At Yated Ne'eman we often get letters from readers
asking us why we always review the historical opposition of
the chareidim to the Zionist movement, since the Zionist
idea went bankrupt a long time ago and even the secular
public no longer admires its leaders or Zionist symbols.
This is a valid question. After all, none of our readers
nowadays are likely to be suspected of being closet
Zionists. In the early years of the State, you could still
see innocent Jews with long beards and payos dancing
on Yom Haatzmaut, but nowadays no chareidi Jew would
participate in any nationalist celebrations.
However, looking around us and listening carefully to
people's conversations and thoughts, we notice that this
heretical movement -- which, according to Rav Chaim Brisker
zt"l, touched upon the most sensitive point of the
Jewish nation -- still manages to infiltrate its ideas into
the hearts of even the most Orthodox amongst us.
It is true that no chareidi Jew will display the flag on Yom
Haatzmaut or say Hallel, but the Zionist mentality
still manifests itself in several more subtle ways. There
are many aspects to this, but we shall only cite two topical
examples: the current political situation and the elections
for prime minister.
The negotiations with the Palestinians and the prime
minister's willingness to make far-reaching concessions have
led to a wave of protests by the Right, culminating in a
huge demonstration two weeks ago before the walls of the Old
City in Yerushalayim. We have made it clear in the past that
we do not consider ourselves to have a common cause with
these demonstrators, but we would like to clarify this
matter further by concentrating on two specific points.
@Big Let Body=The arguments made by opponents to the latest
political decisions focus on two totally separate points
which are actually totally unrelated, but the fact that they
are always mentioned together by right-wing circles has
managed to convince even some of us that they are
The first argument deals with the security issue and has
nothing to do with ideology. It is a factual question, and
only experts in the army and security should express an
opinion on it. The fear is that the broad territorial
concessions are likely to create new dangers in different
areas of the country and especially in Yerushalayim. If the
border is to be drawn near heavily populated Jewish areas,
with Arab neighborhoods under full Palestinian control just
across the border, this could result in the nightmarish
scenes of Gilo and Psagot being repeated in many other
Jewish neighborhoods in Yerushalayim.
As I say, this argument is not an ideological one. The only
dispute is about the degree of danger involved in the
current proposals and whether a "peace" of this nature may
only increase the security risks. Religious people
(regardless of whether they would support any peace
agreement or oppose it as a dangerous move) are guided by
the command, vechai bohem, and the halocho
requires us to do everything possible to prevent danger to
the lives of Jews.
At the same time, we do not believe this to be the main
point. We are obliged to do our bit in accordance with
halocho, but we realize that the calamities which
happen to us as a nation are heavenly decrees, and that the
midas hadin will not be removed from us as long as
the Jewish nation rebels against its faith and Torah chas
vesholom. Only if "you walk in My statutes" will "I give
peace in the land."
These security considerations are, however, not the only
reasons for the Right's opposition to the peace process.
They are also very worried about the issue of sovereignty.
As far as they are concerned, even if an agreement was
proposed that guaranteed absolute security, it would still
be impossible to concede sovereignty over any part of
Eretz Yisroel and especially over Yerushalayim.
On this matter, we can never stand on common ground with
them. We are concerned for the welfare and security of every
single Jew, but have no interest in empty nationalistic
symbols which attach significance to secular sovereignty.
Eretz Yisroel is holy and has been promised to us on
the absolute condition that we observe the Torah, and
changes in its political status will make no difference to
this situation until Moshiach comes.
When we merit the future redemption, the Beis
Hamikdosh will be rebuilt and a Kingdom of Torah will be
established in this country whose whole purpose will be to
increase kvod Shomayim, and then there will be a
concept of spiritual sovereignty. This will consist of the
rule of Torah and mitzvos, and its purpose will be to ensure
that the Jewish people fulfills its raison d'etre by
behaving in accordance with the kedushoh of this
country and does not pollute it chas vesholom.
But as long as we are still in golus -- amongst non-
Jews or amongst estranged Jews -- the character of this
"sovereignty" makes no difference (again, we are not talking
about the security aspect, but about the symbolic
significance of one nation ruling a territory rather than
another). Does the sanctity of the land increase when
certain parts of it are ruled by Jews who have discarded the
yoke of Torah, rather than by non-Jews? Does Hakodosh
Boruch Hu derive pleasure from the fact that a flag is
flying over a certain settlement? Is the degree of kvod
Shomayim really dependent on the issue of whether a
certain area in Eretz Yisroel is under the control of
Arafat, Barak or Sharon?
On the contrary, in some measure, the desecration of the
Torah and chilul Hashem are actually increased when
non- religious Jews and a secular State trample the mitzvos
in Eretz Yisroel, engaging in chilul Shabbos,
desecrating shmittah and denying fundamentals of our
faith and the Shulchan Oruch.
If there are amongst us Jews who get carried away by the
rhetoric of the nationalistic struggle for sovereignty, if
people become confused and mention slogans of this kind, it
is a sign that the dying embers of Zionism still affect the
periphery of our circles.
@Big Let Body=Another topic which calls for some
introspection on our part is that of the upcoming elections.
The matter of principle as to whether we should be
participating at all in elections to the Knesset has already
been decided by gedolim both past and present. On
previous occasions, when elections for prime minister were
held at the same time as elections to the Knesset, the
gedolim instructed us to vote for the least anti-
religious candidate. But each case must be considered
separately, especially now that the vote will only be for a
secular prime minister. We await the ruling of the
gedolim about participating in these elections.
This only concerns the actual vote on election day, and for
us it is enough if a ruling is made just before the
elections, but it appears that some people feel a need to
participate in the election campaign itself, organizing and
so on, without waiting to hear what the gedolim have
to say. Apart from the problem of initiatives undertaken by
people relying on daas baalei batim unguided by
daas Torah, these actions signify a deeper malady:
the wish to be part of Israeli society.
Our involvement in governmental, political and electoral
affairs has been forced upon us. We have no desire to be
partners in running the State, and it is only because of
press of circumstances that we send representatives to the
Knesset in order to save whatever possible. If we become
more involved than the minimum that is required for this
purpose, we infringe the command "to seek no intimacy with
the ruling power."
We should follow the example of Yaakov and his sons in
Egypt: "And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call
you, and shall say, `What is your occupation?' that you
shall say, `Your servants have been shepherds from our youth
until now, both we, and our fathers,' that you may dwell in
the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is considered an
abomination by the Egyptians" (Bereishis 46:33-34).
Rashi (ibid.) says, "He will put you at a distance
from him and settle you there."
HaRav Yeruchom Leibowitz zt"l commented on this that
we should be amazed by the behavior of Yaakov and his sons,
who preferred to degrade themselves in front of Pharaoh and
all the Egyptians just to be able to live far away from
them. Moreover, Yosef chose only to present those of his
brothers to Pharaoh who would be the least likely to be
chosen as ministers or appointed to important governmental
The Mirrer mashgiach continues: "This is how the Jews
behaved subsequently in all their periods of exile. Our
ancestors were always ready to suffer persecutions from
their host nations, just for the sake of not becoming too
close to them. It is a mistake to think that the Jews are
hated because they are Jews. During all periods of history,
the non-Jewish nations always wanted the Jews to unite with
them. Their call was always, `Return, return, that we may
look upon you' -- `come to us and we will appoint you
commanders, prefects and rulers' (Shir Hashirim Rabba
7:2), but the Jews always preferred poverty and
persecutions, seeking `no intimacy with the ruling power'
and keeping as far away as possible from politics and its
"How differently we behave nowadays! We run towards any
available government position, citing various excuses to
justify our behavior. We argue that the economic and
political situation forces us to become influential, and
that if we continue our policy of secluding ourselves from
the world we will become `pariahs' and outcasts of society.
How we have changed and regressed from the position of all
our ancestors z"l! They exerted every effort to
become `pariahs' and `untouchables' -- and we, in our
shortsightedness, run after them."
He concludes: "Becoming intimate with the ruling authority,
drawing closer to the nations, and becoming involved with
politics can only lead to destruction; we must run away from
Our rabbonim shlita have taught us that we have to
behave this way in all circumstances, not just when we are
in exile amongst the non-Jewish nations. When a secular
Jewish government is in power we should also have no
interest in becoming associated with it in order to feel
that we are "part of Israeli society." Our sole concern
should be to do whatever is necessary for the preservation
of religious rights, which are our primary concern.
The national-religious and nationalist-chareidi camps, on
the other hand, feel an uncontrollable urge to be
legitimate, accepted and loved. They consider the State to
be an admirable, valuable entity, bordering on the holy.
This explains why it is so important to them to be accepted
and admired in governmental circles and the media, and why
each time they are branded with the label of illegitimacy --
as was the case after the assassination of Rabin -- they go
into a deep crisis. Their image as a recognized and
desirable sector of Israeli society is of paramount
importance to them, and they will go to any length to
maintain their legitimacy and popularity.
The chareidi public, on the other hand, which follows the
instructions and outlook of the gedolim, has no trace
of admiration for the paper tiger known as Zionism, and
feels no need for recognition by the State and its organs.
All we want is to be left alone and to be allowed to lead a
Jewish life of Torah. We will fight against any attacks on
our lifestyles and on the fundamentals of Judaism, but we do
not go out of our way to prove that we participate in the
social life of the State, that we are an integral part of
the government, legitimate citizens with the right to exist
in the Zionist state.
Let them think of us what they want, and label us to their
hearts' content. We do not need the stamp of legitimacy from
our secular brethren. We do not depend on them. As Rav
Yeruchom zt"l wrote, Jews were not intimidated by
threats that they would become pariahs and outcasts if they
do not assimilate. On the contrary, throughout the
generations Jews wanted to be considered outcasts. They made
a point of not seeking intimacy with the ruling authority,
even preferring to have the image of people who dealt with
"the abominations of Egypt" in order that their host nation
keep them at a distance.
Whoever has not been infected to any degree by the Zionist
plague sees no value whatsoever in secular sovereignty over
parts of Eretz Hakodesh or over Jews within it. On
the contrary, it hurts us to witness a situation where the
secular leadership has taken control of the Jewish nation
and of Eretz Yisroel and we have no desire to endear
ourselves to them or come under their protection. Let them
consider us separatists, anti-Zionists, parasites, draft-
dodgers, illegitimate or any other pejorative designation
which expresses our isolation from secular society, just so
long as they do not prevent us from leading our Torah way of