Gush Emunim

Settling all the land.

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But Gush Emunim was by no means monolithic, and there were many clashes within the movement. Moderates wanted to concentrate on settling the land while downplaying the messianic undertones; militants emphasized the redemptive aspects of the settlements and were interested in rebuilding the Temple, displacing the Arabs, and re-establishing the biblical kingdom. In addition, about 20 percent of Gush Emunim supporters were secular, attracted to the movement by its idealism and nationalism, rather than by its messianic aspects.

The Success of Gush Emunim

In light of its view that settling the Land of Israel will hasten the redemptive process, Gush Emunim established settlements throughout the territories captured in 1967, especially in Judea and Samaria. The belief that Jews have a God-given right to settle every part of the Land of Israel--and that no government, foreign or Israeli, has the right to prevent this--became a central pillar in the tactics and planning of the movement. 

After the conservative Likud party won control of the Israeli government in 1977, Gush Emunim found a sympathetic partner in Prime Minister Menachem Begin and other hawkish leaders, who supported Gush Emunim's efforts to populate large areas of Judea and Samaria in order to thwart the possibility of an eventual "Land for Peace" agreement with the Palestinians. 

Gush Emunim members also succeeded in bringing the practical-messianic message to center stage, as Gush Emunim's philosophy became widely accepted within the religious community. Many students of Merkaz Harav and similar yeshivot became teachers in the state religious school system, allowing them to disseminate "practical-messianic" notions on a large scale. Additionally, the personal commitment of Gush Emunim members inspired the young generation, many of whom joined the ranks of the settlers. 

Gush Emunim saw itself as taking the baton of pioneering Zionism and running to complete the Zionist vision, bringing the redemptive process to a zenith. The Gush Emunim outlook became normative in most national religious circles, although many moderate Orthodox rabbis, educators, and leaders were vocal in their opposition to the movement.

Ideological or Settlement Movement?

Following the death of Tzvi Yehudah Kook in 1983, conflicts among Gush Emunim leaders intensified. 

Rabbi Moshe Levinger, for example, felt the movement's leaders were too involved in politics and settlement building, leading to the loss of ideology and direction. He told the Ha'aretz newspaper: "Over the years, we continually talked about the value of Jewish settlements…We never mention the Jewish people's spiritual mission in the world, our duty to be a 'kingdom of priests and a holy nation,' nor do we explain that, just as that mission could never have been carried out in Uganda, it can never be carried out in only part of the Land of Israel." 

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Rabbi Ed Snitkoff

Rabbi Ed Snitkoff is the Director of the Ramah Israel Seminar and lives in Jerusalem.