For The Land and The Lord: The Worldview of Jewish Fundamentalism: The Breath of Consensus, by Ian S. Lustick
To understand the Jewish fundamentalist movement, one must remember that the perceptual and ideological categories shared within it do not serve some ethereal, symbolic purpose, but actually guide interpretation of daily events. They are the basis for political calculation and action. For this reason, the shape and the boundaries of the fundamentalist belief system must be established. The worldview of Jewish fundamentalists in Israel is also worthy of careful study precisely because it is so radically different from that of most Americans, and even of most Israelis.
In this chapter I will present an overall depiction of Jewish fundamentalist ideology. It is convenient and, as should be apparent from the previous chapter, only marginally inaccurate to refer to contemporary Jewish fundamentalist ideology as "the ideology of Gush Emunim." In the next chapter I will analyze the range of disagreement within the Jewish fundamentalist movement. The points that everyone in the movement agrees on will be implicit in the issues they consider significant and in the ways they argue use with one another over those issues. This analysis will also provide a basis for comments in chapters 6 and 7 about present trends and future prospects.
There are good reasons why Gush thinking is not understood outside its own circles. The very content of the belief system discourages attempts to explain it to non-Jews. Furthermore, most Israeli/Jewish intellectuals and journalists are so repulsed by its tenets that they avoid analysis of it or focus only on its most sensationalist aspects. 1 Nor did its most authoritative spokesman, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, produce a systematic presentation of his approach to Zionism and the redemption process. Apart from scattered published lectures, essays, and newspaper articles, most sources of Rav Tzvi Yehuda's teachings have been notes to his homilies and lectures. A tightly knit circle of his disciples, including Hanan Porat, Moshe Levinger, Eleazar Waldman, Shlomo Aviner, Yoel Ben-Nun, Yaacov Ariel, and Haim Druckman, formed the ideological and political core of Gush Emunim's leadership. The authoritative nature of Rav Tzvi Yehuda's thinking is evidenced by the regularity with which they, and virtually all other Jewish fundamentalist leaders, frame ideological and tactical disputes as disagreements over accurate interpretations of his opinions. Shlomo Aviner, one of Gush Emunim's most prolific and influential ideologues, reflects the central importance of the Rav's thinking and the effective political use his students have made of their privileged access to him in his conclusion to "Messianic Realism," an article often cited in fundamentalist circles.
In conclusion, this writer wishes to disclaim any pretension to originality in the views and sentiments expressed in this article. These were drawn exclusively from the teachings of Rav Kook, and more directly from the comments of his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda and his disciples, to the best of the author's grasp. 2
Jewish fundamentalist thinking is grounded in seven basic beliefs. Although expressed in terms consistent with Zionist rhetoric, in fact they represent a categorical rejection of certain key tenets of Zionist ideology. One of the most satisfactory ways to explain and document these beliefs is to examine the ideas of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. However, in addition to published writings and lectures of Rav Tzvi Yehuda and interpretive articles by those of his students prominent in the leadership of Gush Emunim, I will use two sources-the work of Rabbi Menachem Kasher and of Harold Fisch.
Kasher was a renowned scholar who died in November of 1984, in his nineties. His messianic tracts are well known to many yeshiva students and Gush activists and are reported to have had "an enormous impact upon those who formed the core and periphery of Gush Emunim." 3 Following both the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, Kasher published treatises arguing that both Jewish law and the opinions of the great European rabbis of the last two centuries justified his classification of the contemporary period as the Great Era-the beginning, or even the middle, of a redemption process that will culminate in the inauguration of the messianic age.
Fisch, formerly rector of Israel's sole religious university, BarIlan, is the only member of Gush Emunim's core religious elite to have published a systematic presentation of the fundamentalist worldview. Based directly on the ideas of Kook and Kasher, Fisch's book has appeared in two slightly differing versions: the English original, published under the title The Zionist Revolution in 1978, and a Hebrew edition, The Zionism of Zion, published in 1982.
The Abnormality of the Jewish People. Zionism arose simultaneously in the late nineteenth century in both Eastern and Western Europe. The analysis of the "Jewish problem" and its solution, propounded independently by Leo Pinsker in czarist Russia and Theodor Herzl in Austria, Germany, and France, was anchored in the bold conviction that anti-Semitism could be utterly eliminated if Jews were granted the opportunity to become a "normal" people. In the Hebrew phrase, Jews were to become goy kekol hagoyim, a nation like all other nations. What set Zionists apart from Jewish advocates of socialist, Yiddishist, religious, and assimilationist solutions to the gathering crisis of European Jewry was that Zionists ascribed anti-Semitism and its tribulations to the structural "abnormality" of Jewish existence as a Diaspora people. Living scattered among other peoples, a minority everywhere, Jews appeared to gentiles as a weird, mysterious, and even ghostly presence. anti-Semitism was therefore traceable to an abnormal mode of existence and to the fears and passions that, under the circumstances, Jews naturally provoked among gentiles.
According to this view, Jewish life had been distorted on both the individual and the collective levels by the abnormality of Diaspora existence and the degradation and persecution associated with it. By assembling in their own land, where they would constitute a majority of the population, Jews could undergo a process of normalization that would result in a national culture and personality no different in their fundamentals from those of any other. With remaining Jewish minorities in other countries standing in the same relationship to their "host" countries as, say, that of the German minority in France to the French people, anti-Semitism would fade and eventually disappear.
In unusually explicit terms, Fisch articulates Gush Emunim's radical reversal of these basic Zionist propositions. The idea, he says, "that the Jewish nation is a normal nation and ought to be treated as such by the so-called international community. . . is the original delusion of secular Zionism." 4 Authentic Zionism, for Fisch, entails rejection of classical Zionism's use of other nations as models for how the Jewish people should behave and what it might and should become. Jews are not and cannot be a normal people; they are, in fact, irrevocably abnormal. The eternal uniqueness of the Jews is the result of the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai-a real historical event with eternal and inescapable consequences for the entire world. Fisch gives particular prominence to biblical quotations that remind the Jews of their unique covenanted status in the eyes of the Lord of the Universe, such as the following:
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give to thee and thy seed after thee the land in which thou dost sojourn, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 5
Not surprisingly, fundamentalists embrace the notion of Jews as an am segula (a chosen, or "treasure," people) to reunite the classical Zionist idea of Jews as a normal people. This is clearly apparent in what one might have thought to be the most unlikely of places-the propaganda of the World Zionist Organization. In a workbook for study purposes issued by the organization's Department for Torah, Education and Culture in the Diaspora, traditional Zionist teachings of normalization are completely absent. Instead of posing the problem of Jews as a nation that, via Zionism, will be normalized and join the stream of history as a nation like any other nation, this booklet takes as its point of departure not only that Jews are unique, as every nation is unique, but that the Jewish people, endowed with a divine and special destiny, is different in kind from every other nation that has existed, does exist, or will exist. The question for study is, then, not whether the Jews are normal, but whether their special, abnormal qualities are to understood as evidence of "intrinsic superiority," as the reason why God chose the Jewish people, or as the result of their divinely chosen. 6
The implication of chosenness is that the transcendental imperatives to which Jews must respond effectively nullify the moral laws that bind the behavior of normal nations. In "Messianic Realism," and other articles, Aviner considers the relationship between history, politics, and redemption. He argues that divine commandments to the Jewish people "transcend human notions of national rights." He explains that while God requires other, normal nations to abide by abstract codes of "justice and righteousness," such laws do not apply to Jews.
Ours is not an autonomous scale of values, the product of human reason, but rather an heteronomous or, more correctly, theonomous scale rooted in the will of the Divine architect of the universe and its moral order. 7 From the point of view of mankind's humanistic morality we were in the wrong in (taking the land) from the Canaanites. There is only one catch. The command of God ordered us to be the people of the Land of Israel. 8
Thus does Jewish fundamentalism utterly reject the traditional Zionist image of Jews as a normal people, bound by and rewarded according to the same laws and principles of national self-determination applicable to other nations.
The Meaning of Arab Opposition to Israel. As befits an abnormal nation, the conflicts Israel encounters with its neighbors are not normal either. In their analysis of the Arab conflict with Israel, if not always in their propaganda, most Israeli leaders have sought to explain Arab hostility in practical terms-as a conflict that stems from misperceptions or specific circumstances. Accordingly, as those perceptions and circumstances change, opportunities for ending the conflict can materialize and should be awaited, identified, and exploited.
Gush Emunim views the conflict with the Arabs in a radically different way-as the latest and most crucial episode in Israel's eternal battle to overcome the forces of evil. This stance is illustrated in the words with which Eleazar Waldman-head of the Kiryat Arba Yeshiva, Member of Knesset for the Tehiya party, and prominent student of Rav Tzvi Yehuda-reassured fundamentalist Jews troubled by the outcome of the Lebanon War. By fighting the Arabs, Waldman reminded his audience, Israel carries out its mission to serve "as the heart of the world, in contact with every organ, and with the world understanding that it must receive the blood of life from the heart." 9 Arab hostility springs, as does all anti-Semitism, from the world's recalcitrance in the face of Israel's mission to save it. Thus, the very ferocity of the Lebanon War should be seen as evidence of the advance of the redemption process. 10
Many Zionists, especially on the left, have not only come to recognize the legitimate rights of Palestinian Arabs, but have even noticed similarities between the historical experiences of Jews and Palestinians. Jewish fundamentalists' assumptions about the world, however, make it essentially impossible for them to see Jews and Palestinians in comparable terms. Nor can fundamentalists acknowledge any real tie between the Palestinians, or any human group other than the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel. To do so would contradict the prophecy that the Promised Land would "vomit out" any other people that tries to live there, and that only with the return of the Jews would the land again "shoot forth branches, and yield fruit," 11 as a sign of the beginning of the messianic age. Hence, historically unsupportable notions that only under Jewish cultivation did Palestine become a productive country and that most Palestinian Arabs arrived in the area only within the past century are treated as incontrovertible. 12
Fisch dismisses the Palestinians as the exact opposite of the Jewish people. The Jews are authorized by the living God and creator of the universe as a legitimate, eternal people with unalienable rights to the entire Land of Israel. The Palestinians have absolutely no legitimate claim to nationhood or to any part of the country. They have experienced no real suffering, and have drawn together as an entity only out of opposition to the Jews. Theirs is a "suicidal" struggle for the elimination of the state and people of Israel. As such, Israel must recognize the Palestinians as the most destructive and dangerous emanation of Arab hostility, and stand ready to destroy them as they seek to fulfill their collective "deathwish." 13
The image of the Palestinians as doomed and suicidal in their opposition to Jewish rule in the Land of Israel corresponds to a more fundamental categorization of them. Gush rabbis and ideologues regularly refer to the local Arabs as "Canaanites" or "Ishmaelites," and weigh the implications of the terms Joshua offered the Canaanites before his conquest of the land, or the circumstances under which Abraham expelled Ishmael, for the determination of policy in current circumstances. Thus Rav Tzvi Yehuda cited Maimonides to the effect that the Canaanites had three choices-to flee, to accept Jewish rule, or to fight. 14 These are the choices, both suggest, that frame the appropriate attitude for Jews to take toward Palestinian Arabs. Of course, the decision by most Canaanites to fight ensured their destruction. The same fate awaits present-day non-Jewish inhabitants of the land who choose to resist the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over its entirety. Similarly, addressing the Arab problem on the "ethical dimension," Hanan Porat points out that since God "heard the voice of the boy (i.e. Ishmael)," obviously Arabs, as individuals, must be treated humanely. But "when Ishmael laughed, the Holy One Blessed Be He led Abraham to heed Sarah's demand to expel that mother (Hagar) and her son."' Humane treatment is appropriate, Porat emphasizes, "only for those Arabs ready to accept the sovereignty of the people of Israel." From this general principle he infers a duty to make merciless war against Arabs in the Land of Israel who reject Jewish sovereignty and the specific requirement to deport the families of Arab juveniles who throw stones at the passing automobiles of Jewish settlers. 15
Fisch's image of the Palestinians as suicidal, therefore, does not reflect a consensus within Gush Emunim that they must inevitably be destroyed. Insofar as they try, violently or otherwise, to resist the extension of Jewish sovereignty over the whole land, Palestinians will indeed be uprooted or destroyed-thus is their political struggle suicidal. However, should they accept the establishment of Jewish rule over the whole land, various formulas of subordination, for arranging relations between Jews and non-Jews in a Jewish-ruled Land of Israel, can be discussed. Although some of these formulas offer Arabs more than others, all share one fundamental principle-that whatever rights may be accorded to Arabs as individuals in the land (rights to own property, earn a livelihood, be treated respectfully, and so forth), no group, people, or nation may be recognized as having any rights over any portion of it. This distinction is the most common element in fundamentalist discussions of "the Arab problem." It was the dominant theme in the contributions made to a special Jewish-Arab relations issue of the fundamentalist journal Artzi (My Land). A key point of departure here, as elsewhere, is the teaching
of our master and teacher Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook (of blessed memory), who distinguished clearly between relations toward an Arab national entity in the Land of Israel, for which no place at all exists, and relations, so to speak, to Mustapha and Ahmad, since Arabs are also created in his image. 16
Israel's International Isolation as Proof of Jewish Chosenness. The biblical characterization of the Jewish people's relationship to the gentile nations Gush supporters most often cite is found in Numbers 23:9: "a people that dwells alone and that shall not be reckoned among the nations." This reflects a deep-seated belief that very nearly the only distinction worth making among human groups is that between Jews and gentiles. Thus, fundamentalists interpret what they consider the wildly irrational opprobrium heaped upon Israel by the world community as yet more evidence of the Jewish people's special, divine destiny-according to Fisch, "a theological sign of election." 17
In the worldview of Jewish fundamentalism, the traditional Zionist slogan-"What counts is not what the gentiles think, but what Jews do!"-is replaced by something quite different-"what counts is not what gentiles do, but what Jews are!" Israel's maximal territorial and political ambitions are therefore right because Jews are the chosen people of God. Given that, the State of Israel, by attracting outrage and persecution, merely continues the traditional role of the Jew in world history-that of a "barometer for registering the moral state of the nations." 18
In a long, didactic article written in dialogue form for the first issue of Artzi, Shlomo Aviner explains to Gush stalwarts the unending persecution of the State of Israel. A question is posed: "All the world knows that the Land of Israel is connected to the people of Israel, as it is written in the Bible, so why do they make so much trouble for us?" Because the concept of an ontologically based opposition between Jews and gentiles is so central to fundamentalist thinking, Aviner's answer to this question is worth quoting at some length:
. . . we experienced the opposition of the goyim (gentiles) to the state of Israel even before it was established. The enmity which the peoples of the world show toward the Jewish people has been present throughout history. Its like has not been shown to any other people... it goes beyond all historical or rational explanations. Various economic, sociological, etc., explanations have even been advanced to explain the European holocaust. We don't deny them, but they certainly do not suffice. It simply must be recognized that there is an inner instinctual enmity on the part of the nations of the world toward the Jewish people. . . Hitler, may his name be blotted out, expressed openly this essential enmity that he felt toward the Jewish people, an enmity that went far beyond any rational explanation. Said the despised one: "The Jewish people and I cannot exist in the same world." The source of this kind of enmity is that in the final analysis our moral values contradict the basis upon which the peoples of the world build their lives. In our essence we negate their values. If we are right, that means the foundations of their lives are shattered. We have no intention of harming them, but we do negate their way of life, and this fact causes them to be our enemies. 19
Classical Zionism considered the gentiles essentially rational, and explained anti-Semitism as the natural response of rational people to an irrational mode of Jewish existence. Out of his belief in gentile rationality, Herzl even approached leading anti-Semites for assistance in building the Jewish national home. While classical Zionism argued that anti-Semitism would gradually disappear with the creation of a normal state for a normal Jewish nation, Jewish fundamentalism expects rationally unwarranted persecution of Jews and the Jewish state to continue until the culmination of the redemption. In the context of these basic assumptions about the intrinsic and pervasive antagonism between Jews and gentiles, instances of gentile goodwill can be explained only supernaturally, as the result of the direct intervention of God. Thus does Menachem Kasher account for what might otherwise appear to be the puzzlingly supportive behavior of the United States during the Yom Kippur War.
All the nations of the world well know that the goal of the Arabs is to destroy the people of Israel, God forbid, and nonetheless they take their side. All except the United States of America, who stands by the side of Israel; truly this is a miracle from heaven. 20
The Impossibility of Arriving at a Negotiated Peace. The scale and pervasiveness of gentile hostility to Israel, reflecting as it does the underlying spiritual tension that God introduced into the world via his covenant with the Jews, cannot be assuaged through negotiation or compromise. It makes no difference whether the political efforts to achieve peace entail direct contacts between Jews and Arabs or whether there is some sort of international mediation or orchestration of the peace process. All efforts, no matter how structured or under whose auspices, are bound to fail.
Those Israelis who have pursued what they believe to be Options for peace based on compromise make the silly mistake of thinking that the conflict is a normal one, about borders and political rights. In fact, territorial and political problems are but superficial aspects of the metaphysical struggle being waged. In the short run, negotiated compromises may appear to be successful. But by obscuring the ever-present threat of annihilation and by abandoning territories, they not only weaken and endanger Israel, but contradict the imperatives that God has placed upon the Jewish people to inherit the land. This, in turn, delays the eventual redemption not only of Israel, but of the entire world.
From this perspective, two kinds of peace are possible. The first is a temporary peace based on Arab and international perceptions of Israeli power. This kind of peace cannot last forever, because it does not signify Arab abandonment of the destruction of the Jewish state; but it can be maintained without negotiations involving territorial or political concessions. This is precisely the sort of peace Menachem Begin predicted when, at the height of Israel's apparent success in the Lebanon War, he declared that the land would enjoy the biblically ordained "forty years of peace" because of Arab fear and disarray.
The second kind of peace, "real peace," is that which will accompany the completion of Israel's inheritance of the whole land and will precede the coming of the Messiah to rule Over the reunited people of Israel. As part of this process of redemption, all nations "will marvelously acknowledge the truth which it is Israel's task to bring to the world, that message of justice and peace of which the holy mountain is the visible symbol." 21
In homilies quoted by the editors of Artzi to introduce the journal's first issue, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook decried the Camp David peace talks, and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty they presaged:
The Guardian of Israel will defend us and save us from every disgrace of these generations that are confused by a false "peace." He will provide us with the courage for a true-peace (Shalom-emet) that will last, in our land, for all eternity. 22 God will give strength to his people and bless his people with peace. And only thus, through the strength which he will give to his people will we be blessed with peace. Accordingly, any sort of peace which does not result from the strength which he will give his people, the real power of its faith, religion, wisdom, and holiness, will be an amputated, temporary, peace and a curse for generations to come. 23
In the absence of true peace, as Eleazar Waldman explained while the Israeli army was still occupying much of Lebanon, wars are to be seen as a natural and expected, if unfortunate, part of the redemption process. "It is impossible," in fact, "to complete the Redemption by any other means." 24 In accordance with this process, anti-Semitism and the wars it precipitates will cease only when Israel's territorial and political destiny is fulfilled.
The Redemption is not only the Redemption of Israel but the Redemption of the whole world. But the Redemption of the world depends on the Redemption of Israel. From this derives our moral, spiritual, and cultural influence over the entire world. The blessing will come to all of humanity from the people of Israel living in the whole of its land. 25
The Cardinal Importance of the Land of Israel. Gush Emunim's semiofficial slogan is "The Land of Israel, for the People of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel." The primacy of the land in this triple commitment is also a prominent theme in Fisch's book, whose Hebrew title, The Zionism of Zion, refers to the motive of Jewish return as a positive expression of the Jews love of the land of Zion, rather than a desperate attempt to find a refuge from persecution. The covenant between God and the Jewish people, according to Fisch, is actually a contract with three partners:
The Covenant rests on a triad of relationships: God, land and people. The land is holy only because God chooses to dwell in it and chooses that we should dwell in it with him. Take away the theological dimension and Zionism itself turns to ashes. 26
Gush Emunim's critics among Orthodox Jews often remark on the fundamentalists tendency toward "idolatry" in their approach to Eretz Yisrael as the supreme value in Jewish life. Indeed, for fundamentalist activists who are not religious, the land, in combination with the Bible and historicist notions of the "destiny of the Jewish people," does play a role functionally equivalent to that of God in the belief system of religious fundamentalists: it is the source of transcendental imperatives. For all Jewish fundamentalists, however, an irreducible attachment to the Land of Israel, in its entirety, is at the core of their worldview. Artzi quotes Rav Tzvi Yehuda:
The Land was chosen even before the people. . . . The chosen land and the chosen people comprise one completed, divine unity, joined together at the creation of the world and the creation of history. They comprise one vital and integral unit. 27
Other nations may feel special ties to the beauty of their homelands or monuments built there. Some even feel that theirs is a special, divinely favored land. In particular, Fisch mentions the belief by many American pioneers that by moving westward they were responding to a divine call, fulfilling a divine destiny." 28 Though these sentiments may be genuinely felt by others, according to Fisch, only the Jews in fact have a relationship to their land that is divinely ordained. Hanan Porat has made this point with particular clarity:
Israel's national connection to the Land of Israel is unique among the nations-it is (radically different) from the ties binding the French, English, Russian, and Chinese peoples to their lands.... For us the Land of Israel is a land of destiny, a chosen land, not just an existentially defined homeland. 29
One implication of this belief is that political debates over territorial questions are understood to be of direct, cosmic significance.
The covenant between the people of Israel and its God, which includes the promised land as an integral part, is an important objective within the entire scheme of creation. It is from this fact that the linkage between the people of Israel and its land is rooted-in the transcendental will of God who created all in his honor. 30
In this context, arguments in favor of trading territory for peace, or for a more homogeneously Jewish state, are absurd. But also inappropriate, and even dangerous, are justifications advanced by some Israelis for the need to maintain Jewish rule of this or that piece of the land. The world must never think that Jews believe their right to the whole land is based on essentially changeable, conditional, considerations such as security or economic or demographic necessities. The entire Land of Israel is the Promised Land, to be "conquered, possessed, and settled." That fact, and that alone, is what Jews must rely on in the face of Arab and gentile opposition to its habitation and rule by Jews.
Among themselves, Jews should stop making distinctions that portray some parts of the land as more important than others. Arguing that such discussions only invite gentile pressures and Arab terror, Hanan Porat advises against the use of any sort of "apologetic arguments."
There is no moral blemish in our declaration, once and for all, that the Land of Israel is the land of the Jewish people by virtue of God's command engraved in iron and blood, as Rabbi Kook of blessed memory has said. 31
To express the intimate and unbreakable bonds they feel to the land, fundamentalists commonly invoke images of the Land of Israel as a living being. Territorial concessions and destruction of settlements then become equivalent to the tearing of flesh. Haim Druckman's speech in the Knesset condemning Israel's withdrawal from the Yamit district of northeastern Sinai was replete with these images.
Who does not feel the shock that has gripped every settlement in the Land of Israel, every family on the land, and every true pioneer? Who has not heard their cries, the cry of the land, over the sons that are about to be separated from her? . . . the uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel is the severing of a limb from a living body. These settlements are the essence of our existence and flesh of our flesh. We shall not accept the amputation of our living flesh. 32
Current History as the Unfolding of the Redemption Process. A key element in Jewish fundamentalism, as in any fundamentalist movement, is its adherents' belief that they possess special and direct access to transcendental truth, to the future course of events, and to an understanding of what the future requires. For Jewish fundamentalists, history is God's means of communication with his people. Political trends and events contain messages that provide instructions, reprimands, and rewards. Political and historical analysis, properly undertaken, is equivalent to the interpretation of God's will. In combination with religious texts this analysis guides the continuing struggle toward redemption. In his own analysis of Jewish fundamentalism's governing ideology, Eliezer Schweid, one of Gush Emunim's most sophisticated polemicists, stresses this principle.
The weight of the opinion of those who know the truth about the burgeoning of Redemption, a truth discerned through study of the Torah, is greater than the weight of the opinions of leaders who do not see anything but what exists in the present and can only guess at the future. 33
This general approach to the relationship between history, political action, and the special understanding available to fundamentalist elites, is well illustrated by the messages they discern in three key events: the Holocaust, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War. Harold Fisch characterizes the Holocaust, the destruction of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, as an example of God's discipline-"a commandment written in blood upon the soil of Europe." 34 God thereby instructed his people that the emancipation, in which so many Jews had placed their hopes for a future of equality within a liberal democratic Europe, could not provide them with an escape route from the burdens of their covenant. 35 Referring to the refusal of most rabbinic authorities to give their blessing to Zionism before the onset of the Holocaust, Fisch expresses the hope that present day rabbis "have learned to hear the voice of the God of Israel speaking to us from the fire of history. " 36 If they have, they will not make the same mistake again, by minimizing the cosmic significance of contemporary political struggles, especially the struggle to achieve permanent Jewish control over the whole Land of Israel.
Thus, the Holocaust is seen as God's way of coercing his chosen people back to the Promised Land and of convincing them of the cosmic urgency of its complete reunification-the whole people of Israel in the whole Land of Israel. Best known for this interpretation of the Holocaust is Menachem Kasher, who argued that by entailing the destruction of more Jews than the loss of the First and Second Temples combined, the Holocaust must be understood as the "birthpangs of the Messianic Age (which) fell upon our generation and thus opened for us the way to Redemption." 37
Kasher combines an elaborate exegesis of biblical and Talmudic sources with a detailed interpretation of Israel's wars in an effort to determine precisely what stage the redemption process has reached. He employs the distinction between the Messiah Son of Joseph, who will settle the land and win victories but ultimately fail in his struggle for redemption in the war of Gog and Magog, and the Messiah Son of David, who will subsequently and miraculously lead Israel and the world to complete redemption. Kasher, and most fundamentalists, sees the Arab-Israeli wars as part of the period of the Messiah Son of Joseph, during which "miracles are shrouded in natural events. " 38 Whether religious or nonreligious, the soldiers who died in Israel's army during these wars died as martyrs "for the sanctification of the Name [of God]." 39 Kasher's hope was that Jewish casualties in 1948, 1967, and 1973 were sufficient to warrant the Yom Kippur War's categorization as the third and last of the wars of Gog and Magog. Otherwise, he contended, it must be considered the first of the three, and he predicted that two much more terrible wars will occur before the appearance of the Messiah Son of David. 40
In general, Jewish fundamentalism considers the wars of 1967 and 1973 to show that it is not "only in darkness and disaster that the God of Israel speaks, demanding an answer. He speaks also through great acts of deliverance." 41 Thus, Fisch compares the Six Day War to the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea on their way out of Egypt. The war was "a truly religious moment," containing "the experience of miracle, of sudden illumination." It was, according to Fisch, "a triumph. . . by which (the Jews) were not only delivered from mortal peril but also restored to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah." 42 Through the Six Day War, God awakened Israelis to feel themselves as Jews, separated from and threatened by the gentile world, but reconnected to their land, hearkening to "the revelation . . . of the full meaning of the Jewish calendar which binds us to a past echoing with ancestral obligations and a future of promise and redemption." 43
Fisch interprets the 1973 war as God's admonition to his people to reconcile themselves to the abnormality of their condition, their radical separation from the gentile world, and the acceptance of a "covenant destiny. " 44 Emphasizing the date of the attack-on Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment, or Day of Atonement-the worldwide isolation of Israel that Fisch argues attended the oil embargo, the genocidal intent of the "Arab onslaught," and the United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism and racism, Fisch interprets the conflict as an unappealable contradiction of the political stance of Israelis who had argued for territorial compromise as a path to peace with the Arabs.
Launched on Yom Kippur, at the most sacred hour of the Jewish year, it was a challenge to the Jewish calendar and all that it stood for, namely, the whole historical pilgrimage of the Jewish people, its covenant destiny. A metaphysical shudder, as it were, passed through the body of Israel. . . No longer was it possible to affirm with any confidence that we were engaged in a normal conflict with a normal enemy. 45
No matter what precisely the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War may have signaled about the schedule of redemption, the assumption is that all events reflect the will of God and that the center of his interest in the world is the unfolding redemption 0 the land and people of Israel. According to Rav Tzvi Yehuda:
It is God, and no other, who created the world and who creates peoples and kingdoms. It is He who was the immediate cause of all the great upheavals that have occurred on this earth during the last fifty years. He destroys kings and makes kings. None of this is by accident! There is no mysticism here, rather open eyes that can see the hand of God. Our holy land, that was exhausted and asleep, its power blocked up, has arisen as a result of all the wars that have taken place during these last fifty years, beginning with the war which destroyed the Turkish government. And now, with the help of God, the land 15 in our hands, and the Temple Mount is in our hands. . . . The world is not filled with randomness, but ordered by the hand of the master of the universe. For centuries He has been "angry" at this land, and the air was filled with malaria. Now it is healthier and healthier: can this be some arbitrary coincidence?! 46
The Faith and Ideological Dedication of the Jews as Decisive Factors. Despite the dominant role that God is seen to play in shaping human history, Jewish fundamentalists are not fatalists. Their call -for sustained political mobilization is based on a view of the Jewish people as God's chosen assistants in the process of tikkun olam (repair of the world)-a process that will culminate in complete redemption and establishment of the messianic kingdom. Accordingly, a key element in the fundamentalist worldview is the belief that the success of efforts to accomplish redemptively necessary political objectives will be determined by the vision of Jewish leaders, their sensitivity to the imperatives of the hour, and, especially, the single-minded faith and spiritual discipline of the Jewish people as a whole. Virtually all political contacts with the international environment are therefore construed not as opportunities to adjust demands or resources to changing circumstances, but as Kippur tests of the vision, courage, and will of the Jewish people and its leadership.
Fisch's interpretation of the significance of the Israeli debate over peace negotiations and the disposition of the occupied territories reflects this perspective. As noted previously, Fisch does not believe that opportunities for reaching a negotiated peace with the Arabs exist. From a practical standpoint, the deep division within Israeli society between hawks and doves is therefore irrelevant for the prospects of peace or war. The internal contest over the future of the occupied territories is nonetheless of critical importance. It represents a struggle between authentic Zionism, which accepts the lonely destiny of the Jews as God's covenant people and embraces the "scandal of biblical reality," and a Zionism that distorts and abandons Jewish history in a vain search for normalcy. 47 Only if the Jewish people can pass this and other tests of their faith and commitment, by rejecting apparently pragmatic compromises in pursuit of their historic mission, will the redemptive process move forward.
In view of this repeated testing of the nation's spiritual fiber, only a "fuller Zionism, one that includes in itself the mystery of holiness and the dream of salvation," can provide the Jews of Israel with the strength they will need to survive against a hostile and unredeemed world. 48 A renewal of such faith will require secular Jews in Israel to emerge from the "complex spiritual crisis" presently afflicting them, and to return, if not to Orthodox Judaism, then to an inspired and providential understanding of the Zionist mission. Pseudosophisticated political calculations must be cast aside in favor of a purer, simpler faith in the destiny of the Jewish people to rule the whole Land of Israel and thereby to fulfill the terms of its convenant with God. This will entail abandoning "cheap imitation of the culture of the West," and ignoring "world opinion." 49 No Jewish fundamentalist leader has been clearer about the decisiveness of Jewish action and belief, and the need to resist any gentile influence on the formulation or implementation of Jewish national policy, than Rav Tzvi Yehuda.
There is no reason to pay attention to all the confusion of mankind produced by the transient nations of the world. Such petty confusions-who takes account of them? Think not of what happens outside, only put ourselves and our land in order, hearkening to the word of God and of his prophets. 50 No state nor council of states has any right or authority whatsoever to interfere in the internal affairs of our state or in our settlement of our land. Our state has armed forces praised and admired throughout the world; neither do we depend on aid or intervention by any foreign power.... Our wonderful army is ready to fulfill its mission and insure the success of all our efforts to strike roots in the land, to settle in all parts of the land of our fathers, the sovereign state of which our prophets foretold, with no intervention by any other government in the military and political arrangements which we establish across the breadth of our land. And the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, will be with us and protect us. Selah. 51
Writing in 1978, only four years after the founding of Gush Emunim by Rav Tzvi Yehuda's students, Fisch identified that movement as the force within Israeli society that represented the reformulation of Zionism in covenantal terms. Rejecting the search for a "reasonable accommodation to circumstances," he wrote, Gush activists "avow the absoluteness and transcendence of the Jewish bond with the Holy Land and the Holy City, and affirm, even in defiance of current political trends, that history will finally justify them." 52 Despite what appear to be enormous obstacles to Gush Emunim's struggle to achieve the "spiritual rehabilitation" of the Jewish people, eventually success will come. Thus do Jewish fundamentalist exhortations for greater effort and more sacrifice most commonly conclude with an appeal to remember that whether God's word (or the imperatives of Jewish destiny) is successfully fulfilled is talui banu (dependent on us).
As noted at the outset, it is this intimate connection between what is
felt as transcendentally imperative and what is perceived as one's
personal, political duty, that is the distinguishing mark of a
fundamentalist political vision.
Note 1: Shmuel Eisenstadt, in The Transformation of lsraeli Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), offers no more than a capsule summary of Gush thinking. On the "loathing" of lsraeli intellectuals for Gush Emunim and their ignorance of its thinking, see Aharon Meged "The Gush Emunim Phenomenon," Davar December 12, 1980. For creditable summaries of the fundamentalist worldview, see Giora Goldberg and Efraim Ben-Zadok, "Gush Emunim in the West Bank," Middle Eastern Studies vol.22, no.1 (January 1986) pp. 57-61; and Janet Aviad, "The Contemporary Israeli Pursuit of the Millennium," Religion, vol.14 (1984) pp.199-222. Back.
Note 2: Shlomo Aviner, "Messianic Realism," in Avner Tomaschoff, ed., Whose Homeland (Jerusalem: World Zionist Organization, 1978) p.117. Back.
Note 3: Haim Stedler Feller, "Religious Terror and Messianic Fever," Newsletter of the Citizens Rights and Peace Movement; vol.3 (May 1986) p.7. On the importance of Kasher's work for the Jewish fundamentalist movement as a whole, see also David Biale, "The Messianic Connection: Zionism, Politics, and Settlement in Israel," The Center Magazine, vol.18, no.5 (September/October 1985) pp.36-39; and Janet Aviad, "Contemporary Israeli Pursuit," pp.202-203. Back.
Note 4: Fisch, op. cit., p.134. Back.
Note 5: Genesis 17:7,8 quoted in Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p.20. Back.
Note 6: Jacob J. Ross, A Chosen People (in English and Hebrew) (Jerusalem n.d.). Back.
Note 7: Shlomo Aviner, "Messianic Realism," pp. 115-116. Back.
Note 8: Shlomo Aviner, "The Moral Problem of Possessing the Land," Artzi vol.2 (1982) p. 11. Artzi is a scholarly and ideologically oriented fundamentalist journal, edited by Yoel Ben-Nun, that has appeared irregularly since 1982. Back.
Note 9: Eleazar Waldman, "StruggIe on the Road to Peace," Artzi vol.3 (1983) p.20. Back.
Note 10: Ibid.. Back.
Note 11: Sec Menachem Kasher, The Great Era (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Torah Shlema, 1968) pp. 53ff. The prophecy is from Ezekiel 36:8, interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) as the "most manifest sign of redemption.". Back.
Note 12: For these and for representative Gush Emunim arguments that the existence of the Palestinian people is "fictitious," see Yaakov Ariel, "The Return of the Regained Territories: The Halakhic Aspect," in Tomaschoff, Whose Homeland, p. 151; and Mordechai Nisan, "The Nature of Palestinian Identity without the PLO," Artzi vol.4 ,Spring 1986) pp.52-63. Back.
Note 13: Ibid., pp.157, 159. Back.
Note 14: Tzvi Yehuda Kook, "Between the People and Its Land," Artzi Vol.2 (Spring 1982) p.19. See also Shlomo Aviner, "The Completeness of the Land," Artzi, vol.1 (1982) p.26; as do so many others, Aviner refers to Tzvi Yehuda's use of this model for policy toward the Arabs. Back.
Note 15: Hanan Porat, "Policies toward the Arabs of the Land of Israel," Artzi vol.4 (Spring 1986) p.10 (emphasis in original). Back.
Note 16: Ibid., p.9. Prepared in the wake of the trials of the members of the Jewish terrorist underground, this special volume ofArtzi features many articles warning against individualist and indiscriminate violence against Arabs, while stressing, without exception, the need for uncompromising policies toward any Arabs actively opposing Jewish rule. On page 11 of this Artzi special prominence is given to a circular written by Tzvi Yehuda and distributed to religious school principals, in which Tzvi Yehuda criticizes Jewish children he has seen harassing Arabs and calls for decent treatment of Arabs as individual human beings. Back.
Note 17: Ibid., p.101. Back.
Note 18: Ibid., p.114. Back.
Note 19: Shlomo Aviner, "Our Attachment to the Land of Israel," Artzi vol.1(1982) pp. 16-17. Back.
Note 20: Menachem M. Kasher, The Yom Kippur War (Jerusalem: House of the Whole Torah, 1974) p.7 (emphasis added). For the fundamentalists radical distrust of all gentile nations, including the United States, see "Festival of Fools," Nekuda, no.87, May24, 1987, p.4, an editorial concerning President Reagan's visit to the Bitburg cemetery. Back.
Note 21: Fisch, p.96. Back.
Note 22: Artzi vol.1 (1982) p.2, citing Tzvi Yehuda Kook, February 1978. Back.
Note 23: Artzi vol.1(1982) p.3, citing Tzvi Yehuda Kook, December 1978. Back.
Note 24: Eleazar Waldman, "Struggle," p.20. Back.
Note 25: Eleazar Waldman, "Questions and Answers Regarding the Struggle Against Evil," Artzi vol.3 (1983) p.27. Back.
Note 26: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p.2O. Back.
Note 27: Tzvi Yehuda Kook, "Between the People," pp. 15-16 (emphasis in original). Back.
Note 28: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p. 21. Back.
Note 29: Hanan Porat, "Policies toward the Arabs," pp. 5-6. Back.
Note 30: Harold Fisch, The Zionism of Zion, (in Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Zmora, Bitan, 1982) p 179. Back.
Note 31: Hanan Porat, "Policies toward the Arabs," p.6. Back.
Note 32: Haim Druckman, "The Cry of the Land of Israel," Artzi vol.1(1982) p.37. Back.
Note 33: Eliezer Schweid, "The Machteret and the Ideology of Gush Emunim," Nekuda, no.75, July 6, 1984 p.20. Back.
Note 34: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p. 85. Back.
Note 35: Ibid., pp.18, 86-87. Back.
Note 36: Fisch, "The Land of Israel and the Question of Preserving Life," in The Zionism of Zion, p. 169. Back.
Note 37: Menachem Kasher, The Great Era, p. 32. Back.
Note 38: Menachem M. Kasher, Yom Kippur War, pp.8, 12-37. Back.
Note 39: Ibid., p. 127. Back.
Note 40: Ibid., pp. 9-11. Back.
Note 41: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p. 77. Back.
Note 42: Ibid., pp. 77, 87. Back.
Note 43: Ibid., p. 87. Back.
Note 44: Ibid., p. 95. Back.
Note 45: Ibid., p. 94. Back.
Note 46: Kook, "Between the People," p.21. Back.
Note 47: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p.166. Back.
Note 48: Ibid., p.169. Back.
Note 49: Ibid., pp. 165, 169. Back.
Note 50: Kook, "Between the People," p.23. Back.
Note 51: Tzvi Yehuda Kook, "And Again to Break the Yoke of the Gentiles from Our Neck," Artzi, vol.1(1982) p.3. Back.
Note 52: Fisch, Zionist Revolution, p. 166. Back.
For the Land and the Lord