Tzafrir Ronen, 53, a fighter for the Land of Israel and the Jewish People from deep within the secular left, suffered a fatal heart attack over the Sabbath.  Survived by his wife and three daughters, aged 13 to 20, his funeral will be held on Sunday afternoon in his hometown Moshav Moledet near Afula.

A founder of the secular nationalist Nahalal Forum and a frequent contributor to Arutz-7’s Hebrew and English opinion pages, Ronen was raised on the ideals of the Labor party and the secular Kibbutz movement.  He served as senior campaign advisor for Yitzchak Rabin in the 1992 elections, and was a founding member of Kibbutz Gilgal in the Jordan Valley. His change in thinking came in the wake of the Oslo Accords, signed by Rabin in 1993.

Quotes Simon the Maccabee

In early 2005, shortly before the Disengagement/expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, Ronen and others started the Nahalal Forum, explaining, "We cannot remain silent in light of the rampant insanity of uprooting Zionist pioneers." They quoted a letter written during the miraculous Chanukah wars by Simon the Maccabee to Syrian-Greek King Antiochus over 2,000 years ago: “This is not a foreign country that we took for ourselves, nor do we rule what belongs to others. No, it is the land of our forefathers that was conquered unjustly by our enemies some time ago, and we, when the opportunity came, took back our fathers’ land.”

"We Gained a State, and Lost our Identity!"

At last year’s Jerusalem Conference, Ronen delivered an impassioned speech in which he said, “If, during our long years in Exile, a rabbi had gotten up and said he no longer needs the Land of Israel, he would not have remained the rabbi for another minute! But now, we have a government that has been saying for 40 years that they are just 'waiting for a phone call' - from Hussein, or from Arafat, or whomever - to give away parts of our land... Even Bibi [Netanyahu], who is famous for saying, 'If they give, they will get' - what he means is that if they give us a little quiet, they will receive our land! ... We have lost our identity!"

Ronen concluded that the "true war being waged today is not for peace, but to cause us to lose our identity.  That's why Barak doesn't want to allow the Jews of Hevron to put windows on their new property [Beit HaShalom, which Barak has since emptied of its Jews – ed.] - because he wants to erase our connection with the Land... I once was interviewed by a CNN reporter who asked me, 'So when will you end your occupation?' I said to him, 'Before you ask such a question, first open up a Bible and then come back to me.'  He put down the camera and said, 'More power to you, that's the way people should talk about their land.'"  

“Show me a British person who would be willing to negotiate away parts of London for peace with Al-Qaeda, or an American who would be willing to give away Washington, D.C… Only we are willing to give away our heritage. How can we act this way? We need a psychologist! … I was in a synagogue in the U.S., which has appeals for Dharfur, Bosnia, etc. – but when I wanted to talk about the Land of Israel, they refused to let me, saying it was a political matter.  I told them that if the Land of Israel is a political matter, you can close up the Bible, and you can close up your synagogue…  Look what happened here: We came back to our Land, we established a State – and we lost our identity!”

This past May, when outgoing U.S. President George Bush arrived in Israel for his final visit in office, accompanied or met by hundreds of reporters from around the world, Ronen and others stood in various strategic spots to distribute pamphlets explaining the legal ties between the Jewish People and the entire Land of Israel. 

Speaking on IsraelNationalRadio’s Fleisher and Stutz show in 2005, Ronen said: “This government [of Ariel Sharon] has no legitimacy to continue even one more day. Sharon lost three major battles: He cheated the voters [who voted against the Labor Party plan to quit Gaza] and stole their votes, he cheated his own party [which voted in a referendum against the Disengagement], and he broke Israel's democratic system by firing the ministers [who voted against the expulsion]. He therefore cannot continue without going back to the voters."

Anti-Semitism Against the Religious

He also said: “I know the left, because that's where I come from. The left is corrupt and hypocritical. Before the election, they condemned Sharon as a murderer and the like, but now, they applaud him and think he's great, no matter what evil he does. Why? Because he fights against their enemies. And who are their enemies – Arafat, the PLO, Hamas? No. It's the settlers. Do you realize what's going on here? Straight-out anti-Semitism against the religious people. And I'm not religious – I'm a kibbutznik/moshvanik. We have to really pay attention to what's going on here. Listen to the media, read the newspapers – it's an anti-Semitic campaign against the pioneers of this country, most of whom are religious."

Asked what has happened to the nation’s basic “Love of Land,” Ronen said, "In truth, I have no answer. I see the non-religious youth, and I'm honestly worried about the future of this country. Something with the education – there's a learning system, but there's no education. On the kibbutz, too (sigh), it's not good, it's practically gone. We have to rebuild it. The only ones who teach love of the country are the religious people."

“What does it mean to be part of a nation? It means to have a collective memory. What does it mean to be a Jew? If I'm not religious, and you are religious, what unites us? – That we have a mutual collective memory. Whether you are from Ethiopia or Russia, or eat pig, we all know that we come from Abraham and Moses, and this is what makes us a nation. We have a collective memory, and the symbols thereof are Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hevron... If our government signs an agreement to give away these symbols of our collective memory, after 2,000 years of never having forgotten these places, and if it happens when we're already in Israel – this is the worst thing that can happen, because that will be the end of our nation…These are things that don't belong just to us, today, but rather to the entire Jewish nation. That's the reason that Eretz Yisrael HaShleimah [Greater Land of Israel] is part of my life. If we give parts of it away, that's the end of us – and I don't mean just physically, that they'll create a terror state and all the rest; it will be a tragedy for many generations to come. And that's why the Oslo [agreements] have to be erased, and the people who brought us Oslo have to be punished, put to trial. The nation must know that this was a crime."

"...My grandparents came here in 1921 from Russia. They were attached to this land, and fought for it; people died here for it. There are graves all over of teenagers who came here at those ages to live and die for the land. And now look what's happening to the 3rd and 4th generations. That's why I believe that the only educational system that will preserve us is the national-religious system. And we, the so-called non-religious, we have to learn from you guys. We have to learn and we have to adopt the way you educate your young generation."

Video of Ronen speaking with IsraelNN TV at the Shomron community of Migron:

Videos of Ronen speaking in Hebrew can be seen here.

Messages of condolences were issued by Women in Green, the Movement to Rebuild the Temple, Chomesh First, the HaTikvah party, Land of Israel loyalists, Arutz-7 and others.