The Masada Complex

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Many Israelis openly proclaim themselves atheists, without for a moment renouncing their identity as Jews. Such a dichotomy would be impossible for a Moslem. Because they have never reached agreement on what they are, Jews have tolerated an amazing amount of ideological diversity among themselves. Thus Israel can be a "Jewish state" — i.

In saying this, I am not forgetting that religion is a major force in Israeli politics. Religious Jews, of varying shades of orthodoxy, represent a significant proportion of Israel's population. Some are so orthodox that they reject the state itself, on the grounds the Bible tells them that only the Messiah can re-create Israel.

These Jews do not participate in politics, or serve in the army, though they are aggressive in protecting their political interests by demonstrations and other forms of direct action. Other religious Jews, reading God's commandments differently, are less fastidious about the Messiah's prerogatives and support political parties for the purpose of promoting religious orthodoxy as the state ideology.

The Masada Complex

In current American jargon, Israel's religious parties would be called "single-issue" parties. Though only fifteen percent of the voters cast ballots for them in national elections, by one of the curiosities of Israeli politics their seats in parliament have invariably represented a swing group between the coalitions of right and left. To form and maintain governments, the two sides have traditionally outdone each other in offering them rewards in return for support. Thus these parties have wielded disproportionate power throughout Israel's history, and have given the country a more orthodox institutional structure most noticeable in the legal system than their voting constituency would appear to justify.

But the Judaic resurgence is not really a phenomenon of religious orthodoxy.

The Masada Complex - Commentary

As Jews use the term, orthodoxy refers to religious dogmas and practices which, for the most part, originated in Europe in the Middle Ages. The most quintessential of the orthodox Jews are the bearded and somberly clad Hasids, whose principal preoccupation is Talmudic study, and who are concentrated in certain quarters in Jerusalem which, no doubt, look much like the Polish ghettos of the 17th century.

Though the Judaic resurgence has found allies in the religious parties, furthermore, it has not appreciably strengthened their position within the political system. In fact, the Judaic resurgence bears a greater resemblance to its Islamic counterpart than it does to orthodox Judaism. It prefers to influence the political system by outside intimidation, rather than inside maneuvers. More important, its religious zealotry is directed not to the attainment of new levels of spirituality but to a political end, the spread of the Jews' dominion to enhance the glory of God. I suspect there may be no coincidence in the resemblance between the Judaic and the Islamic resurgence.

I wrote in an earlier APF Reporter of my disagreement with those who held that the Islamic wave is the product of a new self-confidence in the Moslem world. On the contrary, I argued, it is the harvest of thirty years of freedom from colonial domination, which have produced little but "social frustration, inner doubt and profound feelings of inadequacy". One should note, I think, that the Judaic resurgence does not date back to the Six-Day War of , when Israeli forces swept buoyantly across the territory of Israel's enemies, destroying armies and seizing land. Rather, its beginnings were noticed after the Yom Kippur War of , when Israel, though ultimately triumphant, was shaken to its roots, not merely by the unexpected military powers of Egypt but by its own complacency and unpreparedness, by the discord and ineptitude of its leadership, by its own moral flabbiness.

If there is a prototype of the adherent to the Judaic resurgence, I would say it is a young man or woman who has attended a university, has been trained in a profession, is upwardly mobile — and remains a trifle insecure. The ranks of Gush Emunim, the organizational spearhead of the movement, seem to me to be filled with people who meet this description. Israel's Gush Emunim people are looking for roots for their lives in the hills of the West Bank. I confess I was reminded in talking to Gush Emunim people of members I have met of the religious cults which have abounded in America in recent wars.

I found them open, friendly and totally convinced of their own righteousness. I have wondered whether it is the wave that has swept through the Middle East that is also producing cultists, fundamentalist Christians and other forms of zealots throughout the West.

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In addition to being rich archaeological site that offers a window into the history of the region, Masada is also a beautiful natural wonder in the middle of the desert. Many Israelis and active tourists come just as much for the enchanting morning hike up Masada as they do for the site itself. Most tourists get to the top of Masada via the cable car. These hi-tech, Israeli-engineered cable cars were upgraded for the expected increase in tourism for the year and are an attraction on their own.

The Credibility of Josephus

Theirs was the last battle, in 73 CE, three years after the Romans destroyed the Jewish Second Temple, resulting in the Jewish Diaspora, splintering Jews to many corners of the earth, longing all the while to return to their homeland. Several sites have been semi-reconstructed by expert archaeologists, with lines painted on the stones to distinguish the interpretive add-ons.

The refurbished Masada complex houses the Masada Museum, in tribute to the leading Israeli archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, for his spearheading work on Masada and other contributions to Israeli history. Given its glorious view and history, Masada is the site for both public and private events.

Many public music concerts take place at Masada, including philharmonic, opera, and popular singers like David Broza. There are fees for both entrance to the park and the cable car. These Jews do not participate in politics, or serve in the army, though they are aggressive in protecting their political interests by demonstrations and other forms of direct action. Other religious Jews, reading God's commandments differently, are less fastidious about the Messiah's prerogatives and support political parties for the purpose of promoting religious orthodoxy as the state ideology.

In current American jargon, Israel's religious parties would be called "single-issue" parties. Though only fifteen percent of the voters cast ballots for them in national elections, by one of the curiosities of Israeli politics their seats in parliament have invariably represented a swing group between the coalitions of right and left. To form and maintain governments, the two sides have traditionally outdone each other in offering them rewards in return for support. Thus these parties have wielded disproportionate power throughout Israel's history, and have given the country a more orthodox institutional structure most noticeable in the legal system than their voting constituency would appear to justify.

But the Judaic resurgence is not really a phenomenon of religious orthodoxy.

source url As Jews use the term, orthodoxy refers to religious dogmas and practices which, for the most part, originated in Europe in the Middle Ages. The most quintessential of the orthodox Jews are the bearded and somberly clad Hasids, whose principal preoccupation is Talmudic study, and who are concentrated in certain quarters in Jerusalem which, no doubt, look much like the Polish ghettos of the 17th century.

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Though the Judaic resurgence has found allies in the religious parties, furthermore, it has not appreciably strengthened their position within the political system. In fact, the Judaic resurgence bears a greater resemblance to its Islamic counterpart than it does to orthodox Judaism. It prefers to influence the political system by outside intimidation, rather than inside maneuvers.

More important, its religious zealotry is directed not to the attainment of new levels of spirituality but to a political end, the spread of the Jews' dominion to enhance the glory of God. I suspect there may be no coincidence in the resemblance between the Judaic and the Islamic resurgence. I wrote in an earlier APF Reporter of my disagreement with those who held that the Islamic wave is the product of a new self-confidence in the Moslem world.

The Masada Complex

On the contrary, I argued, it is the harvest of thirty years of freedom from colonial domination, which have produced little but "social frustration, inner doubt and profound feelings of inadequacy". One should note, I think, that the Judaic resurgence does not date back to the Six-Day War of , when Israeli forces swept buoyantly across the territory of Israel's enemies, destroying armies and seizing land. Rather, its beginnings were noticed after the Yom Kippur War of , when Israel, though ultimately triumphant, was shaken to its roots, not merely by the unexpected military powers of Egypt but by its own complacency and unpreparedness, by the discord and ineptitude of its leadership, by its own moral flabbiness.

If there is a prototype of the adherent to the Judaic resurgence, I would say it is a young man or woman who has attended a university, has been trained in a profession, is upwardly mobile — and remains a trifle insecure. The ranks of Gush Emunim, the organizational spearhead of the movement, seem to me to be filled with people who meet this description.

Israel's Gush Emunim people are looking for roots for their lives in the hills of the West Bank. I confess I was reminded in talking to Gush Emunim people of members I have met of the religious cults which have abounded in America in recent wars. I found them open, friendly and totally convinced of their own righteousness.

I have wondered whether it is the wave that has swept through the Middle East that is also producing cultists, fundamentalist Christians and other forms of zealots throughout the West. The Gush Emunim people all talked to me of a search for roots, for belonging, for a purpose to life, which they have found in the fervor of the Judaic resurgence. Other characteristics which the Judaic resurgence holds in common with its Islamic counterpart are an extreme intolerance of disagreement, and a penchant for violence.

I suppose the two go hand-in-hand, at least in societies like those in the Middle East, that are accustomed to bloodshed as the standard concomitant of political struggle. I learned in Egypt recently that the Moslem Brotherhood has added to its program of breaking up left-wing political meetings and rock concerts the burning of Christian churches. In Israel, where information is more easily disseminated, it is public information that Jewish fanatics on the West Bank have shot at Arab demonstrators, have beaten up Arabs at random and have even defaced Arab places of worship.

It is a tribute to the power of both these resurgent movements that they have managed to perpetrate such acts, if not with impunity, then without the state's exacting serious penalties for them. Even more alarming, to me, is the power the Judaic resurgence has shown to deter the state, through the threat of collective violence, from pursuing its legitimate political goals.