Religious Zionism: Praise and Warnings
While Religious Zionism celebrates its accomplishments, a former Knesset Member warns that it had better unite behind a religious authority if it does not want to disappear from the political arena.
Education Minister Gideon Saar took part on Wednesday in a celebration of religious Zionism together with hundreds of students from yeshiva high schools and girls’ ulpanot. The occasion: A salute to the late Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah and the volunteer youth organization established in his memory, L’Oro Nelekh (By His Light We Will Walk).
The event took place in Wohl Hall in the rapidly-growing bastion of religious-Zionism, Givat Shmuel – opposite Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak, near Bar Ilan University.
Participants included the widow and sons of Rabbi Neriah, well-known musical performers Yishai Lapidot, Dedi Graucher and Amir Benayoun, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Ramat Gan Deputy Mayor Avihu Ben-Moshe, former MK Nissan Slomiansky and others.
The late Rabbi Neriah founded the first yeshiva high school – Kfar HaRoeh, near Hadera – in 1939, and is considered the “father of the knitted-yarmulke generation” (now known as 'srugim'). Kfar HaRoeh is named after Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, the first modern-day Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, who had died four years before, in 1935, and whose teachings Rabbi Neriah promulgated.
Minister Saar was praised at the event for having allocated Education Ministry funding to L’Oro Nelekh and similar religious-Zionist educational projects. Delivering the keynote address, Saar began by saying that the recent terrorist attacks are the result of “hatred and incitement to violence among the Palestinians… As long as they do not teach peace and tolerance, all of our talk with the PA leadership is worth nothing.”
“In recent years,” Saar said, “Israeli society has gone towards emphasizing the individual – while real education means to see other people and help them; to give and not to demand. And therefore, when I saw the impressive list of activities of L’Oro Nelekh, I told them one word that I don’t usually like to say – and that is Kadima! (Onward!)" [Kadima is also the name of the leading opposition political party – ed.]
Relating to the national-religious stream in general, Minister Saar said, “The path that Rabbi Neriah led, the path of religious-Zionism that sees the entirety of Israel from a public-spirited standpoint, has made religious-Zionism into a powerful engine in all walks of life in Israeli society – in education, academia, the army, settlement, and finance.”
Yigal Bibi: Don't Join My Club
All is not roses for religious-Zionism, however. Yigal Bibi – who was a leading figure and Knesset Member in what used to be the National Religious Party – says that the religious public, including the Sephardic religious Shas party, “must unify and stop its infighting. Otherwise, a lot of people will soon be joining my club – that of former Knesset Members.”
Bibi, a former mayor of Tiberias who now lives in Gush Etzion, says he foresees national elections within the year. “One of my conditions for joining Shas was that all the forces in the religious public would unify. We must pray to be saved from the evil inclination of aggression and forcefulness..."
Leading in All Fields - Except Politics
"A religious party must have one spiritual leadership to which it adheres," Bibi said. "Without a leader and without a path, religious Zionism will not get far. Today it leads in all fields – except for politics, and the best solution is to establish a spiritual leadership, and that leadership will find a political leader who has proven that he can get things done, comes with clean hands and does not seek luxuries, and will run with him as the leader of its political movement in the next elections.”