Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Attack will be seen in Messianic terms
Amir Mizroch , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 7, 2008

While defense establishment officials sitting in the Kiriya military headquarters in Tel-Aviv ponder the diplomatic-security implications of last night's attack, a totally different analysis will be taking place this weekend around Shabbat dinner tables across Jerusalem and most West Bank settlements.

The people directly affected by the deadly terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva are not just the students, their relatives and friends, but the much wider larger segment of the religious Zionist public. This segment of the population, already seething with anger, which started with the Disengagement in 2005, the Amona pullout, the government promises to America remove illegal outposts, the continued diplomatic process launched at Annapolis and its emphasis to talk about all topics, including Jerusalem, is going to be extremely unhappy about this attack. Together with the grief and sorrow, there is going to be a lot of angry talk about good and evil, about a religious war over the Holy Land.

This attack was aimed specifically for the religious Zionist and settler population, and the terrorists knew that by speaking in this language, to these people, their message could only be interpreted in one way. This will be seen in terms of Ishmael and Isaac.

Being messianic religious people, the religious Zionists are going to see this attack through the prism of messianic prophecy. Already I am hearing on religious Zionist radio stations people talking about the attack in prophetic terms, such as Isaiah 59 verse 20: And a redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.

Settler radio talk- show hosts are interpreting this prophecy by saying that if the Jews don't stop Hamas, the Palestinians, Hizbullah and any other Islamic fundamentalists God will force the Jews to do it. The talk-show hosts blame Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres, and several callers into the broadcasts are unanimous in their condemnation of the Israeli government and calling on its removal.

The fact that the Foreign Ministry has already come out with a formal statement saying the attack won't derail the talks with the Palestinian Authority will only fuel the anger of the settler population this weekend. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Knesset from Sunday and the implications on the coalition. Shas will come under immense pressure to bolt the government.

At the funeral procession speeches Friday at the Yeshiva, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar began his comments with the Psalm for Assaf: "They have spilled blood like water around Jerusalem."

Many of the top leadership of the religious Zionist movement, speaking at the funerals, spoke of revenge of the blood. The fact that the Jewish students were killed in a house of God touched the most basic nerve of many Israelis, and especially of the religious Zionist public.

The rabbis called on the students not to carry out acts of revenge, saying that judgment is in God's realm. "God's vengeance will come swiftly," Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu's secretary cried out in his rabbi's name. The eulogists also praised the deceased for their studiousness and deep connection to Torah and entreated those in attendance not to falter in their study of the sacred writ.

Very few people outside the religious Zionist population have even heard of Mercaz Harav, let alone know somebody who studies there. This was not an attack aimed at the wider Israeli public, but a strategic attack against a very vocal public who will be demanding action of the government. There may even be some on the fringes of the settlement movement who will want to take the law into their own hands and carry out a revenge attack, maybe even against targets in East Jerusalem, where it looks like the killer came from.

The fact that the attack was carried out in the way it was - live fire, chasing down the students and shooting them at point blank range, as well as confirming the kills - and not by a suicide bombing, will add to the sense of brutality, of the narrative of good versus evil.

For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs

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