Article Library / 2016

2016 Annual Assessment

Despite this ambition to influence national life and policy, and to exercise moral and political leadership, the National Religious sector was also characterized by other, contrasting tendencies. These tendencies, which attracted a great deal of media and academic attention, consisted of strengthening the religious commitments and behaviors of the Religious Zionist public and adopting a more secluded and sectarian lifestyle. These behaviors stemmed from an outlook that was basically dialectical: The more the Religious Zionist public purified itself in terms of its religious national lifestyle, the more salutary would its impact be on the general Israeli public. Ultimately, it envisioned a higher synthesis of religion and nationalism in which both the religious and national components would be strong. Nevertheless, in day-to-day life, some members of Religious Zionist community participated in a life style that was removed from the general Jewish-Israeli one, including living in exclusively national religious settlements and neighborhoods and enrolling their children in the separate National Religious educational system.

Members of the national religious public began to question this approach in the 1990s with the advent of the Oslo Accords, and, more generally, the rise and strengthening of the “liberal citizenship discourse” – and even more so in the wake of the Gaza disengagement. This new turn was signaled by a famous article by R. Yoel Bin-Nun, entitled “We Have not Succeeded in Settling in the Hearts.”5 Bin-Nun argued that even though the West Bank settlement enterprise was a success in terms of “facts on the ground” – settlements and houses built, the Religious Zionist public had not succeeded in properly explaining itself and its ideology to the general Israeli public and winning them over. The Religious Zionist community thus embarked upon and strengthened initiatives that would bring their message to the broader Israeli public, especially the public living in the secular Israeli “heartland,” of Tel Aviv and Gush Dan. Thus, it dispatched groups (garinim – seeds) to do ideological and educational work in Israeli cities. There are about 60 garinim operating today.

The fact that the Religious Zionist public found itself basically alone in its struggle against the government ordered dismantling of 17 settlements and the evacuation of more than 8500 people in the 2005 disengagement from Gaza very much reinforced the idea that its settlement policy and outlook had not “settled in the hearts” of the Israeli public. Thus, in the wake of the disengagement the idea of becoming more engaged with general Israeli society, more part of it, gained momentum. One aspect of this is gradual trend of integration into, and participation in, Israeli electronic media and arts. Along with the attempt to have a direct impact, Religious Zionists felt that if the general Israeli body politic accepted the Religious Zionist public as a legitimate part of itself, it would be more open to its concerns and interests.