Few days ago, An Arab Israeli entered a major Jewish fundamentalist religious school (Yeshiva) and opened fire from his AK-47 assault rifle. In a couple of minutes he killed 8 yeshiva students, 7 of whom were under the age of 19 years. He was shot dead on site by a police officer (although an earlier report suggested he was shot by an armed students).
This was an apparent revenge for the Israeli operation in Gaza that left over 120 Palestinians dead, at least half of them civilians, with nearly 30 children among the civilian deaths.
The Merkaz Harav Yeshiva was established more than 80 years ago in British-mandated Palestine, and has produced many of the key figures in Religious Zionism. It has been pivotal in the development of the settlement movement in Gaza and the West Bank.
Haaretz's Gideon Levi discusses in this article the centrality of Merkaz Harav to the settlement movement, and its impact on the Israeli political scene.
Some excerpts from the article are presented here, but the full article can be read on Tikkun
"The flagship of religious Zionism" was the common expression used, the "holy of holies"; there was even a hyperbolic comparison to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of sanctity.While its importance cannot be overstated, its impact has not a positive one in his opinion.
No one can explain in depth the magical powers of extortion this group has obtained. Nor can anyone ignore the damage it has caused the country. Without the settlement enterprise, peace might have reigned here already; without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim.As a right wing religious school, it has trained a large number of very influential ultra conservative rabbis that continue to shape the attitude of orthodox Israeli Jews regarding peace and resolution of the ideological and territorial dispute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Religious leaders such as Rabbis Moshe Levinger, Haim Druckman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zefania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all idolized by their students, raised generations of nationalist youths within those walls.
Rabbi Lior, for example, head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, ruled in 2004 that the Israel Defense Forces was allowed to kill innocent people. How do these words sound now, after the attack in Jerusalem? Is the permission ours alone? Back then, Lior ruled that, "There should be no feeling of guilt at the morality of foreigners."
In 2002, Rabbi Aviner, another graduate of the yeshiva, called for the execution of Israelis who refused to serve in the military. Back then the refusal came from left-wingers, of course. Aviner also ruled that war casualties are no cause for national grief, and he called for the abolition of Yom Hazikaron, the annual day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers. He compared the road map peace plan to the appeasement of Hitler and considers the evacuation of settlements an "illegal crime."Gideon Levi, though not a fan of that Religious Zionism cradle, does not condone or justify in any way the terror that has been inflicted on the 8 young men that were slaughtered few days ago on the hands of an East Jerusalem Israeli Arab. And, in the same breath, he denounces the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians of Gaza few days earlier on the hands of the Israeli Army.
The killing at the yeshiva is heartrending. No one deserved it. The innocents in Gaza and the victims at Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem were all an unnecessary sacrifice. They have already paid the highest possible price. Their families and those around them will probably adopt even more radical positions now, and so we will be led into another round of endless bloodshed.Any one cares to bet how long before the next cycle starts, and how many more lives will be lost? My best guess: a week or two, and 2-3 dozen lives lost, at least.
Any one cares to guess if any of this coming bloodshed will bring us closer to a solution, no matter what that solution is? My answer is NO. I am not guessing, I am certain of it.
Read the full article on Tikkun