Fundamentalism in crisis - the response of the Gush Emunim rabbinical authorities to the theological dilemmas raised by Israel's Disengagement plan

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Author: Motti Inbari
Date: Autumn 2007
From: Journal of Church and State(Vol. 49, Issue 4)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 9,605 words
Lexile Measure: 1510L

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In August 2005, Israel vacated the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip--mainly in Gush Katif--as well as four settlements in northern Samaria. This action, known as the "Disengagement," constituted a profound crisis for a significant section of the Israeli population that is most closely identified with religious Zionism and with the settlement movement in the Territories. The crisis was not only on the national level, as the state destroyed communities that it had established and nurtured for decades, but also on the community level, as thousands of people were removed from their homes. The Disengagement also caused a religious crisis, testing the very foundation of the beliefs guiding the political and religious behavior for the population. Accordingly, the Disengagement provides a test case for the way in which the religious Zionist public as a whole laced this crisis of faith, and, more specifically, the manner in which the Halachic guides of this public--those responsible for shaping its religious behavior--responded to the crisis.

This article examines the attitude of the rabbinical leadership of Gush Emunim ("Bloc of the Faithful") toward the Disengagement, and whether the political processes led to any change in attitudes among these circles regarding the status and religious significance of the State of Israel as a secular Zionist nation. Consideration will also be given to the modalities by which the Gush Emunim rabbis reconcile the discrepancy between their religious ideal and events on the ground. In this respect, therefore, the article will constitute a case study of the religious response to crises of faith. It will also provide a test case for examining the circumstances in which religious institutions change their attitude toward the secular state and engage in a strategy to win state control.

The Six Day War (June 1967) created a new reality in the Middle East. During the course of the war, Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. These areas were not annexed to Israel, and continued to have the status of occupied territories administered by Israel pending their return in the framework of a peace agreement. Accordingly, immediately after the war, Israel did not, on the whole, initiate Jewish settlement in the occupied areas, with the exception of East Jerusalem, which was formally annexed to the State of Israel. From the outset, however, this principle was not strictly applied. Soon after the war, a number of Jewish settlements were established in the occupied territory. The first settlement in the West Bank was founded in 1967, in Kfar Etzion. The first settlement in the Gaza Strip was Kfar Darom, established in 1970. Both settlements were not typical in that they were established on the ruins of earlier Jewish settlements destroyed by the Jordanian and Egyptian armies during the War of Independence (1948). After 1967, the Israeli government also initiated the establishment of several settlements in the Jordan Valley and in the Yamit region in Sinai, as part of the security-oriented Alon Plan.

Jewish settlement activities increased...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A174750032