New Religious-Zionist Pamphlet: "Our Way at This Time"

A pamphlet distributed in synagogues throughout the country attempts to set a path for consensus in the religious-Zionist sector in the event of future withdrawals.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 14:13

Signed on the 15-paragraph document are leading religious-Zionist leaders such as Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Yaakov Ariel, Shlomo Aviner, Tzfaniah Drori, Moti Elon, Eli Sadan, Aryeh Stern, Chananel Etrog, Yigal Kaminetzky, David Stav, Avi Gisser, and more.

Some of them, however, agree more with the "spirit" of what is written, rather than all of its details.

The document begins with this introduction:
"Out of a true connection with the public, and out of a sincere attentiveness to the troubles we face today, we sense the need to map clear directions for the public in times of crisis; and out of a recognition that where there is a vacuum, all sorts of unclear opinions burst forth - the undersigned group of rabbis has gathered to formulate clear guidelines regarding the path of Religious Zionism at this time, and to take responsibility for disseminating these principles and teaching by their light."

The document makes the following assertions:

"We are in the midst of the Divine process of the Return to Zion. We are seeing, with our own eyes, the fulfillment of the vision of the Prophets and of our prayers after 2,000 years of exile. At the same time, we are also in a period of crisis, placing before us fundamental questions as to the way in which this vision will be fulfilled and how we are to relate to the difficult events we are experiencing.

"We will not allow ourselves to be dragged into a civil war; we will not raise our hand against our brother; we will act with all our might to increase unity among the nation.
Throughout history, whatever we achieved was the result of our unity, and the troubles that befell us resulted from disunity.

"The entire Nation of Israel - not a particular party or sector - is the object of Redemption. The Divine Spirit upon the entire nation is that which arouses us - openly and hiddenly - to act with G-d in bringing about the Redemption. Whatever we do to build the Nation and rejuvenate it in its Land is therefore for the Nation and in its service [b'shlichutah]."

"The State of Israel is the actual manifestation of the Jewish People's sovereignty in its Land. It has its shortcomings, but above all, it features the Sanctification of G-d's Name in the very fact of the return of the Jewish People as a living nation in its Land.

"The IDF is the nation's army, protecting us with great dedication... We must strengthen it and do all we can to improve it. Using the IDF to uproot the glorious settlement enterprise in Gush Katif is a distortion of the army's purpose and a blow at its cohesiveness. But this does not change its essential objective. We must show responsibility and partnership in building a strong IDF. We are not ignoring problems such as the army's offensive integration of men and women - but this merely increases our reponsibility to maintain its strength and to fight against the weaknesses in order to increase its purity and and its pride.

"The only practical way to establish our national existence here, given all the different opinions, is by the parliamentary system. We, the religious-Zionist public, also agreed to this partnership system, and set the day of its establishment as a religious holiday of thanksgiving.

"Certainly, we are all loyal only to G-d and His Torah... We are partners in this state in order to fulfill G-d's will, to inherit the Land and to be a unified nation here. This means that if we are told, in the name of the State or the army, to violate a Torah command, even a minor one, we will not listen. This is the partnership we all agreed to: the State cannot tell an individual to act against his conscience - but the individual or a minority can also not force his opinion on the majority. We therefore will not act with force to impose our will on the general public - not regarding Torah and its commandments, and not regarding the Land of Israel.

"This is a clash with brothers, and it must not be waged with hatred, and certainly not with force. Hatred is like a raging fire that knows no borders; it starts against politicians or policemen, continues towards soldiers, and then reaches rabbis 'who don't agree with us'... The main battlefield is not against the policemen and soldiers; this is rather a heart-and-mind battle. We must enlist all our powers in order to influence and to disseminate the ideas in which we believe.

"Our consent to continue to advance slowly and step-by-step with our nation is not weakness, but rather strength that is full of patience, forebearance and the faith that we must and can uplift everything.

"We will continue, under all circumstances, to strive and act to fulfill the vision of the Greater Land of Israel. We know that to reach this vision, we must raise the spirit of the nation and build a national Jewish consciousness in the Israeli public.

"We must act together to bring our nation closer to belief in G-d and His Torah."

The document has some shortcomings, say critics. For one thing, it was not shown in advance to all the rabbis of the religious-Zionist sector, particularly those who have been more outspoken in favor of refusal of orders and against the state's institutions.

One Rabbi Disagrees With Call to Refuse Orders
In addition, one rabbi who signed the document said he himself does not agree with the call to refuse orders. He told Arutz-7, "To be a member of this camp is one of the hardest things I know of. There are many contradictions, and it requires great patience and strength to live with them." He explained that, as a student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook - the late legendary leader of the religious-Zionist camp who called on army officers not to listen to orders to evacuate Jews - he can explain what he thinks the rabbi meant:

"If a Jewish state controls certain areas of the Land of Israel, and yet forbids Jews from living in parts thereof, this is not allowed, and orders to this effect must be refused. But if the state says that, for various reasons having to do with security and the like, it no longer wants to remain in certain parts of the Land altogether, it has a right to do that, and soldiers should not refuse orders related to this. They should try various ways to get out of fulfilling these orders - and there are plenty of ways to do so - but they should not refuse outright. The State is akin to the Kingdom of Israel, and its orders must not be refused unless they are in direct opposition to the Torah. For instance, male soldiers must refuse to drive in a jeep at night with women soldiers, because of the grave problems this represents and can lead to."

Against Ideological Disengagement From the State
Another signatory rabbi, Rabbi Elchanan Bin-Nun of Shilo, agreed that the pamphlet was written largely to offset the influence of a certain small but well-known sector within the religious-Zionist camp. Led by Rabbi Shmuel Tal of Yeshivat Torat HaChaim, formerly of N'vei Dekalim (Gush Katif) and now in Yad Binyamin, this camp feels that the State is no longer something to celebrate or the "beginning of the sprouting of our Redemption," and that, not unlike the hareidi-religious public, religious-Zionists must detach themselves from it ideologically.

Arutz-7 asked Rabbi Bin-Nun, "You call for refusal of orders, and yet at the same time teach towards the appreciation of the State and what it represents. How do these go together?"

Rabbi Bin-Nun: "There need be no contradiction. We cannot fulfill orders that go against the Torah, but this does not mean that we minimize the value of the body that gives these orders. Maimonides says that anti-Torah commands of a King must be refused, but he does not say that this nullifies the value of the Kingdom itself."

A-7: "But on an educational level - how will you be able to instill an appreciation and love of the State if it gives orders that you must refuse and that uproot and destroy all you have believed in? For the youth in Gush Katif, and possibly for many more in Judea and Samaria in the coming years, this will be an acute question."

Rabbi Bin-Nun: "From an educational standpoint, you are right, and this will be a major challenge that we will have to face. Just like when one loses someone dear to him, and begins to have doubts, others around him will continue to comfort him and assure him that G-d still exists and loves him..."

A-7: "On the other hand, if you call publicly for refusal of orders, won't it be perceived as a strike against the unity that you are trying to forge with the secular public?"

Rabbi Bin-Nun: "We cannot behave in accordance with how things will be perceived. We are forbidden to take part in that which goes against the Torah - and not only can we not fulfill orders to uproot Jews and destroy communities, but we have to also perform sit-ins and the like in order to stop this...

"But I agree, we must make it our challenge not just to wait for the secular public to come around and understand what we are saying about the Torah and about the historic process, but we must actively go out and speak with people and teach them about it and try to bring them closer to a Torah lifestyle."

Rabbi Aryeh Stern, of the Halachah Brurah Institute in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, wrote this week in the HaTzofeh newspaper that what is sorely needed in the religious-Zionist world at present is a rabbinical council that will decide the above issues and issue uniform rulings.