Friday, December 01, 2006

Soooo not in the mood for this . . . and an apology

My commenter Ilan of 3:57 explained it best. My post (two down) was NOT about Bnei Akiva, it was about the National Religious movement in GENERAL, of which Bnei Akiva is one piece and I was using a small piece of a small piece as an EXAMPLE. My example was a bad one (more about that later), but I stand by the main thrust of my post.

Furthermore, the entire point of my post is that Religious Zionists (if not Religious Zionism) DO IN FACT have so much more to us than just issues pertaining to settlement, and therefore the movement could be so much more powerful and influential and impressive than it is. I'm not saying that Religious Zionists are bad. I'm saying that the movement of Religious Zionism is not representing itself as all it COULD be and is SUPPOSED to be. The people who identify with Religious Zionism (such as myself) value Torah and social justice and all sorts of good things, things which the secular-left would love to hear about more from us, if we bothered talking about them more AS A MOVEMENT.

WestBankMama- You said that in the paintings at your local sniff, the war in Lebanon and Gaza "took precedence," so I went with what you wrote. If the theme was overwhelmingly about chessed and ahavat yisrael, why didn't you say that? Indeed, your comment to my post proves my point: That, when having to choose just ONE way to help Israel, tens of thousands of Religious Zionists, goaded on by 30 years of investment by the Religious Zionist organizations, have chosen settlement over being involved in other issues -- and, though you didn't say it, tens of thousands more are spending their money and political clout on that one issue as well. Not all their time and thoughts, but their political clout and PR opportunities. That's not an invalid choice, but then you have to accept the ramifications of it. In the larger sense-- NOT just about you, but about the movement IN GENERAL -- if the National Religious movement (a movement with which, remember, I closely identify) chooses to focus on settlement as their main national policy issue, then there are going to be negative consequences in the minds of Israelis who otherwise have no way of understanding what Judaism has to say about education or health care or anything else.

(By the way, West Bank Mama really is one of my favorite bloggers, and you should read her response to me.)

I care not a whit how many secular Israelis isolate themselves from other secular Israelis, nor am I talking about what Torah Judaism IS, but rather about the terrible PR problem that Judaism suffers from in this country. The fact is, the two issues most equated with Religious Zionism are settlement and the army, NOT chessed and NOT mitzvot.

If that statement insults you, then you have our politicians and the PR people for our organizations to blame, not me. I never said that we don't do chessed or mitzvot. My point is that we're not investing whatever clout we have on making this country a better place, only on keeping it a bigger place. And therefore, the secular community knows much less about our chessed and about Torah than they could know.

Jameel has posted beautiful photos of Bnei Akiva walls from HIS local sniff, showing that in fact the kids there overwhelmingly chose to depict their concern for their fellow human beings and for a wide variety of religious and national issues. When I have time I'll bli neder more fully translate the text painted on those walls, because it is even more beautiful than Jameel's notes indicate. These kids did a tear-jerkingly beautiful job.

So, I admit that the EXAMPLE I chose is a bad example. I should have focused exclusively on political issues, rather than use an example from an individual community. I'm sorry that, by choosing this shoddy example, I created a reason for people to think that I am ignorant of what good people they are. I do think that people read more into my post than what was there, but I can see how that could happen, especially since the example veered so far from my actual point, and I am truly sorry.

But I stand by my criticism that Religious Zionism at the political level has become a one-issue movement, and that by allowing that to continue -- by keeping our concern for social justice on sniff walls and not promoting it in ways that actually effect widespread social change -- we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Secular Israelis increasingly have absolutely no way to know just how generous and caring we religious Jews are, because increasingly we move away from them, and increasingly we make our public face about nothing but Yesha and (our ideas about how to maintain) security. The statement coming from our communities, loud and clear -- whether this is how we live our private lives or not -- is that we care more about the land than we do about our fellow Israelis.

If you think that message is wrong, then stop wasting time pointing fingers at me, and start making phone calls to the heads of the organizations you belong to, and tell them that public safety and the environment and education and the economy are just as important to you as any decisions about the future of Yehuda and Shomron. And, while you are at it, you can ask some of the kids who made the beautiful paintints in Jameel's community to put up similar banners in the German Colony and in Tel Aviv. They shouldn't be hidden where only their parents will see them.

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