Sunday, December 05, 2004

Beyond Eretz Yisrael

In today's Haaretz, Nadav Shragai addresses what should be a sore spot in the National Religious world. Justifiedly or not, we are (or are perceived to be) a one issue constituency. The community, as a united whole, does not go to war over the dire poverty and social injustice that increasingly plague Israeli society:

...The religious-nationalist public, including Yesha settlers, never went to battle over any issue but one - Eretz Israel. Even Zevulun Orlev, disciple of the multifaceted National Religious Party, quit the government over the plan to evacuate Gush Katif, not over the 1.4 million people living below the poverty line or the 366,000 at-risk children. While there are numerous charitable acts by individuals and numerous initiatives for social legislation, particularly those created by religious MKs such as Zvi Hendel, Nissan Slomiansky, and Shaul Yahalom, some members of the religious-nationalist public have developed a reclusive lifestyle. Acceptance committees at many settlements have been selective in absorbing new residents over the years. Many religious-nationalist neighborhoods in cities within the Green Line also have been shaped as neighborhoods with a homogeneous population.

As Shragai notes, there have been important initiatives to set up Religious Zionist enclaves inm development towns and underprivileged areas. Nevertheless, the community has not given these the same type of support, no hold barred support, that it has the fight for the Land of Israel.

Shragai continues:

Many years ago, Yeruham was already home to one of religious Zionism's first social advocacy proto-settlements. It has since been subsumed by dozens of social religious-Zionist pilot-settlements established by the Moreshet foundation, which have "settled" in underprivileged towns across the country. Many of the families that joined these pilot projects settled down there.

This one dimensional attitude is a gross violation of the Torah. Religious people ostensibly believe that the Land of Israel is a gift to the Jewish People from God. That actualization of that gift is conditional. Anyone who reads the TaNaKh knows that while Eretz Yisrael was given to the Jewish People in perpetuity, the residence of the Jews there depends upon their conduct. That conduct includes social responsibility. As Jeremiah said, while standing at the gater to the First Temple:

If you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if you thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbour; if you oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt; then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever:

If not, then:

I will do to the house, whereupon My name is called, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim:

Being a setler is a humra, not a qula. It means doing more for the general society, not less. As Shragai concludes:

Those who now ask their brothers not to disengage from them should be careful not to disengage from their brethren, even when they are not on the eve of vital political decisions. Settling throughout the country and populating Judea and Samaria are not the only noble causes. The wholeness of the people and concern for socio-economic distress are no less exalted ideals.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

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