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The Tragedy of Amona

If Amona stays, and with it the other settlements outside of the settlement blocs, we certainly will not have the peace we are praying for.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute and holds the Kaufman Family Chair in Jewish Philosophy. He is author of the highly regarded 2016 book, Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself, and is the host of the award-winning For Heaven’s Sake, one of the most popular Jewish podcasts in North America. Donniel is the founder of some of the most extensive education, training and enrichment programs for scholars,

First posted on Times of Israel

It’s a sad day. Sad because fellow Jews are experiencing trauma. The inhabitants of Amona have been forced to leave their homes and embark upon an uncertain future, and thousands of Israeli soldiers and police have been subjected to attack — physical, emotional, and verbal.

It is a tragic day, because this trauma is being manipulated to silence the real issues at hand: Where should Israel’s borders ideally lie? And more importantly, what type of people do we want to be?

Most of us here in Israel, whether left, right, or center, recognize that territorial compromise and the formation of a Palestinian state are not on the table in the present or immediate future. While we want peace now, we do not have peace now. This ought not, however, divert us from thinking and determining Israel’s ideal borders – if there will and can be peace tomorrow.

I know that today Amona is not the hindrance to peace. It can, however, be a hindrance to a peace that one day may bless our land.

Since the Second Intifada, and the belief that we extended our hands in peace, and they said, “No,” and with the failure of our unilateral withdrawal from Gaza to change the status quo of Palestinian hostility toward Israel, we have stopped thinking about tomorrow, about the borders we can live within. Because we cannot have peace now, we have stopped planning for peace tomorrow. We pray for it, but don’t plan for it.

If Amona stays, and with it the other settlements outside of the settlement blocs, we certainly will not have the peace we are praying for. We will not have a State of Israel living in peace and security, but rather an Israel engaged in ongoing conflict, alienated from Palestinians and our Arab neighbors, and a pariah in the international community.

I don’t want peace now, for it is unrealistic and naive, and in the Middle East when one is unrealistic and naive, one dies. I do, however, want peace tomorrow. I want borders that — if the possibility arises — can enable such a peace. I want a vibrant discussion and respectful debate within Israel about our aspirations for tomorrow. I am saddened when the trauma of today hinders our hopes, our vision, and our ability to plan for the actualization of these hopes and implementation of this vision.

Today is a sad day, for the trauma of Amona is being used as an excuse for not talking about who we want to be. Since no one enjoys or celebrates the pain of removing people from their homes, it is easy to vilify those who support such actions. It is easy to forget that the trauma of Amona is not the result of the Supreme Court’s decision to enforce international law, but rather the result of the decision to permit its building in the first place.

The strategy of the settler movement and the political right is to make sure that today was as traumatic and difficult as possible, pushing the lines of protest and disobedience, acquiescing to some (limited) measures of violence that hopefully stop before actual bloodshed. The more horrific the evacuation, the easier it is to argue that we ought not to be a people who uproot Jews from their homes.

I do not want to remove people from their homes, but I also do not want to be a people that sanctions the theft of others’ land. I do not want to be a people who protect their inalienable rights to life and security and forgets that inalienable rights are not the inheritance of Jews alone.

As a Jew who believes that all humankind is created in the image of God, and as a Zionist who believes in my people’s right to sovereignty, dignity, and safety, I cannot but hope for a day when these will be the inheritance of the Palestinian people, as well.

Today is not that day. Today is a day of sadness and trauma. Let it not be a day when we declare that the Amonas will not fall again, but a day when we declare that the Amonas should not be built again.

Let us embrace the vision of the reality that we pray for, and commit to the policies that will enable this vision to become a reality. Let us collectively mourn the pain and sadness that is in abundance today, and at the same time mourn the blindness that it is inspiring. It is not in our hands to prevent today’s pain. It is in our hands to reclaim our vision.

You care about Israel, peoplehood, and vibrant, ethical Jewish communities. We do too.

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