Monday, August 15, 2005

The Disenchantment

As a vocal supporter of the disengagement the first pictures coming out of there have moved me more than I would have imagined. Contrary to many of my Chassidic friends, though by all means not all, I have always felt the presence of settlers in Gaza to be a mistake. It has been the death of far too many Jews, both the settlers themselves with their innocent little children who could not choose to be there and the soldiers forced to protect them. It was thus faintly disturbing to me, struggling to maintain the objectivity I yearn to properly develop and is vital to my survival among my British friends, to find myself intensely moved by the sight of those deeply religious people so desperately and earnestly clinging to the hope that God will come to their rescue in the last minute. My heart goes out even more to those who resigned themselves early and left, crushed. I have felt their pain.

I have to express my admiration for the devotion and the true commitment to an ideal that many of these religious settlers have displayed, although my innate scepticism does make me wonder how much of it is an American characteristic in its Jewish manifestation. It is hard to escape the fact that most of them seem to speak English better than Hebrew. Still they have put their lives on the line for something they passionately believed in and it heartbreaking to see them contemplating the notion that God really is not going to give them what they so believe He wants. The fact that they are so impervious to the plight of their neighbours living in squalor nearby is explained away by many of us as being a result of the atrocities carried out by the Intifadists. Maybe true, but explanations are no solution to the dehumanisation in our society this occupation must take the blame for. This is also sad testimony to the fact that religion can be a dangerous tool in irresponsible hands.

The world tends to see Chassidim (except for the Satmarers who claim to be anti-Zionist yet this evident only when things go sour) as radically right wing. The truth is a bit more complicated than that. While practically all Chassidim will probably agree with Satmar that the Zionist State is not a God-given present signifying a Historic return or Redemption, most, including much of Satmar, will admit to feeling an extremely close and deep-rooted connection to their historic homeland. It is not the soil-based farmer's love of land that the Pioneers developed and the Jewish Agency has nurtured though. We are not exposed to that in our schools so I doubt one will see the grief here on the hill that is surely being experienced by Jews all over the world. We also tend to see things more from the Halachic perspective and home in on the requirement to sacrifice all to protect lives. The disengagement when it argues ‘more security’ has a willing audience among us that was not apparent in the devious games the representatives we elected played with our voice.

For us the question boils down to whether the dismantlement of the settlements and withdrawal from those territories, originally designed as a punishment measure when Arafat was alive and what now looks suspiciously like a reward for terror, will actually bring about an end to the tragic loss of life that we were almost getting used to. I know that the promise of a return to violence announced by Hamas today is given in true faith, literally and figuratively, and the question really is will they be allowed to. I have to note that the grudging, petulant reaction of all the Palestinian spokesmen today does not bode well. I have not been blessed with the blind faith the settlers seem to have in abundance so I can only hope and pray that this is one of the times He chooses to listen to us and gives us all a little break.

Talking of which I am now signing out for a few weeks.

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