Last week on Jerusalem Day, we again marched through the Old City of Jerusalem in the traditional March of Flags. As every year, tens of thousands of flag-bearing marchers flowed onto the Western Wall Plaza from all its surrounding gates. Masses paraded all the way around the wall of the Old City…. Another idea from the creative mind of Yehuda Hazani.
He was not addressed as “rabbi” or “rebbe,” although he was a great Torah scholar. The March of Flags is the only event that bears his name, but he is also the one who came up with and led the mass marches of Gush Emunim (together with Rabbi Yaacov Novick), bringing masses of people to Sebastia, as well as the other great pioneering operations.
The public campaign that he organized used to be taught in schools of communications and governance. “Had he been alive in the days of Oslo, the agreement wouldn’t have stood a chance,” wrote leftist Professor Ehud Sprinzak, scholar, and expert on protest movements in Israel.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook used to refer to Hazani affectionately as “the assembler of great assemblies.” Hazani was one of the people who nurtured Gush Emunim, the grassroots movement that worked to resettle Jews in the territories liberated from Arab occupation in 1967, but always behind the curtain. Too little has been written about his character. He was an unknown figure to most of the public, a person who took care to be known only by those who had to know him.
A telling example: Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir came to pay condolences to the Hazani family when Yehuda fell from a cliff in the Judean Desert while hiking with his son. In the family’s modest home, Shamir met one of the great Haredi Torah scholars, and asked, “what is the distinguished rabbi doing here?” The rabbi said in response, “what is the distinguished prime minister doing here?” It was explained to both of them that Hazani was a great Torah scholar who took pains to remain anonymous, while at the same time he was a great political revolutionary behind the curtain. And both wondered, “where did he find the time?”
When I took long trips with him on the wayfares of Judea and Samaria, I saw him listening to recordings to make up what he was missing in the beit midrash (study hall). In days between activities he would return to his book stand at his place in Yeshivat Mercaz Harav to study and answer students’ questions.
His political doctrine is important and especially relevant in these days of such running around in the camp, of so many Knesset candidates, of Knesset lists and splits within lists. One individual who was on the committee that determined the list of Knesset candidates for the Jewish Home party before the last election told me that about 700 people had submitted their candidacy to the committee. Hazani would have laughed at that. He was close with the major politicians, and did not believe that the political system determined what would be. He didn’t rely on politicians, because he understood their secret weakness: their dependence on a supportive—and sometimes an oppositional—public.
Once Hazani drove over to me on a rainy day in his eternal moped, his great beard dripping with raindrops. “If we don’t go out now to protest against Kissinger (or was it Carter?), everything is liable to collapse.” Why not go to ministers, to the prime minister, to our members of Knesset? He went to them too, but he would say that in these matters everyone must tell himself that the fate of the entire Land of Israel is on his shoulders, and the entire world wants to steal from him his only precious possession.
I can guess what he would say to today’s religious Zionist youth who are running and fighting over spots and parties: if you really want to protect the Land of Israel, you have to go about the struggle as if the politicians didn’t exist.
The real fight is not in the Knesset. Netanyahu is not going to put up a fight against the New Israel Fund, and Netanyahu is not going to start a confrontation with the belligerent media, which have been attacking the government since it was formed. When Rabbi Levinger, half-paralyzed from brain damage, went to offer his condolences to Netanyahu after his father’s passing and asked what would be with the house in Hevron that had been evacuated, Netanyahu’s response was too true: “It’s not in my hands.”
To Influence, You Have to Demonstrate
In the absence of ideological rightist forces on the street to balance the pressure from the left, any rightist government will be pulled from the center to the left. In order to give the government enough room to maneuver to the right or at least the center, it is necessary to create an opposite magnetic pole. Just a simple matter of physics.
It’s wrong to think that everything stands to be solved by joining the Likud, lobbying the Knesset, or founding additional parties. Only external bodies can stabilize the political system.
A short story: Dov Shilansky, a dedicated member of the Knesset and champion of the Land of Israel, met us as we were moving around the Knesset with the new idea of putting together a project of foreign volunteers for the IDF.
“Oh, how much I envy you guys!” he said. “You’re free to act and plan. It reminds me of my days as a young person in the movement.”
“What’s keeping you from planning and acting?” we asked.
Shilansky sighed. “I’m my own master? I’m a slave…. Today I have to go to a bar mitzva in the north, and tomorrow to a wedding in Netanya. If I don’t go, I won’t be reelected. I have to deal with a thousand little requests from people, and there are committees and lots of party matters and quarrels within the faction. In short, I’m totally subjugated to a schedule that’s not mine and a set of priorities that’s not mine.”
The slogan that calls to stop demonstrating and become a part of the political process—”just one step from demonstrating to influencing”—is incorrect. To influence, you have to demonstrate. If you are a dedicated young person, don’t run for the Knesset. Run to the hilltops. Join the hilltop youth. Adopt the long dresses, the waving sidelocks and little kipot, the women’s pants and kerchiefs.
Join a framework outside of the Knesset instead of aspiring to “go far,” as it’s put by political commentators in the newspapers. The Knesset is not “far” at all. To go far it is necessary to return to the days of Gush Emunim.