the disengagement has... ushered in my personal divorce from the State of Israel. It is painful to say but the State Israel no longer reflects my values or aspirations, and no longer is worthy of my political or financial support.The writer expresses disgust with a government which is prepared to move its own Jewish citizens, with a state where the government does not base its policies on the belief that the land is biblically promised to us, with a country which "has raised the art of schnorring to unprecedented heights," and with settlers, and settler leadership, who were not really prepared to fight to stay in Gaza and Northern Samaria. The crux of his argument is this:
As of now, Religious Zionism is dead in the water. For too long, we have endowed the secular, political state of Israel with a religious, even messianic dimension. The Satmar Rebbe, who posited that Jewish statehood before the coming of Moshaich was both illegitimate and ephemeral, is looking more and more visionary. Not that I believe he was inherently correct; I don’t. The emergence of the State of Israel was an opportunity offered by G-d after all the trauma and turmoil of the exile, to once again possess the land of Israel and build a Torah state. But we have failed, and the third Jewish commonwealth is slipping away before our eyes.Actually, not all Zionists who are religious felt the need to be religious Zionists, and many people who find religious meaning in the state of Israel do not endow it with messianic meaning. The messianic dimension was the Gush Emunim message, which this rabbi seems to have swallowed hook, line and sinker, together with a large chunk of the National Religious camp, post 1967. Naturally, when this vision -- a misguided version of Zionism that results in inflating the value of land beyond all else -- explodes, their commitment to the state of Israel explodes, or is thrown into crisis, too. But the establishment of the state of Israel was never an opportunity to build a 'Torah state'; it was an opportunity to build a Jewish state, and there is a big difference.
True, the secularists will deny this as they deny G-d, but religious Zionists will deny this too, wedded to a philosophy that presupposes that Israel has Messianic significance. Thus, they posit a redemptive process of hills and valleys, stops and starts—with the loss of Gaza and Samaria just another valley before the great hill. It could be true, but at its core, the line of reasoning is a tautology, and so self- justifying as to be irrefutable. If bad things are really good and good things are good, then what is bad ? At this point, one can certainly hypothesize that the state of Israel, as presently constituted, is not “the beginning of the flowering of our redemption” but rather an impediment to redemption – a product of the hoary arrogance typified by kochi v’otzem yadi – “my strength and the might of my hands has brought me this wealth.” Perhaps the redemption cannot come about through the auspices of a secular state, even as a first stage, because it is therefore flawed in its very foundation. Perhaps until we realize that we are utterly dependent on G-d and the redemption comes according to His will and timetable, we must try to build a Jewish state – and Jewish life everywhere – without any Messianic claims.Perversely, building a Jewish state without Messianic claims is the answer; however, for him this is equated to a betrayal of what Zionism stands for, and he is, therefore, 'disengaging' from the state, its people and everything it stands for.
How sad that such a distorted understanding of the Zionist enterprise and what the Jewish state is all about has led to this. How sad that his commitment to the Jewish state depends on government policy, and that it's his way, or the highway to the State of Israel. How sad that he can't bear to be wrong and deal with the aftermath in a more mature way.
And how easy to say all this from New Jersey! Interesting that he's gone further than most religious Zionists who actually live in Israel -- who have to deal with the reality of the State and have nowhere else to go.
In any case, if the Rabbi named indeed wrote this piece, I'll be interested to see how his shul [UPDATE -- or any shul that turns out to be run by whoever wrote this piece] reacts; can any mainstream Orthodox shul in North America, other than the most extreme, actually accept a rabbi who says he is divorcing himself from the state of Israel and that the state might actually be an impediment to redemption???
There is actually, apparently, a memo going around the named rabbi's shul-- which someone forwarded to me -- in which a group of congregants who "have grown concerned about the atmosphere of tension, conflict and stridency that is increasingly pervading our shul" (one wonders what exactly has been going on there) have drawn up a mission statement which includes the following points:
- Sermons should focus on Torah education and inspiration. Topics and events of social and political significance to the Jewish people, whether in Israel, the United States or elsewhere, should be presented with respect and tolerance for other perspectives. Explicit political partisanship must be avoided so that a spirit of unity prevails throughout the shul community...
- Shul publications and events (e.g., the monthly bulletin, weekly mailings, guest speakers, etc.) may certainly encompass wider latitude of subjects, including politics. However, expression of alternative views and ideas on non-Halachik topics must be given equal opportunity and prominence.
- The synagogue must be a place of civility and tranquility. No individual or group of individuals should be subject to public scorn or abuse, for any reason, by the lay or religious leadership. Where there are legitimate disagreements (between members or between members and the shul) they must be discussed and resolved with respect. There is no room for cynicism or sarcasm in dealing with individuals or in issuing public rebuke. Halachik issues must always be addressed with integrity and sensitivity.
UPDATE: OOSJ's strong-worded take.