Saturday, February 25, 2006

Amona Revisited

I was not going to write anymore about this issue until I saw more clarity on the subject from the media and/or an investigation of the events has been completed. My original article was written in response to an article in the Chicago Tribune The key phrase that prompted me to write as I did was the following: Police in riot gear, some of them on horseback, came under a hail of rocks as they drove back crowds gathered around the nine houses and then broke through shutters and windows to remove people inside. I have never been in support of the concept of retaining “every inch of Eretz Yisroel... what ever it takes”. Therefore, the establishment of settlements like Amona angered me as being nothing more than forcing the views of this minority within a minority of observant Jews upon all of Klal Yisrael and the world and the resulting violence angered me more. While it is true that there was violence on both sides, I kept coming back to the proposition that the entire thing could have been avoided if the “not one inch” philosophy of RW of the Religious Zionists would not have been the guiding force behind their verey action an just left things alone. It was wrong, in my view to go against the grain and inhabit land for the sole purpose of promoting that Hashkafa and in the process, subject great danger to themselves, their families, and Klal Yisroel by taunting the Arab residents in those areas. Even if there were no Arabs on that specific spot where the 9 houses of Amona were, it was still taunting to them.

I concede that I was remiss in not laying some of the blame at the barbarism of the police. Chatasi, Avisi, Pashati. I apologize for my hyperbole and regret the strong rhetoric against the settlers. It was my anger speaking. According to many reports from eye witnesses the police were indeed barbaric. Just how barbaric they were should come out in the investigation. But my criticism of those who protested in Amona stands.

I am usually on opposite ends of the Orthodox religious spectrum with the Charedi point of view. However, on this issue we are one. The following is an op-ed piece in this week's Internet Yated Ne'eman and for the most part reflects my views. I post it here to show that my views are corroborated by none other than the last Charedi Gadol Hador and is the view of the current Charedi leadership, too. Here now in its entirety, the article:

We do not come to gloat or to score political points. On the contrary, we identify with the pain of the wounded and deplore the violence of the authorities. But there is a serious crisis of values that we feel it is important to write about.

There are very few public issues that Maran HaRav Shach zt"l spoke and wrote about as many times as the approach of Eretz Yisroel Hasheleimoh. It was one of the themes that he returned to at almost every opportunity, even when it did not seem to be a central concern of the audience at hand — not to mention that his expressed concerns seemed remote. For example, even at the Kenness Hayesod at the founding of Degel Hatorah in Tishrei 5749, Maran declared that one of the purposes of the incipient Torah movement was to warn against and distance the Torah world from the approach of Eretz Yisroel Hasheleimoh.

An incident that seems stunning in retrospect was published in a memorial issue to HaRav Shach on the occasion of his first yahrtzeit. After one of his fiery public speeches directed against the ideological errors of the settlement movement, a prominent talmid chochom told him that he had heard from some settlers that they were very hurt by the remarks. Maran answered, "Listen well. It is clear that they are precious people. But there will come a time when it will be necessary to evacuate settlements. And since they make their entire relationship to Judaism focus on this, the crisis will cause them, choliloh, to question their Judaism. I want them to remember that there was an old man who cried out that this is not the main thing in Judaism!"

To be sure, HaRav Shach's vision was that of a chochom who understood and forecast the general trend and he had no inkling of the shape that it ultimately took, but in those days the suggestion seemed fantastic and the concern exaggerated. However Maran's perspective truly embraced every Jew and he did what he could to lessen the dangers that he foresaw.

What he anticipated is now staring us all in the face and no one should deny or ignore it. Who could imagine that a Jewish teenager could descend to the view that destroying an unoccupied house is a worse crime than smashing another Jew's skull with a thrown rock? Who would have believed that love of Eretz Yisroel could have ever been twisted into such a conclusion?

Those who stockpiled boulders and cinderblocks on the rooftops of Amona, and then hurled them without regard to the fact that they could easily kill some other Jew — friend or foe — were not street bums looking for some action who tried to amuse themselves by dabbling in a little violence, like the bored children of Israeli secular society. These were not a few marginal types who could have arisen in any modern group. No. These were the best and brightest of the national-religious youth who went straight from their studies in the best yeshivas and ulpanas that religious Zionism has to offer.

They do not care what their rebbes and mechanchim tell them about how to protest. They do what they think needs to be done.

For years the weakness of the national-religious chinuch has been a topic of discussion in their public forums, but up until now the challenge was from the "left:" far too many left the fold and became chiloni despite the intensive efforts and education of the best educators. This is the first time that the committed students, the pride of the movement, have defied the principles of their education.

Even in Gush Katif, aside from the basic and important human issues of dislocation that had nothing to do with yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the core issues were murky. What they called "expulsion" (geirush) was really a gathering in. And the people were not asked to give up yishuv Eretz Yisroel but only to settle in another part of the Holy Land that is certainly no less holy than Gaza.

But in Amona the entire issue was unoccupied buildings. The despicable and disgusting behavior of the police — which is all-too-familiar from many past incidents — does not excuse or even minimize the horror of the conduct of youth who are or should be far above them in terms of ideals and values.

We are not talking about politics but about fundamental values that should be basic to any Jew. The affair constitutes a sad demonstration of our truth that the pure Torah way is the only way to preserve one's humanity in a morally hostile world.