Friday, August 26, 2005

Making the Desert Bloom and the Future of Religious Zionism

Of the many accolades attributed to the early Zionist pioneers was that they were able to (with the help of G-d) make the desert bloom. For nearly 2,000 years the Land of Israel was an uninhabitable wasteland.

Mark Twain, who visited the Land of Israel in 1867, described it as:
“ ...[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

There are calls now for the Jews who were expelled from Gush Katif, today's pioneers, to go and take their expertise of making Gush Katif bloom to the Negev and fulfill the age old dream of Zionism.

Avrum Ehrlich, in todays Jerusalem Post states:
Developing the Negev has long been recognized as one of Israel's top national missions. Israel's leadership must admit what we all know: Only a community of faith, comprised of determined, selfless people, possesses the wherewithal to achieve this mission. I'd like to believe that such a project could capture the imagination of thousands of former Gazan Jews..

I am troubled by this suggestion for a number of reasons:

1) If developing the Negev is a "mission of national importance", why is it that it is unrealistic to expect all of Shimon Peres' followers in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, all of the Kibbutznikim, and all of the left-wing youth movement graduates to be the ones to take up this call?

2) Clearly Prime Minister Sharon and his followers have failed to read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Why should the Jews who have been expelled from Gush Katif involve themselves in any missions of behalf of the government of Israel? If the government truly believes that Jews such as the one's they expelled from their homes in Gush Katif that are crucial to settling and developing the Negev, wouldn't it make sense to treat them with a little bit of honor and respect? The old adage of "One can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar" applies here.

3) The Jews who settled in Gush Katif and the northern Shomron were also on a "mission of national importance", as were the Jews who were expelled from Yamit. One thing that has become very clear in the State of Israel is that the "missions of national importance" to one generation are a burden that must be cast off by the next.

I am all in favor of Jewish pioneers, such as those expelled from Gush Katif to lead the way to the development of the Negev, along with all other parts of the Land of Israel, but let us not make the same mistake this time around of being the "suckers" who are always doing as they are told. If we are to lead the way in settling the Negev, then it will need to come along with the Religious Zionist camp beginning to lead the nation in other areas as well. The time has come for the powers that be in the State of Israel to recognize that they need the Religious Zionist camp, their pioneering spirit and their rootedness to our Jewish heritage, if the State is to have any future.


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