Thursday, July 22, 2010

The struggle of Gush Katif: an exercise in futility

This week is the anniversary of the hitnatkut, "disengagement" from Gush Katif. Thousands of idealistic hardworking Jews including some who had already been expelled from settlements in Sinai, were forcibly thrown out of their homes. Then their once thriving settlements were razed to the ground. The Batei Knesset and Yeshivot were left standing. According to Halacha it is forbidden for Jews to destroy a synagogue. So as soon as we left the Palestinians looted them and set them aflame.May we see Hashem avenge his houses of worship that the sons of Yishmael so wantonly destroyed.

None of the purported goals of the hitnatkut were achieved ; certainly not peace. Instead we got a strengthening of Hamas, a major military campaign (Cast Lead) which destroyed much of what was left of Gaza worsening the suffering of its inhabitants. Then there is the endless suffering of the displaced settlers which continues to this day. The government continually reneged on the promises made to them. Many are still unemployed and live in temporary housing.

With passing years, admittedly with the help of Professor Hindsight, it becomes more and more clear that the struggle to resist the hitnatkut was an exercise in futility. Tens of thousands participated in demonstrations against the government culminating in the march  of over 50,000 from Netivot  to Kfar Maimon on the way to Gush Katif. There they confronted the police and the army but after a few tense hours the leaders decided not to escalate the violence and the demonstration fizzled out. Meanwhile hundreds infiltrated across the border to strengthen the resistance of the settlers.They were all removed by the army in the next few days. Naively they believed that these actions would have an influence on the outcome of events. It was not to be.

The fact is the fate of Gush Katif was sealed the moment Arik Sharon succeeded in pushing his plan through the government and the Knessest. That is how democracy works if you don't have or don't know how to use political power don't expect to twist the arm of the government to do your will.

We lived in the Golan Heights for 20 years. In the late '80s Yitzhak Rabin proposed a peace plan which included offering to give back the Golan to Syria. A grass roots movement sprang up called H'am im Hagolan (the people are with nthe Golan) A well organized media blitz brought the message to th nation. At  the same time political pressure was brought to bear on political elements who had connections to or were sympathetic to the Golan settlements. Within a year Rabin decided that it was politically expedient to shelve his proposals indefinitely.

Why didn't this happen in Gush Katif? The main reason is that while the people were with the Golan, the people were NOT with Gush Katif. It was a struggle waged almost solely by the Zionist-Religious sector. With their moral, political and religious certitude they were convinced that the whole country was behind them but when they looked back they only saw their own soldiers coming to take them away.

Rav Tzvi Tau founder and spiritual leader of Yeshivat Har Ha-mor and the "mamlachti" (statism) trend, said that we must strengthen the state not weaken it. As Rav Kook said "the state of Israel is the basis for the Sechina (presence of G-d) in this world. We can take part in the political process, but once a legitimate government is elected it stands in the place of the Jewish Kings as sovereign rulers of Israel/

I only hope that in the coming struggles in Eretz Israel we will have learn our lesson.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have always had trouble with davening. I never felt that I was talking with our father in heaven or that my prayers were answered. I never felt that I was standing before the king of the universe because really, who am I that the king should summon me to stand before him. So why, you may ask do I daven three times a day? It is because I believe that there is a supreme intelligence, a force in the universe that chose the progeny of  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as his emissaries in this world to proclaim his presence and do his will.I have no choice, my soul was at the foot of Sinai and the mountain was suspended above us. There we pledged to obey his commandments and that oath obligates us for all time. I daven because I am commanded to daven, not only because I fear punishment but because I am in awe of something that I can never hope to understand.

The Rambam explains that love of G-d can be compared to the love of a man who is obsessed with a women. She is constantly in his thoughts, he will do anything she asks, he would gladly sacrifice all his worldly goods and even his life for her. But how can a human being express love for that which is not human? Our consciousness fills our being, how can we relate to something that is beyond that consciousness?

The only answer is that we must evacuate that consciousness and seek within that spark of the divine that was part of our souls at Sinai.However if the answer is within us perhaps we are not worshiping Hashem but worshiping ourselves? But then again Hashem created Man in his image and .breathed in him the breath of life. He is part of us. If we remember that then davening can become more than a ritual. It can be an attempt at connecting to that which is within us and thereby begin to approach the One who was is and forever will be the master of the universe.