Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

Special Stories #6 – August 20,  2005 - The Disengagement – Part IV

“There is a time for knocking down and a time for building” (Eccl.  3:3)

The Day Before:

Yonatan Bassi, the head of the Disengagement Administration is an Orthodox Jew who wears a knitted kippa (skullcap) which symbolized the settlers. He was born in an Orthodox kibbutz, Sde Eliyahu; his children and grandchildren still live there although he and they have been ostracized. Less than half the Gaza settlers remained on August 15, the day the disengagement begins. Based on the Compensation law those will lose much of the benefit they would have gained if they moved before; assuming the law is implemented. Many of latter will be packed to leave when the police arrive.

Yonatan ben Zakai, the Talmudic sage left Jerusalem before its destruction with his students and re-established the Sanhedrin (Jewish legislative body) in Yavne. This body established Rabbinic Judaism (today’s Judaism) and is considered to have saved Judaism. That is Bassi’s model, not the Messianics.   

The Moment of Truth:

On ‘D’ day (Aug. 17) 1127 of the 1716 (65%) families had agreed to voluntary leave; more than two thirds of those have already left.

As opposed to media predictions there no Jewish blood being shed by Jews, although eight Arabs were killed in two separate incidents by Jewish terrorists. Eden Natan Zada shot four Israeli Arabs and Asher Weissgan shot four Palestinians who worked in Israel. Asher said "I'm not sorry for what I did. I hope someone also kills Sharon”. Both are religious extremists living in settlements.

There also were only two IDF soldiers who refused to obey orders against media predictions.

The soldiers and police did their job with awe-inspiring, heart-rending gentleness: one hand grasps the leg of a settler being carried to the bus. A second hand is tenderly placed on the head to make sure his skullcap doesn't fall off. Others hug the extremists.

Some of The residents make a ceremonial tear in their clothes, as if in mourning, and leave. Some on foot, others wish to be carried by the soldiers so as not to look submissive. Their new motto is “We will not forget, and we will not forgive." With the exceptions of the lunatic fringe also called the ‘hilltop youths’ (who are not in fact Gaza settlers) the settlers in general acted with respect to the IDF and Police.

The Day After:

The settler rebels have declared a ‘state of war’ against the government of Israel. There symbol are orange ribbons; their opposition have blue and white ribbons – the symbol of the State. The result not unsurprisingly is more opposition to their position; 62% now in favor of the disengagement.

Snarling traffic by burning tires and putting oil and metal stakes on major roads and inappropriately adopting the Shoah as a symbol also did not help.

It is these political and religious mentors who were behind the massive infiltration into the Gaza Strip, which did not halt disengagement but made it infinitely more painful; behind the determination to make life for the soldiers and policemen involved in disengagement that much more difficult and distasteful; and in urging settlers caught in last-minute personal dilemmas to come down on the side of intransigence, to their eventual detriment.

Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron Tal was the top officer Kfar Darom on Thursday when his soldiers were injured. His son, daughter-in-law and grandson were settlers sitting in Shirat Hayam that same morning. He said "I think the pain here is not just personal pain, it is general pain, I feel that everyone is my son. We are all from the same side in Israel." The settlers of Shirat Hayam used only psychological pressure and passive resistance against the soldiers and police.

Diaspora Orthodoxy may sympathize with the settlers, but they have rejected this state of war against the elected government of the Jewish State. Both the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America (representing perhaps 500,000 Orthodox Jews) have rejected resolutions against disengagement.  

Perhaps surprisingly some Rabbis and scholars begun even before the disengagement ended to recognize that the rebellion is destructive.

Rabbi Yuval Scherlow, head of a hesder yeshiva (students who study and accept Army service) of Petah Tikvah said we must ‘to stop speaking in terms of absolute right and start seeking the widest possible national consensus on the important issues, including the Land of Israel, the Jewish people and Jewish identity.’

Otniel Schneller, who served for four years as the secretary-general of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said the national religious community must learn some lessons from disengagement. “It must expand its agenda to include more than just the question of the Land of Israel. It must remember that Israel belongs to more than just the national religious community. Furthermore, it must enter into a dialogue with the non-Orthodox public. It forced the community to be more open to what was going on in the outside world.”

There may be hope that Israel can return to being a physical state rather than a metaphysical one, rationally based and be a normal state as the original Zionists desired. Let us wait for God to will the metaphysical state.