We heard plenty of 'I-told-you-so's from the settlers during this war, and since. We heard a lot about settler patriotism as opposed to the Tel Avivian atrophy, with figures such as IDF General Elazar Stern, head of the army's manpower division, and journalist Ari Shavit joining the bandwagon.
It's true that the settlers taught their sons and daughters the importance of personal dedication and sacrifice, and the results of this education clearly show. This is laudable. But to call this "patriotism" could be misleading.
They were taught to sacrifice for the sake of settlement, and the recent din of patriotic calls, has all but erased a whole year of wild incitement, not only against the Left, but also against the State of Israel for having evacuated Gaza.
Many years ago, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun became concerned that "the brutal animosity directed at the nation's leftist half" has turned into "the main spiritual line" among people in his own camp. The remarks were made 13 years before disengagement. A year before Oslo.
Since then, and particularly in the past year, the de-legitimization campaign against the State and its institutions, and also against "the army of expulsion" as many began referring to the IDF, has expanded to unprecedented dimensions.The orange camp's press was filled with calls for civil disobedience, and Rabbinic calls to consiecious objection by soldiers.
The evacuated West Bank outpost of Amona was one of the symbols for this mood because the incident was widely covered by the mainstream press. Yet settlers' press, which does not reach the general public, provided an endless platform for something that goes beyond criticism: The de-legitimization of the essence of our joint enterprise.
The secular public saw echoes of this mostly in organized campaigns of wild, crude, hate-filled talkbacks, as well as the endlessly repeated talkback formulae ("As a former leftist…" – sounds familiar?)
Things have deteriorated so badly that about three months before the war, Rabbi Eli Sadan published a courageous open letter to his students at the pre-military schools, criticizing the dangerous phenomenon of turning one's back on the State and its institutions.
He spoke out against "this murky wave of incitement and hatred", as he called it, against the calls for military insubordination, and the attempt to silence rabbis who objected to insubordination. He also slammed the debasement of the IDF, the State of Israel, and the calls for a civil war.
"This is our people – we have no other people. This is our state – we have no other state. This is the only army protecting us," Rabbi Sadan cried out.
The dangerous seed was sawn in the settlers' educational system from the outset, and educators are still refusing to uproot it. Many years ago, Baruch Lior wrote that if the State rises up against the settlement enterprise of salvation, the State would "lose its legitimacy" and legitimacy would then belong to "to those who would fulfill the role in its place."
Moderate rabbis should continue their efforts
At every important junction, at every crisis of divergence of the state from settlers' demands, this demon came back to haunt us. Because if one is educated that the State is only a means and settlements are the end, what should a student of this education system conclude when the means (the State) turn against the end (the settlements)?
This campaign of incitement continued until approximately a month and a half ago and also featured explicit attacks on State authorities (one of its victims, by the way, was General Stern himself, who was assaulted when he came to pray at the Western Wall.)
The war stopped this campaign. Now, the consensus and the removal of Olmert's realignment plan from the public agenda allowed everyone to unite against the immediate danger. But religious-Zionist educators would do well if instead of complimenting themselves on the patriotic education they provided, they would also remember what until a moment ago was a dark and dangerous tide.
It's also worthwhile for rabbis such as Sadan, Yuval Sherlo, and others to continue wit their important work and the attempt to reestablish respect for the State as a value. Because the struggle for the future of the settlements is still ahead of us.
Even 4,000 missiles cannot bury the force that pushed for disengagement: the fear that Jews would soon be a minority in Israel. The settlement enterprise still threatens to sink the dream of the Jewish national home into a bi-national nightmare, which would mean a permanent civil war. Indeed, honest patriotism will still have to face tough tests.
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