Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

Confronting the extremists in our midst

Settlers pray as cars and homes burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Why we need a strategy to address the messianists among us

When news came out about the IDF drill simulating Jewish settlers kidnapping Palestinians, a friend admitted she felt relieved the government might finally be taking the threat from our own messianists seriously. “For months we’ve been fighting a bunch of religious lunatics in Gaza who couldn’t care less about putting their people at risk so long as they fight for the land from the river to the sea,” she said. “All while our own people have been getting more and more vocal about their own religious fantasies and acting on it, too.”

Admittedly, I felt similarly. As a practicing traditional Jew, I believe that this is the land we came from no less than the hilltop youth on the extreme vanguard of the settler movement. A land our ancestors claimed as their own. The only land our people has ever been from. I would like nothing more than to feel we have completed the cycle from exile to redemption, that we have returned home with the grace of the Eternal.

Yet as a Zionist, I believe the People of Israel need a national home to live in safely so that we may realize our collective potential and fulfill our collective purpose. I believe that the messianists taking bolder and more violent steps to threaten and harm Palestinians are increasingly threatening the very existence of the state. I believe that the attacks on farmers working their orchards are not only immoral, violating the commandment to protect fruit trees even during times of war, they also sabotage our international standing and weaken our defenses. It shouldn’t be the United States sanctioning these criminals. It should be the Jewish state that holds them accountable, a state built on an age-old tradition that holds that we should have one law for the Hebrews and the strangers in our midst, that we should treat the stranger as we treat ourselves.

It would be folly to ignore this existential threat from within. Repeatedly throughout our history, our people suffered from the irresponsibility of religious zealotry and its political outcomes. So much so that we have created holidays and customs to remind ourselves, year after year, that we cannot rely on the Eternal to fight our battles and protect us from foreign threats:

  • On Tzom Gedalia (the fast day remembering Gedalia) we remember that our zealots murdered a Hebrew Babylonian-appointed governor leading to the destruction of the Kingdom Judah and the end of our autonomy.
  • On Tisha b’Av (the fast day remembering the destruction of our Temples, among other tragedies over the ages) we remember the destruction of the Temple not only due to our internal divisions, but also because the zealots burned Jerusalem’s food stock and made it easy for Roman soldiers to defeat us.
  • On Lag Ba’Omer, we remember the disastrous destruction of Jewish autonomy in the Land of Israel following the failed Bar Kochva rebellion, and the gruesome murder of the greatest religious minds of the rabbinic movement – most prominent among them Rabbi Akiva himself.

Learning from our tradition and our history, we must be very wary of the current wave of messianism convincing ministers in our own government that they have the Eternal’s blessing to capture every inch of our ancestral land without regard to the human or political cost. Let us remind the messianists that not Abraham, not Itzhak, not Jacob, not even Joshua Ben-Nun, not even King David, had the privilege to govern the whole of the Land we all hold so dear. We cannot allow ourselves to be generous to these messianic fantasies. As with any messianic group, lack of enforcement only feeds into their belief in the inevitability of their vision and draws out increasingly extreme measures as they feel the apocalypse is near.

Confronting messianism will require not only enforcement of our own laws, but also a deeper and more strategic push to address and counter the messianic impulse among the communities who have gained unprecedented power in this current government. A group that has captured the Ministry of Finance and directed its funds towards further solidifying their control of our national destiny. A group that is openly advocating for ethnic cleansing and putting all of Israel at risk of international sanctions.

It is a national imperative that all Zionists, that all lovers of Israel, confront messianism directly and resolutely. Because this is inherently a religious problem, the solution cannot come from the secular camp. Confronting messianism must be the mission of religious Zionists. Of traditional Israel. Loudly, and without compromise. Just as religious zealotry in previous centuries was met by religious clarity, so too today we require a concerted push by the non-messianic religious authorities to counter the dangerous aspirations that put us all at risk.

What the secular camp, what traditional Jews in Israel and around the world can do, is to support the development of a concerted religious push against messianism. Now is the time to lend our support to religious leaders who recognize the danger and are dedicated to avoiding the same mistakes made by our ancestors. Mistakes that cost us our land and our lives. We have too many fast days as it is. Let us hope we can avoid adding another one commemorating the implosion of the modern State of Israel.

About the Author
A global expert on mission-driven innovation and social entrepreneurship, Ariel is a serial founder and institution builder with ventures on every side of the innovation ecosystem. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
Related Topics
Related Posts