Shalom Dov Wolpe, a Chabad rabbi, argues in a new book that the disengagement is proof that religious Zionists should abandon their faith in the state of Israel as a vehicle for ultimate spiritual redemption.
In Between Light and Dark, Wolpe states, in an I-told-you-so way, that the disengagement proved Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, was right about rejecting Zionism as a way of hastening the messianic era.
"Even after that terrible destruction took place people stubbornly believe that we have begun the process of redemption," said Wolpe in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Wolpe was instrumental in organizing anti-disengagement demonstrations before the Gaza pullout. Two weeks ago Wolpe organized a rally under the slogan 'we won't forgive, we won't forget' that drew thousands to the Jerusalem Convention Center [Binyanei Haumah].
"If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen?" asked Wolpe rhetorically. "The disengagement is God's way of saying that only the messiah, not the state will bring redemption."
Belief in the coming of the messiah is shared by all orthodox Jews. However, while religious Zionists believe the state of Israel is a means of bringing the messianic era, Chabad holds that only our good deeds [mitzvot] can hasten the coming of the messiah.
Wolpe, who has no official position in Chabad's organizations and who is considered a rebel by mainstream Chabad leaders, said that the religious Zionist population was beginning to wake up to the reality that they have been living a lie.
However, several rightwing religious Zionist rabbis, followers of Rabbi Avraham Yizhak Hacohen Kook and his son Tzvi Yehuda, rejected Wolpe's call.
Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, a spokesman for Rabbi Avraham Shapira, one of religious Zionism's most senior and respected spiritual leaders, said that Shapira and his many followers have not budged in their belief that the state of Israel has inherent holiness.
"Many things in this state are not like we would like them to be," said Magnus. "But no one disputes the idea that the establishment of the state marked the beginning of the process of redemption."
Magnus said that although Shapira appeared on the same stage during a post-disengagement rally with Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzberg, another Chabad rabbi who rejects the religious Zionist idea that the state is a vehicle for redemption, he opposed Chabad's anti-Zionist theology. "For Rabbi Shapira the state is a religious entity."
Arel Cohen, secretary for Rabbi Zalman Melamed, rabbi of Beit El and a staunch opponent of disengagement, said that Wolpe's and Ginzberg's ideas are rejected by even the most extreme religious Zionist settlers.
"Rabbi Melamed always makes a clear differentiation between the state, which is a vessel that God, in His incredible loving kindness, gave us to bring the redemption, and the government, which is full of evil people. We don't thing we should be throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he said.
Melamed agreed to appear with Ginzberg and Wolpe at demonstrations under the banner 'we won't forgive [perpetrators of the disengagement], we won't forget' because, explained Cohen "Rabbi Melamed thinks they have a healthy way of thinking.
"They don't have the sickness some people have of hugging soldiers who come to kick you out of your house," said Cohen referring to more moderate religious Zionist rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who have been attacked by Melamed for not encouraging religious soldiers to refuse IDF orders to evacuate Gaza.
Cohen said the only religious Zionists that completely reject the state are people like Gad Ben-Zimra of Ma'ale Levona and certain individuals who live on Yitzhar, a settlement near Shechem.
However, Yigal Amitai, a Yitzhar spokesman, said that while some residents on his settlement agree with some of Wolpe's and Ginzberg's conclusions, they disagree with how the two Chabad rabbis reached those conclusions.
"For Chabadniks the rebbe's teachings are central to their entire world view," said Amitai. "But for people on Yitzhar disenchantment with the state of Israel is a result the current moral bankruptcy of Israeli society.
"A Chabadnik and a young man from Yitzhar might both decide not to serve in the Army," explained Amitai. "But the Yitzhar boy's decision is based on the sorrowful fact that the IDF has become a political instrument."
Amitai explained that while Chabadniks believe that only the rebbe can bring redemption, religious Zionists believe that a Jewish state, perhaps not this one, will eventually help usher in the messianic era.
Rabbi Yehuda Rubin, a Chabad emissary in Elon Moreh, a settlement, like Yizhar, that is located near Shechem, said that he read and agreed with Wolpe's book.
"But I won't put it in my synagogue library. It would only make people angry."
Rubin said that Chabad Hassidim oppose much of religious Zionism's theology.
"The rebbe prohibited his emissaries and Hassidim from saying the part in the prayer for the state of Israel that talks about Israel being the 'beginning of the burgeoning redemption'. He said this was a dangerous belief because it fools people into thinking that we don't need a messiah. He likened it to believing that darkness is light."
Still, for tactical reasons Rubin said he refrained from discussing the rebbe's views on these issues with residents of Elon Moreh unless he was specifically asked.
Wolpe said he has not decided yet whether he would translate his book into English.
"The rebbe told me twenty years ago that the time was not ripe to translate what he says against Zionism and the state of Israel into foreign languages. He did not want goyim to know that he talked badly against other Jews. "It gives strength to evil forces."
In the meantime, while he decides whether to translate his new book, Wolpe is keeping busy. He is raising money for a museum modeled after the Yad VeShem Holocaust Memorial that would commemorate what he calls "Sharon's destruction of the Jewish communities in Gaza and the evil people who took part in that crime against humanity".