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It was bound to happen - the soul-searching, the anguish of shattered illusions, and the search for answers that could perhaps heal emotional wounds. In Yamim Ktumim (literally "Orange Days"), Yedidya Meir and Sivan Rahav-Meir attempt to understand what transpired in those traumatic weeks last summer - prior to, during and following the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
They have not produced healing therapy for broken hearts, but they offer the concerned reader a fairly good insight into the varying opinions on the contentious topic of disengagement. In the preface, they say that had they wished to be provocative, the title of their story would have been "Where was God at the Disengagement?" Their intention, however, was not to be provocative, but simply to record what happened.
They discovered that many of those involved were anxious to talk, as if pouring out their hearts would preclude the painful possibility of witnessing such nightmarish evacuations again.
The protests engineered by those who were uprooted from Gaza and the exhortations of their religious and political leaders have pretty much faded from the headlines. What has emerged since is the realization that although many Israelis felt sympathy for the settlers, only the Orthodox fringes were prepared to get personally involved. The vast majority of Israelis, apart from upholding the resolutions of the government calling for the disengagement, felt it was probably a mistake to have ever established these isolated settlements.
When looking to the future, the book's interviews reflect sharp differences. On one hand, they record rabbis who recognize that evacuating additional settlements is necessary and unavoidable. On the other hand, we find views which insist on establishing new settlements, despite the democratic implications.
The book also reveals clear differences between those who urge tightening ties with the state and those who counsel moving away from it. The latter urge that we never forget, nor forgive. Opposing them are those who preach not to forget, but to pardon.
It is interesting to observe that in the Gaza evacuation, the majority of the religious Zionists in Israel didn't go to Gush Katif to join the settlers, nor did they block the roads. Disobedience was minimal, even though quite a few senior commanders who participated in the disengagement were observant Jews. Their message was unambiguous: we are not secluding ourselves, we are part of this country, an inseparable component of its body and soul.
And yet, some defiant rabbis have strayed from the traditional consensus of religious Zionism. The authors define their ideology, as expounded by such as Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, as the "disengagement program" from the state. Such a program would establish a separate state inside Israel for the 20 or 30 percent of the Orthodox population. What they're aiming for is not separation, but replacement of the entire system - the educational, the judicial and the code of behavior of all, including the military. No more would they attempt to integrate with majority Israel. Rather, they have adopted a determined and rather wild dream of becoming its leaders. The State of Israel is not bad in itself, they say, but it was taken over by "evil" elements.
A more traditional and reasonable presentation of religious Zionism is displayed by the Chief Military Rabbi, Tat-Aluf Israel Weiss. His counsel to the troops was plain: "no disobedience," and almost all the troops obeyed. A strong endorsement of the moderate course is also offered by David Landau, editor of Ha'aretz and an Orthodox Jew, by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit-El and by yeshiva graduate and successful businessman Moti Zisser. These three have all recognized the supreme importance of containing the messianic elements of the militant religious Zionists. Landau and Zisser saw the vital interest of Israel being served in carrying out the Gaza disengagement. They turn to the scholarly rabbis for Halacha, not political guidance. They yearn for the moderate religious Zionism that was thriving up until the earthquake of 1967, and they reject the militant fanaticism of the current leaders and pray for better days to come.
It seems that a restoration of moderate religious Zionism is not in the offing.
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