Contradictory perceptions: Origins of the split in Religious Zionism

The political explosion of Religious Zionism reveals a deep split of identity. The dividing line is the question of whether or not commitment to the Torah is the guiding principle.

Rabbi Yitschak Neriya , | updated: 14:30

OpEds guest writer
guest writer
INN: MS

Translated by Rav Eliyahu Zini and Abraham Chicheportiche

Recent events in the political arena, which led to the abandonment of the Jewish Home (Habayit HaYehudi) party by two of its leaders, are in need of clarification.

Religious Zionism, in all its varieties, needs to find the time for deep inner reflection.

It would also be wrong to think that a quick decision led to the New RIght ( Hayemin Hachadash) movement.

There were in-depth investigations and tests focused on the feasibility of the process, after which we were informed of "the explosion of the right".

We, the public, have seen just the tip of the iceberg, but those who initiated it and triggered it took their time and needed resources.They prepared their manoeuvre and formulated messages, chose a name and even a logo.

I do not belong to the political arena and I was never in it. The question that is important for me to consider is a question of values. Is it an inevitable process? Is it political altruism to add votes?

For the camp on the right, it seems it is possible to deal with and become part of an ideology fundamentally different from that of Religious Zionism. These beautiful words have slowly won the hearts of our sons, our daughters and even some of our rabbis.

Blur and smoke screen

Years ago, my grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya zts"l, wrote a sentence that was used by many: "Long live the unifying blur" (meaning that not every detail has to be spelled our or there can be no unification of parties, ed.)

However, when a person walks ideologically with a precise and exact ideal and a world of specific values. it is difficult for him to abandon the details of his ideal - So the blur has no place.

And if we use the blur as a smokescreen to assimilate a world of values ​​that has nothing religious in it, that undermines the Zionist religious doctrine, the relationship must be completely different.

This movement, in my opinion, is not only political, but a movement of ideological value. It has its own thinkers and leaders. It is a thought out affair with a desire to present a new agenda. Its leaders climbed on the platform of Religious Zionism and left it when they realized they did not need or want it anymore. The beauty of the smokescreen and blurring of differences for a time blinded us to the point of not seeing clearly what was happening before our eyes, in the form of efforts digging deep under the foundations of the world of the Zionist Torah.

It turns out that everywhere in the world, we are seeing a tendency towards the right. President Trump, Brexit in England, Bolsonaro in Brazil -what they all share is the rise of the nation at the expense of the concern for universal values.

On the one hand there is great reason to rejoice in the disillusionment of the left from the hope for a new Middle East, rejoice in the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the transfer of embassies and other important political movements in the world - but there is also the abandonment of Israel.

The United States in Syria comes from the same point of nationalism and concern for oneself, that Rabbi Kook warned us about at the time when Israeli nationalism was empty of Torah and mitzvot.

The nationalism of Israel associated with the grand and sacred vision of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and the burden of the commandments is of sacred origin, and Jewish patriotism without Torah can have serious consequences.

We did not notice how gently, within a thick veil of smoke, these manoeuvres penetrated the heart of Zionism over the past decade.

The New Right party is born of Israeli patriotism and not of the Torah. This point must be explained because it is the root of the split.

Many of us, including the author of these lines, were captivated, and rightly so,  by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked in the elections in 5773 (2013). We all thought that something new was really starting to move, a young, religious and exciting happening.

Hi-Tech is ready to lead religious Zionism, we said. Certainly, his kippah is not very big and his knowledge of the Torah is weak, we thought. But there is an aura and a charisma, and there is a pronounced right-wing speech. Next to him was a secular woman who had her heart in the right place.

The impression was that there was something new here that would take the old and the good that it was feeding on and use our messages and the world of moral content in which we believe.

For many of us, however, the quick connection with Lapid after the election in an attempt to have boh parties join the coalition leaving the haredi parties outside it, was disconcerting. Yair Lapid, Naftali Benett and Ayelet Shaked, as strange as that may seem, share a world of similar values.

Their Israeli patriotism is sanctified at home by only good things: love of the IDF, the love of the land of Israel and the search for the unification of the people - but they present it as a substitute for the world of sacred content.

Naftali positioned on the right and Yair Lapid in the center or the left? If we remove the right or left mask you have two patriots with very similar positions both in economic perception, in social perception, and even in a war against the BDS whose main purpose is to preserve Israeli patriotism again

Lack of halakhic commitment

It is not surprising that among religious Jews and even rabbis who identified the points of light and goodness, many failed to internalize the fact that the two were preparing a totally different ideological path here, and settled on both sides of the fence.

This platform based on being Israeli has thinkers and theologians, there is a pathway and a direction, there is a growing trend and they strive to spread it.

Their masters are not Rav Avraham Hacohen Kook, nor his son Rav Zvi Yehuda, nor Rav Soloveitchik. We have the Torah of Mount Sinai.while their thinkers are not necessarily attached to halakha and so there is an absence of the objectives of the Torah of Israel.

If we quote a few names, Ahad Ha'am and Bialik are the spiritual guides of Micha Goodman (and Yair Lapid). Dr. Micah Goodman is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

And Yoav Sorek (see Naftali Bennett) is one of the ideological pathogens of the new right-wing Israelis. Yoav Sorek is the editor of the Shiloach Journal

"The Israeli Alliance," writes Sorek, naming his vision of Israeli patriotism, and he will not adopt the observance of the commandments as is customary in the religious community, but will create a new link:

• Israeli soil for Judaism, for us and future generations. 
• A basis with Torah and Mitzvot, albeit in a fresh and flexible format; A soil with rich worlds.
• And tradition, a ground that requires commitment and is based on a unique consciousness, mission and alliance.

We must say openly: there is no blur here, there are two opposing worldviews. Is it the word Divine that separates them?
And is it the Torah that guides our paths or is it that we live in the Land of Israel, a secular or historical Zionism?

Will the common Jewish community of the country dictate the way like a girouette dancing with the wind?

Will the contemporary triumph over the spirit of Israel, is the Divine Word supposed to retreat from reality?

What is the source of the difference?

After all, it turns out that the Religious Zionist public has been deeply embedded in the military, the economy, the media and the universities and it necessarily creates an entire sector of society.

The recognition of the spiritual abyss between my world and the world of the New Right led me t speak to a close relative.
And she looked at me in astonishment and did not understand what my problem was.

Religious Zionists? We have not simply fallen into a trap, but providence imposes on us a profound clarification.

In an interview in the journal Globes, Micha Goodman said about Naftali Bennett: "He has talent and his success is impressive. He managed to take control of religious Religious Zionism and now he has gained his ground."

But Goodman did more than that to sketch the big bang eight months before it happened:

"According to the secular narrative, there is a power struggle between the two sectors - the religious group is getting stronger, and the lay group is small and weak. I do not know if that's true. It seems to me that what is really happening is that the religious group divided in two, the lay group separated, and the split between the two widens.

It is, in fact, a new group. There is really an exchange of elites; there is the formation of new elite. What I'm trying to do is formulate the philosophy of this new group, so that it is created with group awareness, leadership and philosophy.

Why does this "religion" need philosophy? Because the problem of this group is its constant feeling that it is a compromise. There are in it neither religious people who go to the edge nor lay people who go all the way. That's why they need a new philosophy.

Have our sons and daughters adopted this voice? The answer is yes. Can we say that this is an argument between sub-sectors within Religious Zionism? In my humble opinion no, despite the innocence and naivete of some rabbis and their desire for proximity.

These two forces led the late Rav Avichai Ronsky to join Naftali and Ayelet. But many young people were swept away by misleading and confusing speech, even though the journalists were charmed. And maybe we're all responsible for not focusing on these things.

The spirit of Israel is a sacred expression that appears dozens of times in the writings of Rav Kook. It does not mean Israeli Patriotism
What distinguishes our people is its divine source; it is the spirit of Israel.

Rav Kook writes in one of his letters:

"Social, political, moral issues, contents and life trends will take a new form. And a new destiny, and inside, in the center, there is no other way to be than in the spirit of Israel.

"And the spirit of Israel is young and revealed in its holiness, the spirit of Israel is a thinker and the spirit of Israel is at work, the spirit of Israel is the genius of faith.

"And the performance and the spirit of Israel are holy in thought and search, the spirit of Israel alone.

"In the covenant of the people and in the light of the nations, the spirit of Israel is dispersed at the end and acts in isolation,

"And the spirit of Israel is concentrated and aspires to his country and the land of his inheritance, the spirit of Israel brings the beauty of Yaffet in the tents of Jacob."

It is true that Rav Kook does not write in contemporary language, but his writing is noble and uncompromising.

The doctrine of Religious Zionism is the spirit of Israel


We are at a crossroads and we must pray the Tfilat Haderèkh prayer (traveller's prayer) 
Our path is not easy; it is a generation that must toil, until the complete redemption. That will not stop.

For this reason, I welcome the separation between the national religious party and the new Israeli right. Despite the commonalities, there is a chasm between us. We can find ways to work together, but we must be aware pf the great danger of assimilation and confusion.

But if God forbid, we lose our strength because we seek the "religion" of Israeli patriotism, it will affect generations to come. We will spread our beliefs with strength and we will continue to persevere.




top