Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

People are finally awaking from their slumber and realizing that Manhigut Yehudit is the way that the State of Israel will go.

The time has come for us believing Jews to stop being court Jews led by non-believing jewish leaders, who are mostly looking out for themselves and power (not the best interests of the Jewish poeple) and to start to take responsability for our own future as a people and a nation and start leading!

As written below in a Haaretz article, it seems that this message is sinking in.


Little by little the

At Kfar Maimon the State of the Faithful was founded


By Kalman Neuman

Where is the Zionist religious public heading after the disengagement? There are those who are hoping that it will abandon the vision of the greater Land of Israel, return to the "historical partnership" with secular Zionism and hitch itself to social missions. Others are expecting a turning inwards and the emergence of a new model of "ultra-Orthodoxy in a crochet skullcap."

However, the conflict at Kfar Maimon indicates another direction.

Thirty years ago the attempt to settle at Sebastia in the West Bank became the cornerstone of a mass movement. The young people who came to Sebastia demanded to be real partners in fateful decisions. To a large extent they have succeeded in this. At Kfar Maimon this demand shifted into a higher gear. Here the State of the Faithful was founded, a state that will be led by leaders who are religious.


The public that gathered last week at Kfar Maimon - almost entirely from religious Zionism (apart from representatives of the messianic stream of Chabad) - does not see the future of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria (West Bank) as a strictly political issue. It sees the disengagement plan as an expression of a value vacuum, mental tiredness and a loss of the dedication that characterized the generation of the state's founders. In their eyes, the struggle for Gush Katif is just the tip of the iceberg of the struggle for hegemony in the state. Many sat for hours in the broiling sun and listened to Torah lessons given by rabbis. There was no need to discuss the reasons for the opposition to the disengagement, and there was no reason to explain to the public why Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not worthy of their trust. The rabbis described the disengagement not only as a political mistake and not only as a transgression of traditional Jewish law, but rather as a real desecration of the Holy Name, something for which there is no atonement.

Crisis in identity

To them the source of the collapse is clear: There are those who stress the prime minister's personal responsibility, but all of them see in the plan an expression of a crisis in Jewish identity, with respect to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and the adoption of Western mass culture. As opposed to these, they describe the masses who gathered at Kfar Maimon as an idealist public that is sure of itself and prepared to take the reins from those who have grown tired. There is no need to convince the convinced. But the explanation touches the root: The struggle for Gush Katif is only the tip of the iceberg of the struggle for the State of Israel. The steering wheel of government must be passed into the hands of the religious public - it and only it is worthy of holding it.

On Wednesday morning many scores of them listened to a lesson by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, the head of the hesder yeshiva (combined Torah study and military service program) in Ramat Gan and one of the most charismatic figures in the eyes of the national religious youth, who explained the parallel between the individual and the nation. According to Hasidic thought, he said, the individual is made up of the anima (the physiological aspect, which is common to all animals), the spirit (the abilities that are common to all human beings) and the soul (the spiritual quality that exists only in Jews). The anima comes to the individual at birth, whereas the spirit enters him only when he reaches the age of mitzvoth (the age of commandment observance, 13 for males). The difficulty of reconciling these forces is the reason for tshe self-destructive tendencies in adolescence. The same development exists in the collective, explained Shapira. The national organism has an "anima" - it is the state. The state has to see to the material needs of the nation. The state was born in 1948, but the second stage of its development occurred in the Six-Day War. The connection to the Divine presence opened the heart to the "spirit," which is supposed to enter into the existing political structures, which are equivalent to the anima. And here is the rub: He is not disappointed with Sharon, as he has no faith in any secular leader. "I do not believe in a leader who does not come from the beit midrash (religious study house). There cannot be a man of the anima who leads the Jewish people in the era of the spirit. The spirit can come only from the beit midrash." The difficulties that the Jewish people have faced are stages of maturation, of the birth of the spirit from within the anima, which also entail the danger of confusion and self-destructive tendencies. The disengagement plan is an example of this.

The unwillingness to recognize a secular leadership and the demand for a "believing" leadership were expressed in the past in groups like Moshe Feiglin's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish leadership). Now, with the disappointment with Sharon and the secular right as a whole, this line is gathering momentum, and similar things were heard at Kfar Maimon from rabbis like Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed.

As one of the settlement rabbis said to me, "It could be that we will lose this battle (for Gush Katif), but we will certainly win the whole fight." The big fight is for hegemony in the state, and religious Zionism is intending to take the place of secular Zionism, which has become tired and has collapsed.

The struggle for hegemony is expressed in various ways, and reservations are also heard. Rabbi Yehuda Zoldan of Neveh Dekalim in the Gaza Strip talks about the struggle over values and the spirit against "empty and miserable humanism," but warns that "we must continue to live together as a society and as a nation for many more years in this land."

Even clearer is the voice of Rabbi Elisha Vishlitzky, one of the most important educators of the Merkaz Harav school. In an emotional speech at Kfar Maimon, he called for distancing from any pride and any bullying. "The way of redemption demands nerves of iron and endless patience," he said and with a heavy hint stated that "the State of Israel is not a vessel that one throws away in favor of the kingdom of the House of David. The (process of) redemption must be accorded courtesy." In Vishlitzky's words there is an echo of the words of his teacher, Rabbi Zvi Tau, the head of the Har Hamor yeshiva in Jerusalem, In a document that was distributed anonymously over the Internet, but which without a doubt expresses his opinion, the students were warned of a situation "in which a weighty minority succeeds in imposing its opinion by force on the regime and the authorities. This crumbles the entire state." They are also urged to be wary of arrogance and pride: "It is true that there is a great deal of power in the national religious public ... but we are still very far from leading the this tremendous journey of the State of Israel."

Religious Zionism's direction

If this is the ultimate aim, how is religious Zionism supposed to perceive its appropriate place at the head of the camp? In conversations with many people the reply comes up again and again: "face to face." The organization of visits by inhabitants of Yesha (the settlers' acronym for the territories of the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria in the West Bank, which also means "salvation" in Hebrew) and yeshiva boys to "the masses" of Israel spurred the imagination. The idea of going from house to house to influence broad strata of the population begin during the period of the referendum among registered members of the Likud; following its success a network of face-to-face visits - or "engagement" - was established. According to Rabbi Yigal Kamintzky, visits have already been made to 350,000 households. The idea of the unmediated encounter can lead to a breakthrough of the siege on those who feel that there voice is not heard, and as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner puts it: "The engagement movement is traveling on a road that bypasses the media, bypasses politics and bypasses demonstrations." Rabbi Tau says that "it is necessary to meet with our brother Jews, to enable them to leave the television for a moment and encounter a different spirit, a pure spirit, and one with clear, true and eternal beliefs. A bit of light will dispel much of the darkness and everything will begin to flow in a different direction."

Despite the "Chabadization" of religious Zionism, which is reflected in this mode of action, it is not focusing on an attempt to "bring people closer to Judaism" individually but rather is trying to bring about a political, cultural and even religious change in Israeli society as a whole, through extensive work in the field.

Rabbi Kamintzky explains: At the root of the "disengagement sickness" lies the desire to disengage ... from the entire past of the Jewish people, from its history, from its values, from its beliefs, from the belief in the G-d of Israel, from the destiny of the people and so on. Going from door to door in thousands of homes ... has taught us that the Jewish people is longing , thirsting and yearning for the true values, for the words of the living G-d."

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon, after whom Kfar Maimon is named, was the first minister of religious affairs in Israel. When he made the Shehekhiyanu blessing (thanking God for delivering us to this day) on the occasion of the declaration of the State of Israel by David Ben-Gurion, he established a pattern of religious recognition of a political act by a secular leader. Something of this model has been broken now. The damage to the settlement in Yesha is causing damage to the sense of partnership in the state. The scalpel that is cutting into the territories of the land cannot but puncture the aorta of the collective consciousness.

At Kfar Maimon the State of the Faithful was founded, which aspires to build itself up on the ruins and the crises of the existing State of Israel but it does not yet know how.

Kalman Neuman is a doctor of history and a graduate of the Mandel Institute for leadership.

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