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Daily Israel Report

Left-Wing Youth Group Welcomes Anti-Disenagegement Speakers

As the plan to expel the Jews of Gaza and the northern Shomron from their homes draws closer, threatening to tear the nation apart, two youth movements are attempting to find common ground.
First Publish: 4/7/2005, 2:31 PM / Last Update: 4/6/2005, 8:01 PM

While some left-wing groups are increasingly hostile to the Jewish right, the Habonim Dror movement has parted from this trend, in an effort to bridge Israeli societal gaps.

Last Sunday, for the second time in two months, the left-wing youth movement invited Magshimei Herut members to present the nationalist view of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan to their overseas students. Magshimei Herut activists Itamar Weisbrod and Yehuda HaCohen presented the Land of Israel-faithful point of view to Dutch students on Sunday, and to a group of Australian students last month. They gave strategic, political and religious perspectives on why it is incorrect for Israel to relinquish territory or to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state within its borders.

HaCohen praised the effort, asserting that the threat of civil war necessitates dialogue in order to familiarize each side with the other’s perspective. “We’ve spoken to the Reform movement as well,” he says. “And we see them understanding. Even if people don’t agree with us, it is critical that they know why we feel the way we do. The Habonim Dror students are educated very strongly in their movement, and they maintain radical opinions that we find virtually suicidal. But when we explain our view from a holistic perspective that includes many of their own healthier ideals, they begin to understand us.”

HaCohen says that although such encounters begin with tangible hostility and loaded questions, the students eventually become quite attentive and express surprise that they have not been exposed to such a viewpoint by their youth groups or through the media. “What ends up happening is that they can’t get enough, and their counselors are forced to herd them from the room,” HaCohen describes. “And it’s not only the Disengagement; we talk about other things too. There is so much we can agree on, such as activities for the release of Jonathan Pollard, settling the Galilee, opening soup kitchens or protesting the nuclear threat from Iran. We talk to them about more than just what divides us.”

In their educational methods, HaCohen and Weisbrod seek to employ a “healthy nationalism and strong social justice reasoning for the case for the Land of Israel.”

Weisbrod, a political science and war strategy student at Bar-Ilan University, says he presents students with the democratic quandary and security errors inherent in the Prime Minister’s plan.

HaCohen then coveys the halakhic [Jewish legal] viewpoint and humanistic reasoning as to why the greater Land of Israel is necessary for Israel’s national goal of “bringing total goodness to all of mankind.” He quotes the teaching of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, of the three forces within the Nation of Israel - nationalist, religious and humanitarian - and states that in order for the higher aspirations of Zionism to be realized, the left must unite with the national-religious camp to create a healthy new umbrella group that contains the best from each of our various philosophies.

Both Habonim Dror and Magshimei Herut are movements within the World Zionist Organization.