Two weeks ago, on Yom Yerushalayim, many marchers walked into the Old City of Jerusalem, and honorably and admirably celebrated the reunification of Jerusalem 55 years ago. Many thousands of people said prayers of thanksgiving to Hashem Who gave us the merit to live in a time of Jewish sovereignty over a united Jerusalem – a merit that not long ago would have been utterly unfathomable.
On that same day, there were some marchers who shouted at and taunted Arab residents of Jerusalem, used racist language against them, chanted “Death to the Arabs” and more. And while this was far from the majority – it certainly was nowhere near the majority – the numbers were significant enough to be upsetting and concerning. And yes, it happened; the video evidence is incontrovertible.
Perhaps there are loud voices coming from the Religious Zionist leadership condemning the actions of these individuals; but they haven’t been loud enough for many of us to hear them. This is not the religious Zionism of ten or twenty or thirty years ago. It’s certainly not the religious Zionism that was dominant fifty years ago. Something has changed, moderating voices seem to be drowned out, and that should concern all of us. And make no mistake: these issues are not political issues; they go to the heart of what it means to be a religious Jew who is also a supporter of the State of Israel
Is it inappropriate to point this out, as if mentioning these elements is thereby painting all religious Zionists with the same castigating brush? Are these taunts an inappropriate but understandable response to constant Palestinian rejectionism? How else should religious Zionists act and believe, given the deep seated traditional belief that all of Yehuda v’Shomron belongs to Israel? Is refusing to march with flags through the Damascus Gate a sign of moderation, or a form of timidity which will be exploited by our enemies? How can a proud religious Zionist balance valid and deep-seated belief in a unified Jerusalem with respect for its non-Jewish inhabitants? And finally, is ascending the Temple Mount – the focal point of Jewish longing for 2000 years – an act of religious courage, or a dangerous game that gambles with Jewish lives?
To discuss this and much more, Scott spoke with Yossi Klein Halevi, the author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor and other books.
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Music: “Happy Rock” by bensound.com
Photograph by Ethan Roberts