When far-right activists called on the army’s chief rabbi, Yisrael Weiss, to “remove his kippa,” they were expressing far more than mere hot-blooded rhetoric.
It is worth listening carefully to such calls, because they emanate from figures who are considered to speak for an ideological, political, and religious camp. Such voices are considered pure expressions of this mindset.
Hot-blooded figures who use such language are often dismissed as “zealots,” a word which carries with it immediate negative connotations for the secular ear. But for a religious person (and it does not matter what religion the person follows), zealotry is a complimentary and positive term.
The zealot is one who, in his closeness to God, gives up on all other considerations.
In the “Mekumon” newspaper which is freely distributed all over the country, a ‘something to think about’ column is published, and is authored by members of the ultra-orthodox group Chabad.
The Haaretz newspaper reported that in a recent column, Chabad members were asked to interpret the Torah portion of Pinchas.
Taking law into your hands
Picnhas ben Eliezer killed an Israelite chief who was found sleeping with a Midianite woman, thereby ending a plague which had been attacking Israel. Pinchas worked outside of the judicial system in an act of violent zealotry.
Despite this, he is awarded with endless praise.
The Chabad members are today working to find the modern Pinchas, someone who will take matters into his own hands and will commit an act which, while forbidden under law, is morally exalted.
In the settler camp, zealotry is not merely a compliment - it is the ultimate guide.
This camp has been rejecting moderation and compromise for years, dismissing them as expressions of weakness, and undermining the zealot role models.
The settlers are in the grip of a godly zealotry – for years they have been operating outside of the law, motivated by a deep feeling that they are not transgressing the ‘real laws.’
In the name of zealotry, they robbed, lied, and cheated, spilt blood, and all this so that their feeling of complete devotion to God remains undamaged.
They do not believe they are bringing destruction on Israel but peace, “peace between the children of Israel and their Father in the sky,” as Chabad members write.
All of this indicates who holds the reins of control in the national religious camp, which is split between the zealots and the ‘moderate’ tactical leaders.
Who will lead this camp? It depends on who is more effective.
The moment it becomes clear that the central leadership’s tactics are not bearing fruit, the marginal forces will take over. Be very careful.
Aviad Kleinberg is a history professor at Tel Aviv University