GUSH EMUNIM

GUSH EMUNIM ("The Bloc of the Faithful"), a spiritual-political movement established for the purpose of implementing its belief that the establishment of the State of Israel constitutes the "Beginning of the Redemption" which will lead to the ultimate complete Redemption by settling the entire area west of the Jordan. Although their program included Zionist education, political propaganda, aliyah, settlement, and social aims, in practice they confined themselves to the question of settlement in the areas liberated in the Six-Day War. Gush Emunim was formally founded in Kefar Etzyon at the beginning of 1974. Its founders came from the national religious party , the Land of Israel Movement, the religious settlements, the pupils of the Mercaz ha-Rav Yeshivah, the bnei akiva yeshivot, and Orthodox academicians and the young Orthodox generation. Their first practical step was taken in May 1974 to protest the intended return of Quneitra to Syria. They proceeded to establish a new settlement (Keshet) to serve as a barrier against withdrawal. During 1974 various attempts were made by the Elon Moreh group of Gush Emunim to establish a settlement in Samaria. At the first attempt, near the army camp at Ḥoron, Rabbi Ẓevi Judah Kook, whom they regard as their spiritual father, General Arik Sharon, and MKS Zevulun Hammer, Judah Ben Meir, and Geulah Cohen participated, but on the orders of the prime minister they were forcibly removed by the army. The same fate met six subsequent attempts. An eighth attempt to settle at the old railway station of Sebaste on Hanukkah of 1975 was attended by thousands of sympathizers who remained there for eight days. As a result of negotiations they were permitted to settle in the military camp at Kaddum near Sebaste. At the same time, settlements were established at Ophra in May 1975 in an abandoned Jordanian military camp near Mt. Ba'al Ḥazor, which was declared a work camp, with the permission of the then Defense Minister Shimon Peres. Immediately after his election victory in May 1977, Menaḥem Begin announced that henceforth there would be "many Kaddums," and it was officially declared a settlement. As a result Gush Emunim urged that 12 new settlements in Judea and Samaria – which had been approved in principle by the previous government – be established simultaneously. The prime minister, however, postponed implementation of the plan after his visit with President Carter, and when on his return permission was not granted, Gush Emunim decided to act on their own on Sukkot 1977. As a result tension developed between the Gush and the new government. An agreement was subsequently reached whereby two sites would be established immediately and the other ten within five months, and from then until 1981, over 20 settlements were established by them. Some were established without government permission. The establishment of a settlement in the vicinity of Shechem was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court by Arabs as owners of the land and they won the case. The settlers were ordered to vacate the site. After heated discussions Gush Emunim decided to comply with the order and the settlement moved to Mt. Kabir, northeast of Shechem. In order to further their aims the Gush established in 1980 an organization of all the settlements in Judea and Samaria, called Amanah. During the visit of President Carter to Jerusalem in March 1979 the Gush mounted demonstrations and a number were arrested and held in detention until his departure. Gush Emunim cooperated with the Teḥiyyah party founded in October 1979. (Zvi Shiloah) -Developments in the 1980s and Early 1990s Gush Emunim played a significant role in Israeli political life from 1977. Although the declared ideology of the movement continues to emphasize Zionist renewal in all spheres of life, in practice the Gush was concerned with the implementation of policies which will make impossible the return of any of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as a result of future peace treaties or negotiations. The retention of Israeli (Jewish) control over this region was viewed as being divinely ordained, and thus not to be negated by human or democratic decision, even if it is the elected government of the State of Israel. This element of fundamentalist belief underlies all of Gush Emunim's activities. However the activities themselves – the creation of irreversible settlement facts – were implemented through the most pragmatic of means. Following the coming to power of the Likud government in 1977, the Gush presented a short-term "emergency" settlement plan to the new government, the objective of which was the establishment of 12 new settlements throughout the West Bank at locations previously rejected by the Labor government. The majority of these locations were indeed settled during the subsequent 18 months. In October 1978, Gush Emunim presented a more comprehensive blueprint for settlement in   the region. This plan focused on the establishment of a widespread network of both rural and urban settlements as a means through which Israeli sovereignty over the region could be emphasized. This plan was similar in nature to parallel blueprints proposed by the joint head of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency, Ḥerut appointee Matityahu Drobles, and the minister of agriculture, Ariel Sharon. Despite the lack of any formal government or cabinet decision in favor of these plans, public resources were nevertheless made available for their gradual implementation. The implementation of Gush Emunim settlement policy was carried out by its operational arm, the Amanah settlement movement. Formal government recognition of this movement, enabling it to become the recipient of government aid and funds, together with the legalization of the two existing Gush settlements at Ofrah and Camp Kaddum afforded legitimization to the Gush Emunim settlement objectives. Amanah included well over 50 settlements, of which nearly all are located in the West Bank (the minority were in gush katif ). The majority of these settlements were of the yishuv kehillati (community settlement) type, these being largely dormitory settlements wherein the settlers commute to the Israeli metropolitan centers for their employment. Despite their lack of domestic economic base, these settlements maintained a closed social unit and new or potential candidates must be approved by general vote. They ranged in size from around 15 to 20 families in the smaller newer settlements to over 500 families in the larger, more veteran units such as Kedumim, Bet Aryeh, and Elkanah. Gush Emunim as such did not have any formal membership and it was therefore difficult to estimate its size or actual support. While the settlers themselves constituted the grass roots of power of the movement, the Gush also succeeded in obtaining support from a variety of Knesset members in the right-of-center political parties. Although the Gush did not transform itself into a political party as such, many of its members and activists became leading figures in other parties. Knesset members of the Teḥiyyah Party from 1981 and of the Matzad faction (a breakaway from the National Religious Party) between 1984 and 1986 were Gush Emunim activists. Such personalities included Gush Emunim founder Hanan Porat of Kefar Etzyon, Rabbi Chaim Druckman – a leading figure in the Bnei Akiva national religious youth movement – and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, a head of the Kiryat Arba yeshivah. Other leading activists became the administrators of the regional councils set up to provide municipal services to the new settlements. These regional councils received their budgets through Ministry of Interior grants as well as by means of local taxes. Thus the administrators became, de facto, public service workers, in a position to advance their political objectives through the control and allocation of municipal funds. Additional organizations, such as the Council of Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Mo'eẓet Yesha) and the Sheva finance company, established to promote Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, were largely manned by Gush Emunim personalities. This gradual process of institutionalization did not include the charismatic figure of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who continued to propound the mystical fundamental tenets of the Gush Emunim ideology. His position as the unofficial leader of Gush Emunim received a setback in 1984, following the appointment of an official general secretary for the movement, Daniella Weiss – a resident of Kedumim. The Gush attempted to promote a populist image by means of an annual Independence Day Rally and hike through the West Bank as well as through organizing occasional demonstrations. The most significant rallying of ranks took place in the wake of the Camp David Accords and the subsequent withdrawal from Sinai. Gush Emunim and its leaders provided a focus for the Movement to Stop the Withdrawal from Sinai. Gush Emunim viewed the withdrawal from Sinai in general, and the destruction of Jewish settlements in particular, as a dangerous precedent for the West Bank. Many of their supporters remained in Yamit as a final protest before being forcibly removed by the Israeli army. The discovery of a Jewish underground in the West Bank and its terrorist activities in 1984, and the subsequent arrest, trial, and imprisonment of 20 Jewish settlers, three of them for life terms, caused an ideological crisis amongst the Gush Emunim ranks. Their supporters were split into two, with one camp openly denouncing the underground activity as being outside the legitimate field of play, the other camp supporting the actions as being legitimate in the face of what they saw as non-action on the part of the Israeli government to safeguard their interests. The former viewpoint was put forward by many of the Gush Emunim founders and focused around the personality of Yoel Bin-Nun from the Ofrah settlement. In time, these two camps became largely reconciled around the question of clemency for the Jewish prisoners. Opposition to Gush Emunim and their ideology remained intense, in both secular and religious sectors of the population. The peace Now Movement continued to protest against the establishment of settlements in the West Bank, which it viewed as obstacles in the achievement of any peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians. Religious opposition groups, Oz Ve Shalom and Netivot Shalom, which stress religious values of peace and the need for interethnic mutual respect, rather than the territorialism and nationalism preached by the Gush, have remained small and without influence, owing to the general identification of the religious population with the Gush Emunim viewpoint. The Gush derided the opposition movements as "speakers" only and points to their "doing" as proof of their commitment to their cause. Opponents tended to be labeled as "yefei nefesh" ("genteel souls") and as traitors to the cause of "Greater Israel." The Gush Emunim ideology is expounded in the monthly magazine Nekudah (and its occasional English version, Counterpoint), published by Mo'eẓet Yesha. Recent years have witnessed a surprising amount of academic research into Gush Emunim, focusing on the group's origins, ideological viewpoints, and the functioning of the settlement network.   The change in government in 1992 had a major impact on the West Bank settler population. On the one hand, much of the Gush Emunim political lobby was lost when the Tehiyyah party failed to gain any seats in the new Knesset. The Teḥiyyah failure was attributed, by many, to the decision of Rabbi Levinger and Daniela Weiss to run as a separate party list. This resulted in a split in the traditional Gush Emunim vote, with neither party obtaining any seats. With the intensification of the peace talks under the Rabin government, new groups were established among the West Bank settlers to replace the now defunct Gush Emunim. These included the "Emunim" movement, supposed to represent the next generation of ideologically inspired settlers, but free of the traditional Gush leadership. In addition, national-religious rabbis of the West Bank settlements formed their own organization, aimed at providing "halakhically" inspired answers to the new political dilemmas facing the settlers. Their basic message was uncompromising, returning to the traditional national-religious argument that the Divine Right to the Land of Israel cannot be voted away by government. They provided religious backing for opposition to the Rabin government peace initiatives. By 1992, the West Bank settler population (excluding East Jerusalem) had increased to beyond 100,000. Most of these continued to live in the communities and townships of Western Samaria, close to the metropolitan center of Israel. Particular emphasis was placed along the new west-east highway connecting Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley. Along this route lies the expanding town of Ariel, as well as the ultra Orthodox township of Emanuel. The gush etzyon region, to the south of Jerusalem, also underwent internal growth, centered around the township of Efrat. The West Bank settlement network itself was greatly affected by the change in government. The new planning priorities redirected resources out of the Administered Territories and back into Israel itself – especially into the Negev and Galilee. Settlers who had previously been beneficiaries of tax concessions, easy-term mortgages, low-priced land, by virtue of their living beyond the green line, now found themselves facing conditions equal to any other region in the country. In the Gaza Strip, gush katif formed a network of settlements that would become the focus of Israel's disengagement in 2005. For subsequent political events, see israel , State of: Historical Survey. (David Newman) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Kohn, Who Is Afraid of Gush Emunim? (1976); M. Aronoff, in: Political Anthropology, 3 (1985); E. Don-Yihya, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 24 (1988), 215–34; G. Goldberg and E. Ben-Zadok, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 22 (1986), 52–73; D. Newman, "The Role of Gush Emunim and the Yishuv Kehillati in the West Bank" (Ph. D. diss., University of Durham; 1981); idem, in: Jerusalem Quarterly, 39 (1986); D. Newman (ed.), The Impact of Gush Emunim (1985); idem, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 28 (1992), 509–30; Z. Ra'anan, Gush Emunim (Hebrew; 1980); E. Sprinzak, in: Jerusalem Quarterly, 21 (1981), 28–47; L. Weissbrod, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 18 (1982), 265–75.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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