Refuseniks, both orange and gray

English Haaretz.  
July 27, 2005 Tamuz 20, 5765
  By Nadav Shragai    

A yellow van drove along Kfar Maimon's perimeter road on Tuesday morning, the voice of Ariel Zilber blaring from a loudspeaker on its roof the slogan of the disengagement foes, "A Jew does not drive out a Jew," to a new melody. Soldiers escorted the anti-disengagement patrol in silence, their faces expressionless. However, at numerous points along the perimeter fence, the distance the soldiers were seemingly ordered to maintain from the demonstrators was not observed. They ate together, refreshed themselves with cool drinks together, prayed together and talked a great deal.

  Lieutenant Gili from the center of the country and Yossi Marziano from Kiryat Shmona became absorbed in a conversation of this kind. "My father asks me where my conscience is, where my Jewish heart is," reported Lieutenant Gili. "My heart is with you, but I am wearing an army uniform. Try to understand." Marziano did not understand: "Tell them you can't.. That you are not capable."

  Marziano came on the bus from Kiryat Shmona together with Rabbi Zefania Drori. As they left the city, the police stopped them and took them off the bus. They started marching. The police gave in. Marziano, the rabbi and hundreds of others reboarded the buses and traveled to Netivot. Drori, among the more moderate religious-Zionist rabbis, said, "Explicit refusal is damaging to society, but one cannot carry out the order." A number of soldiers appeared to be listening to him.




In the fields outside Netivot, a strange combination could be seen: thousands of vehicles belonging to anti-disengagement demonstrators and thousands of soldiers in the searing heat, wishing it were all over. A group of marchers from Kiryat Arba and Jerusalem met up with some soldiers. "How can we get through?" asked Hagai, one of the marchers. A soldier approached him and they exchanged a few quiet words. The soldiers moved away and the group went through.

  A possible conclusion: Whereas explicit refusal involves perhaps just a few dozen people, "gray refusal" is far more widespread. A number of soldiers appear to have decided to fake it.

  No love without jealousy

  "Love your soldiers as yourself," boomed the voice of Rabbi Mordechai Elon from the improvised platform in Kfar Maimon. "Love, love and once again love," he reiterated, "we will win only through love." The crowd drank in his words.

  Rabbi Elon is consistent in his opposition to violence. A few weeks ago, he came out against refusal to serve and against the extremists at the Hof Hadekalim hotel, which the settlers renamed Maoz Hayam. But at Kfar Maimon, he chose to underscore the new line taken by the right, and ruled that Sharon does not have a mandate for what he is doing.

  Rabbi Reuven Netanel of Atzmona, one of the rabbis most admired by the younger set, also speaks in the language of love, and the style is catchy. Groups of young people went out to the soldiers outside the fence and sang, "We have love and it will prevail." The Border Police jeeps that passed through Kfar Maimon were momentarily encircled in fury but immediately afterward showered with candies.

  Aharon Razel, a religious-Zionist Hasidic pop idol, took his guitar and a microphone and got the orange-clad youngsters hopping and dancing, charging them with a great deal of love, adrenaline and motivation. The young crocheted-kippa generation is sending a more complex message than that of their parents: not just Eretz Israel as a religious value, but also a hands-on, direct connection with the earth and nature and a feeling of general social commitment. "When I dance to `Take counsel together, and it shall be brought to nought,' I pray one kind of prayer, and when I sing `Our brothers, all the house of Israel, are in trouble," I pray a different, more general prayer," explained Dan Amiram from Ma'aleh Adumim.

  In the new prayer book, "Tzir Kissufim," distributed in Kfar Maimon, Ido Levinger, nephew of Rabbi Yaakov Levinger, writes a personal prayer: "We fear the blindness that is covering the eyes of our brethren, the darkness that has overtaken the country's leaders. But more than anything else, we fear ourselves ... Because we are jealous of our land, we are jealous of ourselves, and after all, there is no love without jealousy."

  The family has decided

  The new terminology being used is an indication of the depth of animosity felt by the leaders of the Yesha Council toward Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Don't say: "The government of Israel has decided." From now on, say: "The family has decided," or "The ruling family." Pinhas Wallerstein, a Yesha leader and mayor of the Benjamin Regional Council, started it, and others are following suit. The people and its leadership, who embrace the soldiers and talk about love, make a clear distinction now between the people, the nation, and the government, whose legitimacy is becoming increasingly undermined from one day to the next.

  Some of the leadership and extra-parliamentary organizations related this past week to the government as if to a foreign regime, and the message is starting to filter down. The pictures of the soldiers surrounding Kfar Maimon this week reminded Shlomi Slomianskov, a high school student, of the "Black Sabbath," when the British carried out mass arrests on June 29, 1946, against the Jewish population in pre-state Israel.

  The Mateh Hameshutaf headquarters, which includes most of the organizations active in the protest against the disengagement, in its desire to encourage people to come to the aid of the besieged Gush Katif, published pictures of the convoys going up to besieged Jerusalem in 1948. The "Jewish Leadership" section of the Likud went even further, and in response to the orders closing the entrance to Gush Katif determined that "the prime minister and defense minister of Israel signed an order of the kind last signed in the German language."

  The police played a tape for the demonstrators with a recording of a speech given a few months ago by Rabbi Aviner, in which he spoke of the "sacred state," the "sacred army," and "sacred soldiers." It was generally unnecessary - the resentment and delegitimization, higher than ever in the past, are not directed at the state or the army, only toward the leadership, which, according to the Yesha council, must be replaced.

  Different codes

  In sweltering heat, 37 degrees in the shade, Yaffa Cohen of Kedumim spreads a blanket over the thorny ground in Kfar Maimon. She places Yehoshua on his back and proceedes to change his diaper. At night, Yael Kaplan marched from Netivot to Kfar Maimon, with an 11-month-old dozing in a baby carrier on her back. The heat and the waiting did not deter even Ari, a blind 26-year-old from Gush Etzion, who walked with his friends through the fields, taking roundabout routes, using his white cane. Or Yehoshua Doyev from Jerusalem, who is long past the age of 70.

  Some were stopped by the police when they were leaving their places of residence. Beyond the anger, they felt deeply offended. Natan Sharansky, the former minister and Prisoner of Zion, saw the sights and simply wept. They reminded him of pictures from different times and different places. Noa, who was held up at a checkpoint, shouted at the police in despair: "I can't believe that my country is doing this to me." Naftali, who was taken off a bus in Jerusalem, put on his Sabbath best, got into a taxi, and at the checkpoints told police that he was on the way to his nephew's bar mitzvah in Netivot; he managed to arrive that way.

  The dedication to the goal was uncompromising. The level of commitment was very high. In the codes of the religious-Zionist public, this kind of steadfast dedication is called mesirat nefesh. It is something the secular public, even if it opposes the disengagement, is incapable of. It lives differently, behaves differently, acts differently, and its priorities are different. The hope repeated again and again by the leaders of the march, that ultimately the "other" public would also become involved in this protest, is consequently a vain hope and to a large extent, an illusion. "That is what we have, and that is what we'll work with," Zambish - Ze'ev Hever - said to his friends.

  A searing of consciousness

  The tens of thousands that participated this week in the orange protest rally did not take white shirts or Shabbat clothes with them. They did not plan to take the "Engagement March" beyond the original three days. The people who took off from work asked their employers for only three or four days' vacation time. In the organizational headquarters, the Yesha leadership, rabbis and extra-parliamentary movements did not believe they would actually succeed in bringing this human mass up to Gush Katif. They made do with the Kissufim junction. In fact, they reached neither. The police won, or at least so it seemed.

  Uri Elitzur once said that the settlers always win in the field and the left in the national consciousness. This time the left won in the field and the settlers in the national consciousness. The head of the Yesha council, Bentzi Lieberman, spoke about "searing the public consciousness." He wanted to generate a protest the likes of which had never been seen before, to leave "a huge impression."

  Most of the members of the Yesha council, which was behind the "Engagement March," did not believe beforehand that they would really be able to stop the disengagement, but they did believe they would be able to harness the struggle over Gush Katif for the next stage - the struggle over Judea and Samaria. Gush Katif, they are convinced, is just the beginning. The next disengagement will be in Judea and Samaria. The intention was to create unprecedented deterrence in the public consciousness in the hope that the public and the politicians would assimilate it. Their faces and hearts were directed at Gush Katif. Their heads were already in Judea and Samaria.

  That is also the line separating the Yesha Council from the rightist organizations like The National Home. The council, despite its protests, accepts the decision of the Knesset and agrees that the struggle was decided there. The National Home and similar organizations believe the struggle will be decided in the field. But for the Yesha council, the field is merely a tool whose role is to influence the politicians and the government, which, as we know, has already decided. And that is why the struggle has its face toward the future, in order to sear the national consciousness.