When what is called the second intifada (what a lot of us call the Oslo War) started in September 2000, those of us identifying as right wing were not surprised. The subsequent years of riots, drive-by shootings and suicide bombings were horrific. The political mood of the country turned sharply to the right, and most of us were relieved when Arik Sharon was elected Prime Minister. He didn’t disappoint us – at first. After the terrorist attack at the Park Hotel on Passover 2002, Sharon called up the army and finally went after the terrorists in the Arab cities in Judea and Samaria – exploding once and for all the idea that Israel could depend on the Arabs to keep the terrorists in check – and that there were places that the IDF had to keep away from. This operation, and the use of targeted killings of terrorist leaders, slowly reduced the terror.
Then, just when we thought things were getting better, Sharon stunned us all with his proposal for the disengagement from Gaza. Another year and a half of protesting, lobbying Knesset Members, and endlessly debating over whether to block roads (civil disobedience) and refuse army orders followed – all to no avail. The disengagment went through, thousands of Jews were forced out of their homes in Gush Katif, the IDF left – and the Arab hordes proceeded to celebrate by destroying everything standing – including burning the synagogues. Then the inevitable happened – they started shooting rockets and mortar shells. Now, instead of aiming them at the Jews of Gush Katif, they were close enough to send them into Sderot and the surrounding kibbutzim.
During the time before and during the disengagement, the left expressed undisguised glee at the irony of the fact that the (formerly) right wing hero, who built communities in Gush Katif and Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria) was now destroying them. Many expressed their never-ending hopes that there would be peace as a result of this action, and some even predicted the demise of the national religious movement in general and, for want of a better term, the settler movement in particular.
The disillusionment on our part was intensely felt, and the reactions to this were many and varied. For some it took the form of “pulling away” from the mainstream in Israel. Now many young men reaching army age who would have joined the Hesder program in the IDF (where they would combine army service with Torah learning in yeshiva) have opted to sit and learn exclusively – as a reaction to the possibility of being asked to remove other Jews from their homes. Some turned to the Charedi world and its relative insularity.
Many others decided, after a lot of soul searching, that the answer to the disengagement was the opposite of pulling away. They thought that one of the reasons that the disengagement was so easily accomplished was the fact that the average Israeli did not relate to Gush Katif. Part of this, the theory says, was because the idealists in the national religious community spent their time building thriving communities in Yehuda, Shomron and Gush Katif – and left the other parts of society to their own devices – trusting, falsely, that they would not only continue to be pro-Zionists like the previous generation, but would be proud of it too. Realizing that this hadn’t happened, many have decided to “engage” the larger Israeli society.
This takes many forms. Some, both secular and religious, interact in what is called “panim b’panim” – “face to face”. In other words, engaging other Israelis on a personal level. Some dati leumi young couples take this further by actually moving to parts of the country and forming a “garin Torani” – literally a “Torah seed”. This means that a few religious families will move together to a non-religious and in most cases a needy neighborhood where they start a yeshiva, form a school and do outreach. (When these communities start to grow and become successful, the housing prices inevitably go up, and there usually is an economic benefit to the city as well). Of course the garin Torani has been around for a long time, and was somewhat popular before the disengagement, but it has become much stronger since 2005.
The most obvious change, though, has been in the right wing secular community.
Next up: Taking the battle to the enemy’s territory – on campus.