In a recently published book, Rabbi Yigal Ariel, chief rabbi of Moshav Nov in the Golan Heights, condemned harshly the Religious Zionist movement for its recent tendency to become excessively haredi in character.
“Sadly, we (religious Zionists) are gleefully making rapid strides towards the haredi world,” said the rabbi. “Today we hear Religious Zionists speaking out against science, against the academic world, and even against basic rule of law.”
Rabbi Ariel’s book, "Leshem Shamayim" (In Heaven’s Name), published by the Beit El Library, attempts to “examine the growing conflict between Religious Zionism and the haredi world, and to determine whether the growing rift between these movements can be healed.”
Ariel’s book, in essence, is a strong indictment of a recent trend in the Religious-Zionist world driving its members to become more and more haredi. In an interview to a local Golan Heights newspaper, Shishi Ba Golan, Rabbi Ariel, brother of one of the founders of Religious Zionism Yaakov Ariel, accuses religious Zionists of losing their way, detaching themselves from the Israeli public, and being swept away into a dark abyss of their own making.
“We have become delusional, irrational people,” said rabbi Ariel, referring especially to a trend towards extremism now evident on Religious Zionist education, as well as a growing focus on the struggle for preserving and defending West Bank territories.
“I first decided to write this book following the Gaza disengagement,” said Rabbi Ariel in his recent interview. “I watched Religious Zionism head towards a major crisis long before the Gaza pullout, but I didn’t think it would come some soon or s o quickly. I blame Religious Zionist educators for this trend and for literally hacking off their very own limb.”
The rabbi also said that he feels that Religious Zionism as a movement is now regressing rather than growing or moving forward. “It is turning haredi to such an extent that I felt that if my book was not published soon there would be nobody in the religious Zionist world left to address.”
The rabbi indicated that, in his opinion, “the haredi world is completely detached from reality, and Religious Zionism is gleefully headed in the same direction. Religious Zionists today speak out against science, the academic world and even against the basic rule of law. More and more things are becoming taboo.”
Goal is to ‘manufacture good kids'
Ariel furthermore stated that, where as religious Zionism formerly aspired towards “a “broad-based world view” and raising youngsters that are creative free thinkers, today Zionist educators would rather educate a generation of good, obedient children much as one sees in the haredi world.
“Everyone says the same exact thing and spews the very same clichés,” he said. “We (religious Zionists) now want obedient followers that do as they are told and do not ask difficult questions.”
As an example, Rabbi Ariel notes questions sent by text messages to the various synagogue newsletters. “The questions are inane, and so are the responses,” he said. “Everything comes down to a very practical level of what ought to be done and what ought to be avoided.
In a recent Q&A to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, for instance, he had ruled that the book "Mekimi" by Noa Yaron-Dayan (which relays the author’s experiences in becoming part of the Breslover Hasidic movement) was not an appropriate read for Orthodox individuals. This greatly disturbed Rabbi Ariel, who stated ‘what bothers me most is that people will listen to him (Rabbi Aviner) and follow his ruling.'
“I strongly condemn this mindset, which is so reminiscent of the haredi world. As Religious Zionists we have reached a point where people don’t think for themselves but wait for others to tell them what they ought to and ought not to do. This reaches such a ridiculous level of absurdity that people can no longer judge fort themselves what is appropriate for them to read.”
Rabbi Ariel also spoke out against the growing detachment of Religious Zionism from the general Israeli public. Various synagogue newsletter, he noted, have created an entirely new lexicon which the entire Orthodox world now embraces as its own.
“While everyone else spoke of ‘disengagement’ we (Religious Zionists) spoke of ‘expulsion’. Instead of the ‘Amona evacuation’ we referred to the ‘Amona pogrom’….we are settling ourselves apart from the general public through this terminology, and are viewing the world through our own narrow and limited point of view. We are completely cutting ourselves off from the Israeli public.”
As a further example, Rabbi Ariel noted that he was recently asked to endorse the efforts of Right wing groups, who refused to recognize the authority of various law enforcement agencies, and to deem such actions as ‘heroic’ and as ‘sanctifying God’s name’.
“The girls involved in such civil disobedience said that they did not recognize the authority of the State of Israel no its courts, only that of God almighty,” said Rabbi Ariel. “Is this what Religious Zionism has come to?”
The rabbi further said that what disturbed him far more than these actual actions is the fact that rabbis refused to speak out against such phenomenon. “Somebody brainwashed and warped these young girl as is the case with many Orthodox youths, and the rabbis all remain silent.”
“These are young girls that don’t know which way is up just yet,” said Ariel. “They find themselves running across a hilltop in the west Bank one day and are convinced that they are saving the land of Israel.
"What about the Israeli people, its inhabitants, however? What about the IDF that protects them on that hilltop. These girls do not recognize either, and deem them ‘a rule of evil’. If this is the way Orthodox people speak, then we have become detached from reality. We have become delusional individuals.”
That being said, the rabbi also noted that he does not want to make any sweeping generalizations. “Religious Zionism definitely has accomplished some tremendous things in terms of Torah study as well as arts and culture, but our original vision was far grander than it is today.
"Our original focus was also on the State of Israel, but now we have forgotten the people of the land of Israel and have become completely isolated in our vision and thinking.
“What interests us as religious Zionists is the political struggle for our homeland first and foremost,” said Ariel, “most notably the struggle for the West Bank which Religious Zionists have turned into the be all and end all. Israel has been struggling with this issue for 40 years, and the fierce debate surrounding it has paralyzed us all. It is a shame that Religious Zionism has now come to be identified with this political struggle and nothing else.”