Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yes, ChayeiSarah, We Are Religious Zionists

Chayei Sarah wrote a post yesterday criticizing the settler movement, and unwittingly furthered another myth. To give her credit, she made this mistake because she listened to a panel discussion by some Dati Leumi rabbis, and she read my post about the Bnei Akiva snif and the paintings by some of the groups.

The myth that she furthered is that we right wing settlers only care about holding on to the land, and that we should be called "right wing Zionists" and not "religious Zionists". It seems that she thinks, and unfortunately a lot of other people do too, that yishuv eretz Yisrael (settling the land of Israel) is the only mitzva that we care about. The Charedi community has sometimes chimed in with this myth too.

This myth makes me furious, not only because it is patently untrue, but because some, even in our own community, have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. (Righteous people are always guilty about not doing enough, even when they do a lot more than others. Since I am not a tzadeket myself, I don't feel this guilt, and can hopefully provide a reality check to my readers).

To set the record straight, (and it is absurd that I have to spell this out) we religious settlers educate our children in ALL of the mitzvot, not just the one about living in Israel. We teach them Torah, we teach them about chessed, we teach them about kashrut, we teach them about lashon hara, etc. We put these lessons into practice at home by living frum lives in general, and by giving tzedaka - not only to religious organizations but to other ones as well. The Bnei Akiva groups frequently come around (it seems every week) and collect money for cancer research, for juvenile diabetes, for Tal Chaim (soup kitchens in the Tel-Aviv area), for disabled kids, etc. Every year we have a matanot l'evyonim drive (gifts to the poor given on Purim) where the proceeds are distributed to needy families in the nearest city, to both religious and non-religious families alike. This is in addition to the 13 gemachim (free loan society for money and material goods) that we run just in our small community.

The teens in Bnei Akiva volunteer in other places where there are not enough madrichim (counselors), some of which are located in non-religious or mixed communities. Young people from our communities in Yesha went up north during the war and distributed games to the kids in bomb shelters. We hosted a group of kids from the north so they could get away from the shelters for a while.

The girls who do Sherut Leumi (national service) do so all over the country, and are just as likely to choose a place in Netivot as in another yishuv in Judea and Samaria. The boys who serve in the army fight to protect everyone, not just their families and friends back where they live.

These activities are so ingrained in our daily lives that we don't even notice them too much, and I never felt the need to write about them before in my blog.

There is a theory that the reason we lost Gush Katif was because the secular left-wing did not feel connected to the yishuvim there. Some claim that this was the fault of the settlers themselves, who spent too much time focussing on yishuv eretz yisrael, and did not spend their time educating the secular population in general. In addition, the settlers supposedly "rejected" the secular by living in exclusively religious communities. I disagree with this theory in many ways.

Where do I start? One, there are many reasons why we lost Gush Katif, and a good number of them relate to Arik Sharon and Manny Mazuz. Two, the reasons why the left wing secular community does not relate to the yishuvim are much more complicated than "simple ignorance". I do think that projects like panim el panim (face to face meetings) are valuable, but they are by no means a magic cure, and changing people's way of thinking takes years of education. Three, the secular community is by no means excluded from living in Judea and Samaria. In fact, they make up the majority of people living here - 60%. There are secular settlements, in addition to mixed secular and religious communities, where they are free to join. Just because there are exclusively religious communities does not mean that the chilonim have been rejected.

Yes, there is a need for reaching out, and some effort must be made to embrace the secular. But why does this have to be done by those of us living in Judea and Samaria? All in all we number (ken yirbu) 250,000 people - at least half of which are children! There are plenty of ways to be moser nefesh for klal yisrael. Some of us, unfortunately, have literally been moser nefesh - and the rest of us are doing quite a lot. Shouldn't the burden be shared by others?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, what a rant. Methinks thou dost protest too much. ;)

1:11 PM, November 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with you, westbankmama. Still, I'm not knowledgeable enough to form a complete opinion on the matter, unfortunately.

2:14 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Cosmic X said...

Why don't you invite CS to your settlement? I think that seeing things first hand might change her mind.

4:18 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger ilan said...

Small corrections here, WBM:

I don't think CS mentioned the "religious settlers" specifically at all - just the religious Zionists. That you seem to be making a distinction between those datiim who live in Judea and Samaria and those who don't is interesting.

Also, I think that CS was talking about what the community does in the public sphere, specifically politically, NOT questioning their vlaues. For instance, what social justice issues has Mafdal raised recently?

One more thing: secular Jews do not constitute 60% of people in Judea and Samaria. They constitute 60% of the Jews in the area.

9:48 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

I guess what bothers me about this sort of criticism is that it's never directed the other way. I'm not talking about the center of Israel (though that's to the left of where my brother and his family are) but the extreme Left. There are few who would admit to following Yossi Beilin and yet ... where's the "out of touch" designation.

Sure Ha'aretz loves him, the NY Times loves him, the Europeans (whom he represents more faithfully than he does Israel) love him. But then why isn't he PM? Why isn't he even an MK anymore?

The argument against the Dati Leumi from other Dati Leumi types rings hollow.

11:22 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger tafka PP said...

I personally didn't interpret her post as attacking religious settlers, especially being as CS is clearly right-of-center herself- it seemed more of a "what has happened to my youth movement" reflection/rant. And while we might not have kids in Israeli BA, there's plenty of visible activism in Jerusalem for us to form strong impressions with- and what can you do, politics makes more of an appearance than social justice projects: Anyone who didn't have your inside info would therefore come to the same conclusion. And as someone involved with many non-profits and welfare organizations, I'd also like to point out for your readers that no youth movement, religious or otherwise, can claim a monopoly on involvement in charity projects: Social Justice and volunteering is important to all of them, wherever they fit on the religious/political spectrum, and all the kids do fantastic work.

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