The last one standing - the Religious Zionist party

Everyone is angry at the National Religious Party for standing on principle and refusing to join a government with Raam. Except its voters. Op-ed.

Shalom Pollack ,

MK Smotrich at Amona eviction 2019
MK Smotrich at Amona eviction 2019
Hodaya Saadiah/TPS
The small “National Religious party” faces opposition from every corner of Israel’s political spectrum.

From the Left, for traditional political / religious reasons; from the Arabs, the same. From the Haredim for being Zionists and taking it too seriously (nothing is more irresponsible than endangering government funding) and daring to express their politics in spiritual/Jewish terms: Haredim seem to feel that only they may decide what Jewish values are - and truthfully, from the time Bennett took overr the Bayit Yehudi party, the Religious Zionists - who once toppled a government for Shabbat desecration - stopped fighting for religious values until Smotrich established a new party. .

Today there is yet another critic. The traditional “Right”- the Likud is terribly upset with the little National Religious party.

If for the Haredi parties, budgets are most important, for the Likud it is “being in power”.

Power for power's sake is everything.

How does one know this?

Netanyahu recently demolished a sacred Zionist taboo when he wooed for the first time the Muslim Brotherhood party in Israel to help him form a coalition. (Some say he convinced them to run separately to weaken the Arab parties, and they did get less Knesset seats this time around).

Some people are dedicated “tree huggers”. The “Ra'am” Islamic party are dedicated “terrorist huggers” That is who they are and they do not make any excuses for it.

Standing alone, the National Religious Party declared that they can not be a part of this. They warned that if this line is crossed and a terror supporting party gets their hands on the steering wheel of the Jewish state, that State will have lost its moral foundation.

For the Likud turning down this support is treason.

Likud supporters scream, “by insisting on your silly principles, the Left will form a government and the “Right “will lose power.

They never stop to ask themselves the question: why is that power necessary? Is there a message or an ideology; a political plan of action that lies behind that power? Or is it all about political patronage and the arrogance of power? Is everything for sale?

Is it just about rooting for “your team"?

Today’s Likud is the expansion of the historic “Herut” party of Menachem Begin, which in turn was the political movement of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

It has come a long way.

From an uncompromising passionate fighter for the land of Israel and Jewish pride it has become the equivalent of a soccer team with passionate fans. Winning is the thing. The only thing

Whoever gets in the way of a shot at the championship is the enemy of the club.

Thus, the current anger at the Religious Zionist Party who sees the politics of the Jewish state as something much more serious than soccer – something holy.

Rabbis Alkalai, Kalischer, Mohliver, Reines, Kook and Maimon were some of the prominent Religious leaders of the Zionist movement from as early as the mid nineteenth century.

They understood that without a soul, a body is meaningless and cannot survive.

They were inspired not by various European nationalist thinkers and not by Karl Marx.

It is interesting to note that when Herzl presented his surprising emergency “Uganda” plan to save Jews from pogroms in Russia by settling them in Africa, the Religious Zionists at the Zionist Congress agreed. It was the Zionist Left from Russia who rejected it and insisted only upon Eretz Yisroel.

It was explained that the Religious Zionists were confident that they would never forget Jerusalem and would make it their home when possible, but wanted to save Jewish lives immediately. Thus their agreement to an emergency move to any territory

This debate divided the Zionist movements and the Religious Zionists themselves.

After the Balfour declaration in 1917 the so-called “territorialists” lost their cause. It was no longer a debate.

The arena returned to the question of not where but what?

During the period of Rabbi Kook as chief rabbi in the pre state era, the Zionist movement was dominated by the Socialist, anti-religious camp.

Jewish labor, farming and defense of the beloved land and eventually statehood were seen as both the means and the end. Period.

Rabbi Kook admired their love for the land and their dedication to it.

However, he warned them that if they continue to be divorced from our Torah their children will relate to the land as an unwelcome burden.

Rabbi Kook espoused a combined goal of the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the People of Israel.

With the founding of the state in 1948 and until 1977, the Mizrachi- Religious Zionists were coalition partners with the Left. They resembled their secular counterparts in many ways except for guarding the religious status quo which affected the powers of the Chief Rabbinate, marrriage,divorce and conversion laws that affected the Jews as a whole and national aspects of religion such as kosher kitchens in the IDF and the Jewish holidays and Sabbath as days of rest. . They were practical politicians and were interested in preserving their piece of the pie.

There was no Rabbi Kook on the national stage at the time to influence the party to be more than that..

After the Six-day war in 1967 and especially after the Yom Kippur war in 1973 there was an awakening of national religious youth from practical politics that guarded the People of Israel and the Torah of Israel to a need to develop the Land of Israel..

Rabbi Kook the son, was a spiritual giant as was his father and he provided the spirit that breathed passion into the renewed movement.

Power and budgets and maintaining the status quo were no longer enough for the younger generation of Religious Zionists.

As the various Zionist movements on the Left and Right lost ideological steam (except for a dwindling group of “post Zionists” who wanted to do away with it altogether) poor in ideology , a core of Religious Zionists insisted that the old Zionism is worth fighting for. Their party is now the Religious Zionist party.

They are the last ones standing, hoping for a Zionist revival in Israel.

Shalom Pollack, filmmaker, writer and tour guide in Jerusalem., is writing a book, "Despite ourselves, I was there" shalompollack613@gmail.com



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