being permitted. Israel’s information services were undermined abroad, laws of the state, such as those against meetings with PLO representatives, were violated, and a government minister was summarily discharged after it became known that he was guiding the negotiating positions of Yasser Arafat.

Oddly enough, the one issue which both sides of the spectrum seemed to agree upon was the Temple Mount. Administrative control of the site was returned to the Islamic Waqf some two weeks after the paratroopers had conquered it, with the lowering of the Israeli flag on the day of the 28th of Iyar a forerunner of the depths yet to come. Labour and Likud governments both cooperated in the attempt to distance the Jewish people from Judaism’s most sacred real estate. When visits were tolerated, prior to September 28, 2000, the Jew there was no more than a tourist, his identity as a descendent of the priests and Levites who served in the Temple courtyards, emasculated. He could not pray there, nor could he read from the Book of Psalms or Lamentations.

At what was probably the last opportunity for the peace camp to direct and be responsible for negotiations with the Arabs, at Camp David in 2001, Jerusalem was to be divided and the Temple Mount was to be shared, Muslims above ground and the Jews below. It was a fantasy. US President Clinton insisted that Israel could not dig, once below. The Temple artifacts were not to be discovered. All collapsed when Arafat claimed that the Jews never had a temple on the mount; it was somewhere else. Even Clinton became upset at that rewriting of history.

The messianism of the left, their rush to peace via Olso and Camp David, without regard to practicalities, slid into a ‘messy-ism’. As a result of their arming of the PLO terrorists with modern weapons and turning a blind eye to their illegal growth in number, to the institutionalized incitement, and more, the peace camp brought upon Israel the most invidious and protracted period of violence since the founding of secular political Zionism. Fundamentals shared by all streams of Zionism have become unhinged. The mess is nigh impossible to deal with.

The refusal to comprehend the religious underpinnings of Jewish nationalism, the enforced ignoring of the Temple Mount’s potency, and the denigration of the renewed Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, caused the advancement of a false messianism that has brought about a plain, unadulterated mess for Israel, its citizens and its supporters.

Nevertheless, the unique celebrations of last Jerusalem Day indicate that the old messianism still maintains its driving force.


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