October 06, 2005

It's All in the Mind

It’s the occupation. It’s the fence. It’s the settlers. Those seem to be the three main bones of contention in our national struggle in this region. And it’s all to do with land; its occupation, its settlement and its division by the separation fence.

But what happens if we take land out of the equation?

Many have said that the real occupation is of the minds of a generation of Palestinian Arabs. Demonisation of Israel, as an opiate of the Arab masses, is the only way that despotic mullahs and sheikhs can keep themselves in power. It follows that no matter how much territory we yield up, there will be no peace for as long as a single synagogue is left standing upon what they like to call Mohammed’s Peninsula.

So, what happens if we take land out of our part of the Middle East equation?

Throughout history, our greatest threat has been from within, from amongst our own people. Thousands of years ago we lost the Temple because of hatred between Jews and in recent months many expected the disengagement rift to carry a serious risk of civil war.

Even secular Israelis of the hard Left had to accept that, with very few exceptions, the settlers of Gaza and Northern Samaria displayed exceptional qualities during their eviction. (Imagine if hundreds of secular university professors and their families had been evicted from the former Arab village of Sheikh Munis that is now called Ramat Aviv?) The enlightened Left has learned something from their religious brothers and sisters in the same way that the Kotel bus bombing provided a telling insight into the trauma of terror from a religious perspective.

Perhaps the settlers and their religious supporters need to start a new occupation: of the minds of their secular brothers and sisters. The timing has perhaps never been more propitious. People lament for the glory days of 1967, when Israel seemed invincible and we were perceived as the underdog who vanquished three Arab armies in six days. Whilst those days may never return, from the ideological and spiritual perspective, Eretz Yisrael is vastly more powerful than ever before. There are more yeshivas and seminaries, more outreach programs, more Torah education aids in translated print and online than ever before.

Most impressive of all, there are more kippas than kibbutzniks in today’s IDF and 40 percent of the officers keep kosher and Shabbat. However much the secularists tried to marginalize and stereotype the religious in Israeli society, they have to face up to the fact that their sons and daughters are going to be exposed to the true and worthy face of religious Zionism in what will be their most formative years of life: in army service. All this augurs exceedingly well for the future of Israel as a truly Jewish state and will ultimately protect us from the enemy within better than any Sinai buffer zone could protect us from our external foes.

Which brings us to the security fence. Take the land out of that and you have the old ‘them and us’ divide. For the last 50 years a barrier has existed between the religious and secular in Israel. By settling and occupying the hearts and minds of secular Jews, the religious will have achieved more for Eretz Yisrael and its future as a golden Jewish medina than the building of a thousand settlements.
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