Comment: Patriotism vs. Greater Israel

Soldiers' determination shaken by linking Lebanon operation to realignment plan.

The timing of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comment Wednesday that military success in the North could create momentum for his realignment plan was horrible. It came just one day after tens of thousands of settlers and religious Zionists mourned the one-year anniversary of the "expulsion" from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. At no other time of the year were religious Zionists so conscious of their tense relations with the Olmert government, a government that has declared it will continue Ariel Sharon's legacy of dismantling Jewish settlements. It also came less than a week after the death of Maj. Ro'i Klein, 31, who lived with his wife and two children in Eli, a settlement in Samaria. Klein died heroically by jumping on a Hizbullah grenade to take the brunt of the explosion, thus rescuing his fellow soldiers. The Kleins lived in Eli's Yovel neighborhood, established in 1998, which is on the Olmert government's list of "illegal outposts" slated for evacuation. Rafi Ben-Bassat, vice chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council, which includes Eli in its jurisdiction, commented on the impact of Olmert's statement, saying: "First you die for your country and then, as a prize, they tear down your house." Lt. Amihai Merhavia, also of Eli, was killed in the same Bint Jbail battle. Merhavia, active in the movement for Greater Israel, was dismissed from the IDF's 51st Battalion for writing a letter to the chief of General Staff expressing his opposition to the disengagement plan. Merhavia was also beaten unconscious during a demonstration against uprooting the Gilad Farm outpost. But Merhavia struggled, with the help of officers who knew and respected him, to be reinstated in his battalion. Olmert's statement gave the impression that he is either oblivious or callous to the tremendous internal conflict experienced by soldiers like Merhavia and Klein, both students of the religious premilitary Academy in Eli, and hundreds of additional religious Zionist young men currently fighting in the North. These young men have been taught by their rabbis to serve the Jewish people wholeheartedly and unselfishly, even if they must give up their lives. They have been taught that the State of Israel is holy because it is the vehicle for realizing the first steps toward redemption, which includes the ingathering of the exiles. But at the same time many of these young men are still spiritually devastated by the traumas of the Gush Katif and North Samaria expulsions. These expulsions seem to contradict the gradual forward-moving process of redemption. Somehow these soldiers must compartmentalize their feelings. They must somehow separate their dismay at the misuse of the IDF as a force for evacuating Jews from their homes - instead of a force for destroying our enemies - from the loyalty and pride they have in a Jewish state that is the best guarantee against destruction of the Jewish people. But when Olmert declares that the success of warfare in the North is a catalyst for future territorial compromises, he is creating an untenable situation for many religious Zionist soldiers. "What am I supposed to do now?" read an SMS from one religious soldier to his rabbi. "The soldier felt that every advance, every military victory in the North brings the realignment plan one step closer," said the rabbi. "He lives in one of those settlements slated for expulsion. How can he be expected to fight?"