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National Religious Movement Rabbis – This World and Next

29 June 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Knowing my negative approach to the illegal proto-settlements being established by the Greater Land of Israel advocates in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), a colleague of mine (let’s just call him EC for short) suggested I read an article in Ma’ariv concerning the viewpoint of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner from Bet El.  Aviner, in no uncertain terms is completely opposed to any confrontation between the police and army and any settlers or demonstrators.  He is even against civil disobedience and passive resistance whereby the security forces are forced to physically pick up demonstrators lying in the way of vehicles coming to evacuate illegally placed structures.  He is in favor of the Greater Land of Israel, but sees it as a political battle, not one to be fought against the security forces.

At the same time hundreds of rabbis, mostly from the National Religious Movement held a conference in Jerusalem stating “The government has no authority to declare the establishment of a foreign state or to abandon parts of the Land of Israel to foreigners,” an obvious reference to the establishment of a Palestinian state.  Over the past week the Israeli news media has not ceased dealing with the interpretation of such a statement.  The NRM rabbis have decided to make themselves as unclear as possible.  The statement refers to Halacha , or Jewish religious law, yet when interviewed on Kol Yisrael well known rabbis such as Haim Druckman hold up the ultimate value of Jewish unity and the avoidance of civil strife between Jews. 

Without getting into tortuous interpretations or understandings the rabbis are purposely giving a double message, juxtaposing the Halachic “the world to come” against the state/civil order of “this world.”  They are not advocating insurrection, but rather explaining G-d’s will.  One need not confront the state today, but if one is a believer, he will have to confront the Almighty at the end of the road.  There is a deeply inferred reward and punishment even if there is no explicit call for a revolt against the elected mortal leadership.  The NRM rabbis fear violence and even a repeat of the Rabin catastrophe of 1995.  More so they do not want to take the blame in “this world” even if they will be justified in “the next.”

So back to Rabbi Aviner.  He is most certainly correct in calling for the avoidance of all clashes with the security forces and by extension he may even accept a territorial compromise, if decided upon by the government.  But Rabbi Aviner is a tiny minority in a mass of NRM rabbis who hold the Land of Israel to be the ultimate value.

Aviner has declared he will explain himself more fully in writing.  It will be interesting to see if he will mention the right of the government to rule in “this world”.