Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss



The Israeli government will dismantle ‘illegal’ settlements, established after March 2001 when Sharon was installed as Prime Minister. The government had several times committed to dismantle these ‘illegal’ settlements.


The forcible removal of illegal settlers in the various settlements represents establishing the ‘Rule of Law’. Jewish youths wearing ski masks, one expects of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been allowed to rule in certain settlements. They beat Palestinian children and old people and have destroyed Olive trees. Some used to say of Arabs ‘force is the only language these people understand’; now Israeli Jewish Police and IDF officers are saying this about Jews.


However excessive violence does not represent the Rule of Law, but illegality.


Amona dismantlement:

Young protesters hurled cinder blocks, large stones and buckets of paint at advancing security forces at the Amona outpost in the West Bank Wednesday and seriously injured two police officers, 47 other officers were lightly wounded; over 100 settler supporters were also wounded, some seriously. The police reacted violently as if lacking control. The leadership of both the settlers (Yesha Council) and the police lost control.


Reciprocal hatred between settlers and police made the evacuation of Amona a two sided riot. The police and IDF were clearly trained in Gush Katif not to react to the violent acts of the youths. In Amona, the violence was greater and more dangerous but the police were not trained. As Gen. (ret.) Effie Eitam (former leader of the National Religious Party) stated ‘they treated us like Arabs’. Not quite - the police killed 13 Arabs in October 2000 who demonstrated.


Vladimir Jabotinsky, the grandfather of the Revisionists and Herut and the ancestor of the current Likud party said “Inevitably, therefore, the question must arise of 'transferring' those Arabs elsewhere so as to make at least some room for Jewish newcomers. But it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as the removal of non-Jewish citizens.” Apparently he did not agree with Eitam.


It was obvious watching on Israeli television that the Youth and the Police  had rioted.


Amos Harel of Haartez pointed out that the youth were almost exclusively Ashkenazik (western European Jews). The Police were Druze, Bedouin, immigrants from Russia and people of Moroccan origin. This differed from Gush Katif were the settlers included those of Russian and Moroccan descent.


Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin said the settlers' hostility toward the security forces has increased, and soldiers and policemen are no longer allowed into synagogue services nor give lifts by settlers. He said the Amona settlers have taken an especially militant line toward the soldiers. They were inflamed due to the settler leadership previously "lenient attitude" toward the security forces. "They see Amona as the place where they'll defeat Israel.  There are increasing voices calling for establishing the state of Judea and eliminating the State of Israel. It's not a pullout, it's a classic case of law and order."


Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, IDF Central Command Head a religious Zionist with a kippah (skullcap) said that the youth who came to Amona on Thursday "are disengaging from the state”. An Haaretz writer Bradley Burston wrote “The civil war has begun." He writes that these young new hard-line settlers see themselves as "New Genuine Jews." And they see the state as their enemy. He quotes a resident of Hebron stating "This is an army of Israelis who hate the Jews". Naveh continued “A generation of frustrated children is growing up here with a distorted worldview, and the rift between them and the state is deepening. These youngsters have ripped and burned Israeli flags. The leadership in Yesha has to understand that it has gone too far." (Amos Harel, Haaretz February 4)


Rabbi Avi Gisser, of Amona's mother settlement, Ofra stated that the violent youth were a "new ultra-Orthodox society . . . not Zionist . . . [The state of Judea] is not religious Zionism. It's not a Zionist society. It's a type of ultra-Orthodox society, in which the motif of the holiness of the land is at the center of its religious existence.” (Meron Rapoport, Haaretz February 4)


The Jerusalem Post (Jan. 5, Israel’s right of center daily newspaper) called these “religious Zionist youth from uber-patriots, who even saw the state as embodying messianic processes in history, into anti-Zionists who view the state as the enemy of these same ideals.” According to Moshe Feiglin who ran and lost for the leadership of the Likud “the courageous youth in Amona erased the shame of Gush Katif.” (Arutz Sheva, February 7)


Rabbi Michael Melchior stated “The knitted skullcap has given way to ski masks, and the hoe and the tablets of the Ten Commandments − the symbol of the Bnei Akiva youth movement − to cinder blocks and stones. . .

The events at Amona have taught us that uncompromising violence and the flying batons of the police know no bounds and do not discriminate between Jew and Arab. All are the same, and smashing the head of an Arab leads easily to smashing the head of a Jew.”


A Statement like Death to the State of Israel – Long live the State of Judea is Treason. These youths have given up their national Zionist identity for solely a Jewish land identity. This lack of Zionism is comparable to the Ultra-Orthodox identity. In this way these youths differ from many perhaps the majority of religious settlers who are national Zionists. These youths including their Rabbis do not represent the Judaism that has existed since the days of the Talmudic Sages.



A Woman’s Story:

The incident began when a small group of people including women and children began a protest at the police roadblock against the demolition of homes in Amona. One girl crossed the road, and an officer told her to move out of the way. When she talked back to the officer, a policewoman teamed up with the officer, and they pushed her with force to the ground.


"At this point," said the mother of nine, "I approached the officers and told them that they were using excessive force for no reason. A friend of mine tried to take a picture of the policewoman's badge, but it was tilted to the side. I extended my hand to straighten her badge, and my friend took the picture." Her name was Yana. Within seconds, a dozen officers approached me to arrest me. They grabbed me, pushed me to the ground, and kicked me in my stomach, head, and all parts of my body. Yana kicked me right in my womb. Yana was yelling, 'Hit her hard. Smash her.'"


Naomi Shachor, wife of the chief Rabbi of nearby Maaleh Levonah, came over when she saw the policemen trying to arrest a protestor. Naomi says, "We were trying to pull her back towards us. They grabbed her… I saw her on the ground, and they started to pull off her sweater… The ones who did it and pushed her were men... I would like to emphasize that... It was a very terrible and shocking moment for me. I am still trying to get myself together from it." The assaulted mother identified this policeman as one of the attackers


The assaulted mother continued, "As they assaulted me, they began ripping my shirt. With no shame, several officers deliberately ripped off my shirt, and I was left there exposed. At this point, I started resisting so strongly that they backed off of me a bit, I grabbed my shirt from an officer who was holding it, and fled away in shame."


Naomi added, "I felt a lot of shame for her. I felt they crossed a border line that we thought we had, and apparently we don't have anymore. This is part of our modesty... We tried to talk to them afterwards, and they didn't want to understand. [I tried to explain to them] that this is something that shouldn't have been done. We were women; we were standing there democratically speaking out what we think should be said, conveying our feelings without anything else, and it was wrong to do it. [To see policemen violate the dignity of] a woman, a young mother... I am a history teacher. I saw photographs of that from a different era, and I cannot erase [those images]... I will not say what era – everyone knows. My feelings are very hurt about it. The policemen expressed no regret. We kept on trying to put some sense in them. [She was there exposed] in the upper half." (Shoshanna Walker-



Hebron Problem:

In Hebron as opposed to Amona a compromise agreement avoided a bloody conflict.


Jewish religious extremists in Hebron, also called the ‘Jewish Hamas’  have taken over the Shalhavet Arab market in Hebron near the Jewish settlement. These are the people who claim Dr. Baruch Goldstein as a hero.

It at first appeared the Police and the IDF would have to forcibly remove these illegal settlers. On Monday January 30 a compromise was reached  between the Hebron Jewish Council and the Israeli security establishment regarding the evacuation of the marketplace. The legal dispute over ownership of this property is based on Jewish ownership in 1948 will now be settled in court. Thus the rule of law was reestablished.


The problem with Jewish ownership is that is exactly the Palestinian refugee claim; it was there property until 1948. Will Israel be willing to return that property or even compensate the Palestinian refugees? Obviously not. Does this not make the Hebron property claim problematical?


On February 5 a demonstration was held in Zion Square, center of Jerusalem with the motto ‘Olmert is Bad for the Jews. While tens of thousands came it was less than in previous demonstrations. According to Gershom Gorenberg “The modern Orthodox burghers of Jerusalem, and even of veteran West Bank settlements, were almost entirely AWOL.” He estimated the average at 16 years of age. “The council is known in Hebrew as "Yesha" — an acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza that happens to mean "salvation." But pre-teen girls held up hand-scrawled signs saying, "Get rid of the Pesha Council," using the Hebrew word for "crime”.



A conversation among neighbors in Ra’anana:

Dr. Chaim Shein, a lecturer in the philosophy of law, and a rightist in his political opinions, compared the events at Amona to the incident of the Altalena underground arms-smuggling ship in 1948: "One of the formative experiences of my childhood was hearing the stories told by my relatives who came to Israel on the Altalena, and were fired upon at the Tel Aviv beach. For the children of Amona, this is the modern version of the Altalena story, and it doesn't matter who started it."


Shein was convinced that the Amona events are an expression of the hatred of Israeli society for religious Zionism and what it represents. "Today, the state is composed of a large majority of people who do not care about values. A large percentage of the residents of Ra'anana care only about the road to the airport being open and the stock market being strong. We thought that if we went with them to the commando units and to the pubs, they would love us. Now it is clear that there is a disconnect - that we constitute a nuisance, one that bursts the illusion of quiet," he said.


His neighbor Dr. Motti Keidar, a Middle East scholar at Bar-Ilan University: said "The settlement enterprise was for years portrayed as an enterprise of absolute truth, and therefore this is a case of a total breakdown not only between the religious public and the state, but within the religious public itself. The 'absolute truths' are now being undermined."


Keidar spoke of the rupture that is forming between the young people who hold extremist views, and their parents: "A crisis has formed between the parents, who see things in a more multifaceted view, and their children, who see black-and-white. I have one son at the Atzmona pre-army program, one son in the Egoz reconnaissance unit and a daughter who went to Amona and came home early because of an asthma attack. I have been irrelevant to their education for years. Partly because of the age, partly because ever since they were young they have been in their own frameworks and we, their parents, are less engrossed in them and more in ourselves." (Haaretz, February 13)



Colonel Benzi Gruber, a reserve officer and a religious Zionist believes there were serious errors on all levels at Amona. Going into blood soaked battle over nine empty houses that had been given demolition orders - in the wrong way at the wrong place and the wrong time - against a sector that considers itself beaten, spurned, and feeling the pain of those evicted. Pouring salt in that open wound is, in Gruber's opinion, not wise and unnecessary, to put it mildly. "We are at a crossroads. On the one hand, Amona could lead down a slippery slope. On the other hand, this sector could - with the help of all involved - regain some of its lost trust." (Haaretz, Feb. 6)


Religious Zionism "is in a huge storm," said Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, the 48-year-old head of a yeshivah in Petah Tikvah that combines study and army service. Cherlow, considered a moderate among right-wing rabbis, said in an interview that what concerns him most at the moment is not ideology but the danger that "we are raising an anarchistic generation. They hate everyone — the institutions of the state of Israel, the army. . . It continues with the collapse of rabbinic authority, and parental authority, and the final stop is hating themselves." The older generation, he said, is more tied to the state. (The Forward, February 10).


The fact that many people believing in the Greater Land of Israel thesis accept that the youth did nothing wrong and many people believing in disengagement and separation accept that the police were simply upholding the law suggest that the two sides are on a collision course. After the rioting Yediot Ahronot, Israel's leading Hebrew daily found those surveyed blame the protesters, not the police, for the melee by a margin of more than 3 to 1.


On February 15, 2006 the National Religious Party founded in 1902, the first religious Zionist movement subsumed itself to the National Union, a recent political party who only reason for existence in the Greater Land of Israel thesis. The NRP was based on Torah in all of its aspects especially religious education. The NU is based solely on the holiness of the Land. In 1969 after the 1967 War a proposal was submitted to the NRP convention that stated ‘there is no right to forfeit the entirety of the Land’.  With the help of the then Rabbis it was defeated. In the new NU Nationalism and the Land is more important that Religious.


Motti Zisser, born in Bnei Btak and an Ultra-Orthodox Religious Zionist stated that “We placed our children in the hand of Rabbi whom we believed were doing their job and teaching them Torah, but our children came back from Yeshiva schooled in politics”. (Haaretz, Book Review, February 17)


The internal dissent amongst Jewish Israelis may be as dangerous or more so than Palestinian terrorism. The Talmud tells us the second Temple was destroyed due to internal Jewish hatred.


A well written analyze was printed in Haaretz on February 21 including the following last paragraph.

“The "deal" has to be amended retroactively, in both parts. Religious Zionism has to compromise on the issue of the Land of Israel and concomitantly demand - in a pragmatic rather than dogmatic manner - a partnership in shaping the internal Israeli identity. And the liberal elite needs to remember that if it insists on exclusivity in all areas, out of an expectation that religious Zionism will settle for a guarantee of its sectorial rights, it will find itself facing growing religious aspirations for counter-exclusivity.”