Rabbi Yosef Blau
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
September 12, 2011 - 12:00am

After the Israeli army destroyed homes in the illegal Migron outpost, the level of tag mechir (price tag) responses escalated. “Tag mechir” is a policy of making others, usually Arabs, pay the price when the government acts to close an unauthorized settlement. Following the home demolitions in Migron, two mosques were vandalized, as was, for the first time, an IDF base.

The official leadership of the settler movement and the political leadership of the Habayit Hayehudi party criticized the actions and pointed out the perpetrators were a fringe group, not representative of the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens living in Judah and Samaria.

While the statements were sincere and accurate, they ignored the education that the teenagers who openly support “tag mechir” receive in schools affiliated with the Religious Zionist system.

In many ways the criticized actions flow directly from what these adolescents have been taught. The roots of their behavior can be found in a number of ideas, some taught in a more widespread fashion than others, promulgated by broad sections of the dati leumi (Religious Zionist) world.

Thus even those who do not support revenge or violence may actually contribute to it.

One of these ideas is that Jews are intrinsically superior beings of a higher order than non-Jews.

This axiom leads to the conclusion that a Jewish life is worth more than that of a non-Jew. The Arabs in particular are viewed as intractable enemies of the Jews and often equated with Amalek, whom the Jews were commanded to wipe out.

According to this view, Islam is the source of hatred to Jews, and in fact the Israeli-Arab (the term “Palestinian” is avoided) conflict is fundamentally a war between religions.

In this school of thought the commandment to settle the land of Israel falls into the category of “yei’hareig ve’al ya’avor” (be willing to be killed rather than transgress). It is placed on the level of the most serious sins, such as idolatry, murder and incest, although no early sources mention it. Any Israeli government that supports territorial compromise automatically loses legitimacy. The army and the police who are used to remove people from their homes are considered to be enemies.

From this perspective, a Jewish state has no responsibility for non-Jewish citizens. Leftist Jews – the term includes the political leadership, the Israeli media, and people who live in Tel Aviv – are Hellenists and barely Jewish.

YOUNG PEOPLE are attracted to absolutes, black and white: all Arabs are potential terrorists; there is no need to respond to their human needs because they should not be living on our land.

The actual process of resettling them in Arab countries will somehow happen.

Knowing that God’s will is clear and that settling the land will bring the Messiah removes any need to make pragmatic compromises. All problems come from diverging from the path of building in all areas of the full Israel. There is no need for political alliances and the support of the United States. When the Jews follow the commandments they have no reason to fear enemies.

During demonstrations in recent years the primary participants are teenagers, with the majority often being women. The high schools encourage their attendance; those who resist arrest are heroes. The message communicated is that demonstrating is more important than learning, certainly for girls.

While adults are inhibited from acting totally on their principles and are constrained by family and other obligations, many young people are prepared to act. What can be more appealing than a rebellion that is religiously sanctified? Highly educated parents do not object to their sixteenyear old children dropping out of school and living on a hilltop because they admire the idealism and commitment of their daughters and sons.

When some of these youngsters act on these beliefs and show no restraint, the adult community is suddenly shocked. Adults understand that there is a larger society that does not share these assumptions and compromises have to be made.

Yet it is not certain that this message has been transmitted. If other views have not been taught as equally legitimate, adult compromise will be viewed by adolescents as weakness.

MY DESCRIPTION does not apply to all Religious Zionist schools or rabbis. The percentage that fully articulate the positions I have described is not a majority, but it is not insignificant. This growing phenomenon of “tag mechir” should be a wake-up call to the majority that opposes radical behavior. While admiring the youngsters’ idealism, we must remember that living in a democratic state requires teaching tolerance of other views. More importantly, normative Judaism has not been rooted in hatred or revenge. Symptomatically, David the warrior king does not build the temple, his peaceful son Shlomo does. This should lead to the understanding that Judaism and Halachah have always been based on the interaction of many principles. Land is important and has been neglected because of the nineteen hundred years of exile, but it is not more important than people.

If I were not aware of some of what is being taught, I would have dismissed the jejune analysis as a caricature of the complex and profound teachings of Judaism. But I am worried that this is what many students are hearing and that this version of Judaism motivates their behavior. Seeing consequences is a key element leading to change.

The writer is the president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the senior mashgiach ruchani (spiritual supervisor) at Yeshiva University.


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