Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mercaz HaRav

Thursday night's attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem was clearly an unacceptable terrorist act. It is a radical yeshiva, the flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement associated with Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, but contrary to some reports, it did not combine study with military service, and in fact was involved in many charitable community projects. Most of the students killed were under 18, and children under international standards.

I suspect the gunman did not see this as taking aim directly at the peace process so much as he did seeking revenge for Israel's ongoing siege of Gaza, which Israel sees as an attempt to halt Qassam fire, which Hamas sees as resistance to the continuing occupation of Palestinian land, and so on ad nauseum. However, as Amir Mizroch says, it will inflame the rejectionist elements of Israeli society:
"The people directly affected by the deadly terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva are not just the students, their relatives and friends, but the much wider larger segment of the religious Zionist public. This segment of the population, already seething with anger, which started with the Disengagement in 2005, the Amona pullout, the government promises to America remove illegal outposts, the continued diplomatic process launched at Annapolis and its emphasis to talk about all topics, including Jerusalem, is going to be extremely unhappy about this attack. Together with the grief and sorrow, there is going to be a lot of angry talk about good and evil, about a religious war over the Holy Land...

"Being messianic religious people, the religious Zionists are going to see this attack through the prism of messianic prophecy. Already I am hearing on religious Zionist radio stations people talking about the attack in prophetic terms, such as Isaiah 59 verse 20: And a redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.

"Settler radio talk-show hosts are interpreting this prophecy by saying that if the Jews don't stop Hamas, the Palestinians, Hizbullah and any other Islamic fundamentalists God will force the Jews to do it. The talk-show hosts blame Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres, and several callers into the broadcasts are unanimous in their condemnation of the Israeli government and calling on its removal."

The mood here in Jerusalem yesterday was similar to what I remember after Columbine in the United States. The Mercaz HaRav shooting has temporarily granted the religious Zionists a moral high ground within Israel they only rarely occupy. I can see their "Death to Arabs!" chanting at the funerals as of a piece with many slogans shouted at Hamas or Islamic Jihad rallies, but that is seldom the view of those buried within the conflict.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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