It is difficult to understand the ultra-Orthodox reaction to its exclusion from the government coalition. After all, that’s how it goes in politics – sometimes you are in, sometimes you are out. For many long years, the ultra-Orthodox were in the coalition and the religious Zionists were out. Now they have changed places.
So what? Why all the lamenting, cries of despair and threats of destruction of the settlements, God forbid? Everybody with some common sense knows that nobody is going to send the yeshiva boys to prison camps and that no serious Torah learner is going to have to stop learning. What is causing such an exaggerated ultra-Orthodox reaction? It doesn’t make them look very good, so why throw years of friendly cooperation into the trashcan? Why incite baseless hatred of their constituency? What is going on here?
To understand the ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionists must remember how they felt and reacted after the Expulsion from Gush Katif. “How can you possibly compare the two?” you may ask. “Entire communities were razed in Gush Katif and with the ultra-Orthodox, it is simply a questions of politics.”
That is true. The destruction experienced by the religious Zionists was entirely real, and the pain of the expelled unbearable. But the intensity of the grief and the religious Zionist reaction to the Expulsion were much more than simple sharing of the pain of those driven from their homes. Settlements were destroyed before Gush Katif – and subsequently, as well.
In Gush Katif something much bigger than houses was destroyed. It seemed that what was destroyed there was ideology. That was the source of the deep pain and grief. That was what motivated the lamentation and the heartbreaking images, images like the picture of the Netzarim expellees carrying the menorah from their synagogue, creating an immediate association with the image of the menorah from the Beit HaMikdash being carried by the Jews exiled from Jerusalem.
That same destruction of ideology is what is being experienced now by the ultra-Orthodox. Interestingly, the reaction of the religious Zionists then and the ultra-Orthodox now are amazingly similar.
Until the expulsion from Gush Katif, the religious Zionists still believed that the redemption process was on “automatic pilot.” True, there were some malfunctions (some of them major) here and there but they could be explained away or ignored.
In Yamit Israel succumbed to the enticement of “peace,” and Oslo could be blamed on the Left. But when the Expulsion took place, Yair Lapid offered this explanation: “We had to teach you a lesson.” In other words, we drove you from your homes and destroyed your communities because we – the mainstream of the return to Zion – are simply unwilling to accept your interpretation, your ideology and your Rabbi Kook. So please get out of our sights and let us live our daily lives without your unbearable Messianism.
That is why we cried so bitterly. Not only about Gush Katif. We cried because they threw us out, threw out our belongings after us, and slammed the door shut – while life in Israel continued as if nothing had happened. It was much more than Gush Katif. It was the ideological breaking point and ultimate humiliation. The tears were meant to make our mainstream “father and mother” open the door for us once again.
Now that we understand what happened to the religious Zionists, we can understand what the ultra-Orthodox are experiencing. Certainly not with the same intensity, for to them Zionism is much less a father and mother than it is to the religious Zionists. But it is the same insult, based on the ultra-Orthodox feeling of belonging to the state. The Neturei Karta sect, for example, vociferously opposed to the state, was not insulted at all.
In other words, the more insulted the ultra-Orthodox are, the more they show how much they belong to the collective. And that is good news.
…To be continued