Analysis: Religious Zionism confronts Rabin legacy

Analysis Religious Zion

October 29, 2009 23:03
rabin 63

rabin 63. (photo credit: )

How should religious Zionists mark the anniversary of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination? This question stood at the center of debate among rabbis and educators Thursday as a large portion of media air time, public school activity and politicians' speeches were devoted to remembering Rabin, the only Israeli prime minister to be murdered and whose death poses the most extreme example of the dangers of an internecine clash between religious and secular, Right and Left. In contrast to haredim, who have no desire to form strong bonds with secular Israeli society and therefore completely ignore the day of remembrance for Rabin, religious Zionists see themselves as full participants in all aspects of the modern Jewish state. Out of a strong religious conviction that the State of Israel represents and implements the aspirations of the Jewish people, religious Zionists serve in the military, pledge allegiance to Zionist ideals, learn in institutions of higher education and work in all fields. Therefore, they resent the sweeping accusations made by some secular Israelis against the entire religious Zionist population when it became known that Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin, was affiliated with religious Zionism. At the same time, religious Zionists do not deny that there is a major ideological divide between themselves and Rabin's legacy of territorial compromise and secularism. This conflicted attitude toward marking Rabin's assassination was expressed well by an anonymous questioner on the popular religious Zionist Internet site Kipa. The young man, who identified himself as a high school student, submitted a question to the "Ask the Rabbi" corner of the site. "Should I participate in the ceremony marking Rabin's assassination?" asked the young man. "If I do, I will be taking part in a ceremony devoted to this man, something which I truly do not want to do. (The very fact that Rabin is being praised for his achievement and for his thought and actions makes me sick.) And if I don't participate, then I am separating myself from the Jewish people and my school. What should I do?" The rabbi, who represents the mainstream, moderate religious Zionist stream, advised the student not to alienate himself from his school. "If there are aspects of the ceremony that conflict with Halacha, such as a solo female singer or female dancers, then you should step outside temporarily until these performances are over," said the rabbi. "And if statements are made during the ceremony which are opposed to your personal views, you are not obligated to respond and arouse controversy. Rather, be tolerant. The next day, you should express your feelings with your teacher and ask that a class discussion be conducted. Finally, you should volunteer to be among the planners of the ceremony next year." The question and answer reflect the tension between strong feelings of loyalty to Israeli society on one hand, and deeply divergent opinions on religious and political values on the other. On one side of the spectrum is Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who said he was "sick of the annual hoopla surrounding Rabin's assassination." "I am sick of it all," said Eliyahu in a telephone interview Thursday. "Every year about this time there is a concerted effort to ram Rabin's legacy down our throats. "He was a man guilty of political bribery who made huge mistakes that endangered the Jewish people. I don't identify with what Rabin stands for, and I don't want to be forcibly reeducated." Eliyahu said that if the day were dedicated to a campaign against violence of all kinds, he would support it wholeheartedly. In a similar vein, a group of young right-wing activists distributed flyers Thursday to different schools around the nation, according to Internet news outlet Arutz Sheva. Each flyer reportedly stated that while its authors were "opposed to violence," they nevertheless took issue with the "Rabin legacy." "This legacy advocates opening fire on a lone boat [the Altalena] just because the passengers on the boat shared different political opinions," said the flyers, referring to the incident on June 1948 in which Rabin, under direct orders from the head of the provisional government, David Ben-Gurion, opened fire on a ship belonging to the Irgun. "This legacy also includes disrespect for the other, dismissing settlers and other opponents in derogatory terms," the flyers continued. "It includes arming terrorists, abandoning land that rightfully belongs to the Jewish people and endangering the lives of Jews. Rabin's legacy failed! Rabin brought disaster on us!!" The flyers were signed by "students who care about Israel." In contrast, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, said it was important for religious Zionists to participate in ceremonies commemorating Rabin. "It is import to honor Rabin as a former prime minister, may his memory be a blessing," said Aviner. "Even if there is a lot of criticism directed against him, some of it very severe, Rabin nevertheless contributed so much to the people, the land and the nation of Israel." Aviner agreed that participation in Rabin ceremonies was conditional upon "kosher content" and that when possible the ceremony should have Jewish messages. Commenting on the flyers, Aviner said that "just as there are leftists who demonize the entire Right, so, too, there are right-wing activists who demonize the Left." Rabin, Aviner said, "was not a traitor. What he did was for the benefit of the state. "He thought it was better to live in peace with only a third of the territory, but that has international recognition and that is not constantly delegitimized, than to hold onto everything and be under constant attack. I think he made a mistake, but that does not make him a traitor." Aviner related how Rabin had insisted on holding onto the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, even though it was completely surrounded by Palestinians, and that he had suffered criticism from his peers for this. "There is a prohibition in Halacha against publishing anything that arouses man's base emotions, whether it be pornography or incitement to hatred of the other," added Aviner, referring to the flyers. "The only remedy for the danger of internecine war is to open up huge resources of boundless love for our fellow Jews," he concluded. "That should be the main message on the anniversary of Rabin's assassination."

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