Religious Zionists against the Land of Israel

This development calls into question Religious Zionist beliefs regarding the historical-redemptive process they believe the State of Israel is undergoing.

From the point of view of Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel), this is the worst government Israel has ever had. No government before this one – left-wing, right-wing, or centrist – has forfeited or abandoned such large swaths of our national homeland.

The government evacuated the population living within 5 km. of the Lebanese border, and many others living within 10 km. of it evacuated on their own accord. In the South, almost the entire population was evacuated on or near October 7.

At this point, 70% have returned to the Western Negev but most of the agricultural land remains empty and abandoned, and some of it has been torched.

More than 10% of the state’s territory has been abandoned and lost. Entire northern towns, such as Metula and Kiryat Shmona, stand desolate. Some 80,000 Israelis are evacuees.

The abandoned territory in the North amounts to about one-third of Israel’s agricultural land – 13,000 hectares of olive trees and 40% of the hanging fruit grown: 4,700 hectares of avocado, 2,600 hectares of grapes (mainly for wine), 740 hectares of plums, etc. A similar quantity of land with similar agricultural significance has been lost, deserted, or burned in the South.

Of course, Israel’s enemies are responsible for this. Nevertheless, it seems the government has accepted this situation with surprising ease. Local council heads have said that they have received no aid or attention from any government agency for the last eight months, since October 7.

No Israeli government before now, not Yitzhak Rabin’s nor Shimon Peres’s, has lost and abandoned such a large portion of Eretz Yisrael, especially not land so extensively inhabited and productive.

This development calls into question Religious Zionist beliefs regarding the historical-redemptive process they believe the State of Israel is undergoing. The Talmud teaches (based upon Ezekiel 36:8) that the redemptive End of Days is to be revealed and known by the fact that the Land of Israel renews its fruits. That is, the renewal of agriculture in the Land of Israel is an integral part of the redemption and one of its main signs.

Contrariwise, the cessation of Jewish agriculture in the Land of Israel (for the first time in Zionist history) would seem to indicate a retreat from the redemptive process. Even more concerning is the security situation.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook (1891-1982), who headed the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva, taught that sovereign, military, and political control (represented by the metaphor of the “strong hand”) over the Land of Israel constitutes the redemption. Well, it is obvious that we do not have such control, neither in the South nor in the North. What does that say about the redemptive process?

How is it that the representatives of the Religious Zionist Party, who proclaim constantly the importance of Eretz Yisrael, “Jewish national-religious consciousness” and the Redemption are silent on these issues?

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, to whom, one assumes, the Land of Israel is important, ignores the overwhelming problems of the North and South, and continues to engage in his childish hounding and bullying of the local Arab population in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

As a minister within the Defense Ministry, he protects the hooligan settlers who threaten and attack local Arab villagers and destroy their property. Wonderful. After 76 years of statehood, the Religious Zionist settlers of Judea and Samaria have fielded a local version of the Brooklyn-based Jewish Defense League.

Not only do the raids on Arab villages contribute nothing to the strategic question of our hold on the Land of Israel, but they actually weaken it. This is so not only because of the morally problematic character of these attacks but mainly because they undermine the legitimacy of our claim of possession.

By engaging in street fights, we emphasize to all observers how contested our claim is and how precarious our possession is vis-à-vis the other populations that reside on the land.

MK Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit) has excelled in her efforts on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. She has proposed an amendment to the Law of the Development of the Negev whereby Kiryat Arba and the Hebron Regional Council will, for the purpose of the law, be considered part of the Negev and therefore eligible for same benefits that the destroyed kibbutzim bordering Gaza receive.

It is hard to understand the rationale for this amendment. In practice, it means that there will be less funding available for the villages of the Western Negev, which desperately need restoration after October 7, such as Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

One can only reach one of two conclusions. Either MK Son Har-Melech does not believe that the Western Negev is part of the Land of Israel, in which case, one presumes she endorsed, or at least did not object to, the 2005 evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza.

Alternatively, she does believe that it is part of the Land of Israel, but following the pattern of this government, she only wants to benefit people who resemble her and might vote for her.

Of course, after the “Religious Zionists,” have effectively abandoned large swaths of the Land of Israel in the Galilee and Negev, nothing prevents them from calling for the resettlement of Gush Katif, as if that is the only thing on the agenda of the Land of Israel. After all, as settlement movement leader Daniella Weiss put it, “Settlers want to see the sea.”

There are politicians who identify as “Religious Zionists” and spout all kinds of terms – “Eretz Yisrael,” “Jewish consciousness,” “Redemption.” But in place of a broad, mature, and inclusive vision, they present an approach that is narrow, childish, and “hole-and-corner” sectarian, which shows that they do not fully grasp their own ideology and values.

Published by Jerusalem Post