We've all seen the footage of 9/11 a thousand times, mourned the nearly 3,000 dead (including my good friend, Christopher Cairo Newton, who perished in the crash of Flight 77). We know the atrocities perpetrated by Muslim. We've also seen, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the murders of George Tiller and Bernard Slepian, what fanatical Christians can do. We also know, to some degree, that there have been Jews, like Menachem Begin and Baruch Goldstein and Meir Kahane, who have embraced guerrilla-like or terrorist tactics to exert political influence and to kill innocent people. As a Jew, I have struggled with the reality of other Jews who have committed or sanctioned horrific acts in the name of Zionism.
Now comes this article in Tabletmag by Elizabeth Rubin about the education of Israeli teenage girls to become warriors for Gush Emunim, a messianic political movement that inspires the ultra-orthodox, extreme right wing to settle the West Bank. It's a frightening piece on several levels: first, the way the patriarchal orthodox movement has indoctrinated these girls to "initiate" the coming of the Messiah rather than wait for God to bring them redemption; second, for utterances like this to describe these girls:
“Aren’t they beautiful?” a psychiatrist and playwright from Jerusalem asked me, of such girls. “Pure faith mixed with youth. It’s the most erotic thing.”
When [the Jewish settlement in Gaza] Gush Katif was evacuated, Ben Zimra, like many radical rabbis at the time, practically severed his ties not just with the state—because “this is not a state loyal to the laws of the Torah”—but also with the Yesha Council, which represents the West Bank settlements. In an interview shortly after the evacuation, he said, “What the Yesha Council should have done, when the evacuation from Gush Katif took place, is say to all the rabbis and soldiers and officers in the army that the expulsion is against the Torah, and refuse to be a partner to this crime.”
He knew that what he was saying was revolutionary and he took it a step further. “The religious Zionist person says there is a state and I’m part of it. We say the opposite. We are the state.”
And, finally, this:
A senior I met at Ofra’s high school named Shachar was eerily articulate about exactly what defined this generation of girls. “Our life has more meaning than kids brought up in America,” she said. “We are brought up not to waste our time. We can’t go on Facebook at school. We volunteer in our free time because what matters is not me, it’s the nation,” she said. Politically too they were fairly united. “Two states, two lands is not an option. This land is ours. We don’t close our eyes to the fact that Palestinians are living on the other side of the fence. But our parents come from the United States. We grew up in this situation. It’s more burning for us.”
So there it is. It's pretty hard not to draw parallels between this kind of thinking, and the radicalized thinking that compels a young Arab man to strap on a bomb and kill himself in order to take out as many non-believers as he can, or the unhinged Dominionist thinking among the New Apostolic Reformation that believes America is a Christian nation and that Christian are compelled by the Bible to dominate all levels of society. It's the thinking that is borne out of being a True Believer. Whatever the religious text, a True Believer cannot be reasoned with into accepting that their way of thinking is flawed, is contrary to human nature. To the True Believer, faith in the word of God trumps all reason.