Protesting the Settlers in Shul

Haim Watzman

I went to a rally against Jewish settler violence at shul yesterday.

Kehilat Yedidya is one of only a handful of Orthodox synagogues whose members can make a statement like that. And perhaps the only one in which opposition to the gathering came from the left rather than the right. My friend Daniel Avitzour stood at the door handing out leaflets protesting that some of the speakers themselves live in settlements. Settler violence, he claims, is a direct consequence of the entire settlement project, which thumbs its nose at the law and makes Palestinian life nearly unlivable.

I agree with Daniel’s analysis, but not with his decision to boycott the gathering. As I write in the Forward today, last week’s attacks by settler youth on Arabs, on soldiers, and on policemen are not an aberration—they are simply one more link in chain of violence and lawlessness that stretches back to the beginning of the settlement project. And the young people who threw the stones and burned Palestinian property are not “weeds,” as the religious Zionist leadership maintained. These young men and women are the products of a nationalist-religious educational system that has made Greater Israel a value so sacred that any law, government, or person that does not serve it may be violated, attacked, and even murdered.

If there is to be any hope of success in the battle this perversion of Judaism, we must accept all the allies we can find—including, and even in particular those religious Jews from the core of the religious Zionist community who were shocked by last week’s violence in Hebron. The violence may not really be anything new, but it has brought some settlers and their advocates face to face with the fact in their garden the weeds have long since run rampant and are quickly choking off whatever flowers might ever have grown there.