by Yisroel Spiegel
The Downfall After the Illusion of Pride
The religious Zionists, especially the pioneer settlers who
are involved with all those politics, don't have it good.
"Ever since Rabin's murder, the religious youth and its
educators have been targeted for strong, even diabolical,
verbal abuse," grumbled Yisrael Harel, former Secretary
General of the Yesha [Yehuda, Shomron, Aza] Council in a
weekly column that appeared a year ago in Ha'aretz.
He specifies: "`This is Hamas youth.' Avraham Burg said it
and repeated it. This is what Uzi Benziman called those who,
immediately upon their evacuation from Chavat Gilad, hurried
back to their places of voluntary service at Magen David
Adom, or their work with the elderly.
"The rabbis," said Shimon Peres, "are the subversives."
"Outlaws," dubbed them the Defense Minister.
"Subdue the rebellion!" cried the chorus of demonstrators at
the threshold of the Defense Ministry offices. Such language
was never applied before the only rebellion that ever really
took place in the State of Israel: the Arab uprising of
His comments are accurate. This is the style and this is the
manner of speaking in the national media these days. Even
before, and certainly after, that historic Shabbos of riots
when the army evacuated a hilltop settlement as a preview to
the forced and well-covered evacuation of Chavat Gilad in the
Shomron, about which the Defense Minister was so adamant.
According to all the signs, this was prompted by electoral
reasons within his party.
None of the Leftist politicians, like the media people who
accompany them enthusiastically and against whom Mr. Harel is
so bitter, had any doubt that if there was any hooliganism in
the country -- its only address is the `Noar
Hagevaot,' the youth of the hilltop settlements. If there
was any lawbreaking, that was the only place where it could
be found -- by the settlers and their rabbinical leaders.
And if there were anything threatening the State of Israel --
it was present by those selfsame `Hamas youth,' as Avraham
Burg was not loathe to calling them.
But we must pay attention to something that ties these
factions all up. Today they are the most bitter opponents of
the religious Zionists who identify themselves with the right
side of the political map. All of them, up until the recent
past, were close partners with what is termed Zionism and
`settlement.' Hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder they
marched together, ever since the ridiculous and artificial
liaison which they tried to create between those who deny the
Torah and those who keep it, where they stubbornly and
foolishly believe that Eretz Yisroel is what will
unite them despite the vast chasm that separates the
believers from the nonbelievers.
What breaks their hearts is the fact that the bitter reality
slapped them in the face and burst the false bubble of
illusion which they stubbornly blew on for so many years.
If sorrow fills your hearts, as Yisrael Harel so graphically
describes, then there is reason for it, for it can be likened
to what was written, "All of her friends betrayed her; they
became her enemies" (Eichoh 1:2). Are they not
continuing along the selfsame lines as the Zionist founders,
secularist and religious alike?
Their sole dream was to renew the settlement of Eretz
Yisroel, and yet, they are now being called such
disgusting names and loathsome titles. True, on the fringes
of their societies one can find rowdy rioters, some of whom
physically antagonize soldiers and police in the course of
the evacuation of their settlement, but the great majority of
the religious youth who were present there in order to
protest the evacuation had nothing to do with the violent
The feeling of having been abandoned by their comrades is to
be found in the short and fascinating piece by Ari Roth in
the weekly "Besheva." He describes a visit to the Beit
Herzl museum in the Hulda forest. "It is a simple story of
pioneer immigrants who come to settle the land, outright
Zionism. Chalutzim come to make the desolation bloom
again. They settled the land, planted trees, dug wells,
suffering disease and Arab attacks and even fell, protecting
their homestead." And when they left the museum, writes Roth,
they were asked by the pleasant guide, an old inhabitant of
Hulda, to write several words in the visitors' book. He
agreed, and wrote, `I am full of hope that the settlers of
our times will be wise enough to continue this Zionist
endeavor that began here.'
The guide looked at him and asked, "What is the connection
between contemporary pioneer settlers and those you saw
In reply, he said, "Turn the film back and listen to what the
narrator said: `1929. Local Arab rioters attacked the
settlers, killing women and children.' I asked him: But all
this took place already in the 20s and 30s, before the War of
Independence in '48, before the Intifadah and before Arik
Sharon went up to the Temple Mount. So why did they massacre
those Jews? Because you kibbutzniks provoked them. You came
to settle an area populated with Arab villages. You were
extreme settlers. That's why they murdered you."
That is probably the very crux of the whole story: that is
the true essence which the settlers of today have in common
with those of yore who are determined to carry on the Zionist
saga, in partnership with the Zionists of a generation or two
ago. But the distance and disparity which has been created
since that period cannot be measured or imagined. It is like
the difference between the Zionist pioneer youth and the New
Ideal of the Jewish Youth of whom they boasted so in the
past, and the abusive epithet of the `Hamas youth' with which
one of the central leaders of the Zionists dub those young
folk, to say nothing of the organized media campaign to
besmirch the movement of mitnachalim, which only a
decade ago was termed by the late Yitzchak Rabin, `A cancer
within the heart of the nation.'
The religious Zionists truly believed that the magical charm
and power that exists in the Land of Israel would cohere and
unite the atheists and the believers, no less and even more
than the partnership between those who maintain the identical
credo of lifestyle and belief of Torah and mitzva-
observance. The fact is that they preferred those apostates
over the faithful: they separated themselves knowingly and
consciously from chareidi Judaism and all those who continued
to adhere to the standards of the ancient tradition without
any compromise, cleaving faithfully, uncompromisingly to the
leaders and the wise and holy men of the generations. But the
religious Zionists sacrificed their connection with those
close to them for the sake of an alliance with those so
distant from them on Shabbos and festivals, in the home and
at the Jewish table.
It is no wonder, then, that now, after they are being
abandoned and cast away by those allies with waves of
bottomless hatred, they are hurt and bitter. The settlers,
who began their downfall decades ago, says Yisrael Harel,
are, "the sacrifices of prejudices and hatred" and "they look
around them and ask: Why is this hatred campaign being
carried on endlessly? . . . They remain openmouthed in face
of the new wave of abuse and vituperation, but are especially
hurt by the lies that deny their personal integrity, that
confound and misrepresent their motives and distort the
intent of the sons. These latter beg them not to become upset
or sad . . . and the parents know that despite these words,
deep in their hearts and despite all the words of
consolation, they are really weeping."
They have what to cry over, as does the prophet, "Over these
do I weep . . . " To cry over the illusion that has shown up
their ideals, that has turned into disappointment, after so
much time has elapsed. Our leadership already indicated and
foretold it at the inception, a century ago when Zionism was
initially founded, and even before, when the Mizrachi
movement was first established, uniting with the secular
At that time, they turned their backs to the warnings of the
leaders of that generation who cautioned and defined with
pinpoint precision the very essence of Zionism and its true
goal. They then predicted and clearly envisioned the
difficult developments to which we are today witness.
HaRav Hakodosh R' Elchonon Wasserman ztvk'l, Hy'd
wrote in 5682 (1922), that is, eighty-two years ago, "An Open
Letter to the Rabbis of Mizrachi" (published in Der
Yid, Warsaw, and reprinted in Kovetz Maamorim
veIgoros, p. 210). In it he presents some acute
questions: "It is known and clear to us all that the heads
and leaders of Zionism are apostates to the hilt and,
according to daas Torah, it is forbidden to join them
even for holy purposes. If so, explain to me, my worthy
friends, where have you found within the Torah any
heter to openly, brazenly join forces with them?
"And if you think," continues HaRav Elchonon Wasserman so
poignantly, in words that are today so clearly and painfully
realized, "that they are capable of bringing salvation to the
Jewish people in a material sense then, my friends, you do
not understand something very elementary: that people like
those, who established for themselves a goal to eradicate --
G-d forbid -- Hashem's Torah from the Jewish people, are
capable only of being the emissaries of Satan, whose job is
only to destroy and not to build, to uproot and not to plant.
Before they ever succeed in building even one thing, they
will have destroyed thousands of other things . . . And even
if it appears to us, in our mortal eyes, that they are
accomplishing concrete things, we know clearly, according to
the holy Torah, which reveals to us what is concealed, that
`the favors of the wicked are bad for the righteous'
(Yevomos 103). "
Only today, over eighty years after the warning of that
saintly leader, are the founding fathers of the settlers
beginning to witness the depressing reality that "before they
succeed in building even one thing, they will have destroyed
thousands of others." And yet, to our dismay and hurt, they
still fail to grasp that the core and beginning of their sin
lies in the fact that the founders of Zionism "established as
their goal to eradicate Hashem's Torah from Jewry." This is
the fulcrum of the corruption and damage and distortion.
The Mizrachi people have become trapped, despite all the
warnings, in the terrible error that Zionism is the beginning
of a New Judaism. They failed to understand that Zionism is
the end of the ancient Judaism, a dead end, as the Zionist
writer, Chaim Hazaz, himself wrote: "Where Judaism ends --
that's where Zionism begins."
And despite the terrible crisis that confronts them, in the
face of the wave of hatred that washes over them purely
because they continue to maintain that their
hityashvut is a Zionist ideal, they continue to wallow
in their delusion, as if `true Zionism' suffered from the
battle against the settlements.
They fail to understand that the work of destroying
everything of the past is a very tenet of Zionism. It matters
not what that past, that `yesterday' was, whether the
`yesterday' of the beis midrash and the Jewish
shtetl, or the `yesterday' of the settlement movement,
or of the crumbling kibbutz movement of which hardly anything
remains save for hoary and bitter members who bemoan their
own terrible economic and social neglect.
It is most symbolic how Ari Roth, mentioned before, vividly
and humorously describes the old man from Kibbutz Hulda, and
scores his `victory' over him, showing how the settlers of
today carry on what he and his comrades did seventy and
eighty years ago. He pays no attention to the fact that the
story is an old one, framed in the archives of the Herzl
museum, in other words, that it is all ancient, irrelevant
history, exactly as HaRav Elchonon wrote, "That before they
succeed in building any one thing, they will have destroyed
thousands of others."
The weeping of those who bemoan the waves of hatred and venom
which wash over the mitnachalim is sincere, but even
at this point, they -- those who still adhere to the credo
that is anchored in Mizrachi -- would be wise to make a self-
reckoning with regard to that hatred, poison and
misrepresentation against those who envisioned those
developments and value-bankruptcy at the onset -- and those
who still follow in their way.
This has always been the sin of Zionism, which waged a
propaganda war against those who refused to toe their line
and accept their credo. And all Zionists were united in this
hatred, including the religious ones who often even surpassed
the efforts of the secular ones. Too limited is our space to
describe the abundance of venomous distortions and
accusations which they published against their opponents,
showing no quarter to great or small, attacking and abusing
gedolei Yisroel who opposed Zionism. And this they
continue to do today as well, including Yisrael Harel.
Not long ago, Harel published a vitriolic article against the
roshei yeshiva in the period of the Holocaust who, he claims,
refused to save the students who fled to Vilna and its
environs. And had not Dr. Zerach Warhaftig risen up, he
maintains, the whole episode of the Shanghai rescue of
bnei Yeshiva would not have taken place! He bases his
claim wholly upon -- the book written by Dr. Warhaftig,
himself. Harel himself, apparently, felt that this proof was
inadequate, for he mobilized Efraim Zuroff to his aid, who
several years ago spread a false and wicked description
castigating the Vaad Hatzolah founded by the Torah leadership
in America, through lies based on more lies, all designed to
discredit chareidi Judaism.
With the selfsame whip of distortions which they used to flog
the chareidim, they themselves are now being flogged by those
who should have been their allies, in whose protective shade
they sought to stand, and whose glory they wished to share in
their victory over ancient Judaism. But as great as was their
illusion, so is the downfall of the religious Zionist vast
and terrible. A true downfall that comes after the false
pride and boasting of Zionism,
"Before misfortune, comes pride" (Mishlei 16:18). And
Metzudos Dovid comments there, "Before the misfortune hits
the wicked, he first enjoys pride and great power, for this
compounds his pain."
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