Analysis: The tragic 'success' of the motivated

By MATTHEW WAGNER
August 9, 2006 23:28
2 minute read.

The tragic data speak for themselves: kibbutzniks and religious Zionists are disproportionately represented among Israel's fallen soldiers in the North. These two sectors, more than any other definable group, seem immune to the steady move in Israeli society from a collectivist to an individualistic society that puts emphasis on the "me," not the "we." They seem not to have bought into post-Zionist trends that dealt a blow to nationalist ideology, the veneration of "myths" and the value of selfless military service for the greater good. Ironically, both sectors have been bashed by mainstream Israeli society. The kibbutzim have been accused of excessive drug abuse, moral degradation, an obsessive preoccupation with post-army trips to the Far East and South America and neglecting their elderly. Religious Zionists have been charged with wasting billions of shekels of state money on the loony Messianic dream of Greater Israel, of fanatic extremism and of perpetrating racist violence against Palestinians. Nevertheless, on the battlefield both sectors have proved their unswerving loyalty to the state. The kibbutz movement makes up between 1.6 percent and 1.7% of the total population in Israel. But about 15% of those who have been killed in action are kibbutzniks - close to 10 times their relative size. After two decades of socioeconomic hardship and an ideological shakeup that had a serious impact on combat motivation, the kibbutzim are making a comeback. Sadly, the resurgence is clearly visible in the death toll. Meanwhile, the religious Zionist movement had its own challenges. It suffered through the trauma of disengagement. Religious Zionists watched as the IDF, which made possible the settling of the historical land of Jewish people in a united Jerusalem, in Judea and in Samaria, dismantled settlements and expelled Jews from their homes. As a group, religious Zionists felt alienated and disenchanted with the direction in which Israeli politicians led the state. Nevertheless, soldiers in hesder yeshivot and pre-military yeshivot joined the war effort despite all the internal conflicts and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's assertion that the war in the North would be a catalyst for the further dismantling of Jewish settlements, including those of soldiers recently killed in action. Three soldier-students from Eilat's Ayelet Hashahar Hesder Yeshiva fell in the North, and another two from the pre-military yeshiva in Eli. According to Ya'acov Kirsh, director of the Kibbutz Movement's Military Council, which accompanies high school graduates through the IDF, a strong educational emphasis has been put on what is called "meaningful service." "Not only do we want all our children enlisting," says Kirsh, "we want them to serve in combat units and fill the officers' ranks." Kirsh does not hide his admiration for religious Zionist youth. And unlike some kibbutz leaders, he does not fear the influence of religious Zionists in the IDF. "I think the disengagement proved that our democracy is strong enough to force the IDF to implement the policy decisions of our leaders," he said. Disengagement has not stopped religious Zionists, while ideological upheaval has failed to undermine the kibbutzim. Unfortunately, the price paid for concrete proof that kibbutzniks and religious Zionists are successful soldiers has proven to be terribly high.


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