The hot topic in town is the religious crisis that the retreat rom Gaza is causing within the Religious Zionist Community. The buzz, which only confirmed what many had already known, was prompted by a conference under the auspices of Tzohar (itself one of the more positive developments in the Orthodox World in Israel).
Basically, our community is reaping the results of three generations of one-issue Judaism; i.e, settling Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This settlement activity was, in turn, predicated upon a clear messianic vision propagated by the Rabbis Kook (pere et fils). Generations of NR Jews have lived and/or been raised that the State of Israel is the first shoot of our redemption (a sentiment that I fully share), and is part of an irreversible process (a sentiment that I always found somewhat presumptuous. Be-hade Kavshe de-Rahmana lama li!). Now that it looks like Gush Qatif and (afterwards) much of Yesha is on Sharon's chopping block, this has (understandably) thrown large swaths of the community into crisis. The crisis is not religious (so far as I can see), but Zionist. Voices are being heard to stop the prayer for the State, to cancel the celebration of Independence Day etc. In addition, the recent governmental and judiciary blows against Judaism are leading to a growing sentiment that the State of Israel should be denied religious significance and that the classic Haredi response to the state was the proper one.
With all due respect, and despite my support of the settlement of Jews in our ancestral heartland, the crisis was very much foreseeable. Messianic expectation is a very powerful force, as is messianic disappointment. In addition, as I alluded before, no one ever had the right to assume that God would bring the redemption unconditionally. Eretz Yisrael has to be earned, and not just through settling there. Life here must conform to the Torah's moral, as well as its ritual, prescriptions. All you have to do is read the Book of VaYiqra from Ahare Mot on in order to know that. Indeed, I find the fact that there is a direct correlation between the transgressions mentioned in the Torah and events reported in the news media on a daily basis, very frightening. The religious community needs to start exerting greater social and moral leadership if it would see the redemption come.
What is more, why was it necessary to put all of our ideological eggs in one basket? Rav Kook was a Gadol Ba-Torah and a man of sublime vision. He does not, however, represent the sum total of Religious Zionist thought. One can thank God every day for the precious gift called Medinat Yisrael. One can regard it is the expression of Providence intervening in history. It does not have to be the Final Redemption (which, in any case, depends upon Teshuvah). That's what Rav Soloveitchik taught us. [I might add, this point of view does not require one to abdicate one's adament belief in the right to settle Yesha. The Rov never said there was a mitzva to give up territory. He said it was a theoretical possibility. In the present political, cultural and religious constellation in the Middle East I have no doubt that that posssibility remains theoretical.]
So, it's time not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Medinat Yisrael still has achieved much. The Religious Zionist community has its work cut out for it to assert religious leadership on pressing social issues, to re-judaize the Jewish population, to resolve the conversion crisis, to develop a real Israeli form of Modeern Orthodoxy and to simultaneously try to save what we can of the settlement of our country. It is a time of Heshbon ha-Nefesh, not a time for despair.