National Religious leaders launch campaign for Sderot

Flyers, posters means to reclaim "Israel's lost self-respect."

idf infantry gaza 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
idf infantry gaza 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Last week, on the eve of Shavuot, a group of National Religious leaders convened a meeting in the bomb shelter of Sderot's hesder yeshiva to launch what they promised would be a nationwide campaign to support the beleaguered townspeople and to reclaim what they described as Israel's lost self-respect. It appeared to be a last-minute affair in which flyers announcing the meeting were distributed haphazardly in downtown Sderot only an hour or two before the meeting was scheduled to begin. Perhaps as a result, virtually no one from the town showed up. But some of the key rabbis in the religious Zionist movement were on hand, including former MK Rabbi Hanan Porat, former MK Rabbi Haim Drukman and the former rabbi of Gush Katif, Yigal Kaminetzky. Although the subject of the meeting was Sderot, the searing memories of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip were clearly present in the speakers' minds. Porat, who has established a group called "Raising the Flag for Sderot," charged that by not taking effective measures against the Gaza terrorist groups that were firing Kassams at Sderot and the western Negev communities, the government was "desecrating God." "It is our job," Porat declared, "to arouse the nation so that this disgrace will not continue. We must lead the nation into standing erect. We should not be afraid of talking about Jewishness and nationalism." Kaminetzky charged that in its alleged failure to protect Sderot, the government was once again proving that "it has disengaged from the value of joint responsibility. Disengagement from our Jewish roots brings about disengagement from responsibility." He declared that the terrorist attacks in Sderot and the surrounding communities were not the problem of the residents alone but everyone's problem. Like Porat, the former Gush Katif rabbi declared that it was a desecration of God to allow the terrorists to "shoot at Jews without responding." In order to achieve this sense of joint responsibility, Porat called for a campaign similar to the "orange" campaign that the religious Zionist movement waged against the disengagement. But this time, the appeal would go beyond the "orange" camp. "It is important for the orange camp to demonstrate that Sderot, Ofakim, the Negev and Galilee are no less dear to us than the settlements," said Porat. All of the speakers called for greater interaction among National Religious followers and Sderot residents, including mutual visits to each other's homes for Shabbat and sending volunteers to help care for the children of Sderot. But the speakers also called for launching a second Operation Defensive Shield, a reference to the campaign to uproot terrorist cells in the West Bank, particularly in Jenin and Nablus, in which reservists were called up and the army returned to parts of Area A, which until then were under complete Palestinian control in accordance with the Oslo Accords.