Itamar Ben Gvir and the Rise of Religious Zionism
The rise of Religious Zionism as shown in the Israeli elections last month and the current coalition negotiations
Saturday, December 17, 2022
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Psalm 102:13-16 “thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for time to favour her, yea the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.”
We certainly live in momentous times - a period of the worlds history that probably has no parallel. Favour is being shown to Zion. Difficult times, yes, but it is all leading in one direction - to the building up of Zion. We are seeing things that many throughout history have hoped to see. We can be encouraged by these things, with the sure knowledge that God is preparing the land of Israel and its people for the great day of redemption that cannot be far away.
The words of Brother John Thomas may be well known to us, when he comments that there are two stages to the restoration of the Jewish people - the first is before the battle of Armageddon and the second after it. The first stage of restoration is what we are witnessing today as spoken about in Joel 3:1 - the days when God will bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. In the words of John Thomas - “there is then a partial and primary restoration of the Jews before the advent of Christ which is to serve as the nucleus, or basis of future operations in the restoration of the rest of the children of Israel.” We are witnessing in our times, the primary restoration that brother Thomas looked for over 150 years ago. This primary restoration will be the nucleus for future operations - this nucleus has been formed on the mountains of Israel. This should be absolutely thrilling for us to see.
The once desolate, barren mountains, that stood empty for centuries are being built upon once again. Settlement by settlement, caravan by caravan, the frontiers of Judea and Samaria expanding. As each family moves to join another settlement community, as new roads and infrastructure is built, the words of the prophet Ezekiel are materialising in front of us:
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded”
The rise of Religious Zionism is a phenomenon that has taken place since the times six day war. One of its key founders was a man called Rabbi Kook who was the head of the yeshiva Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. He was one of the first practically envision the settlement of the mountains of Israel in modern times. An example of his thinking in this regard can be seen in a speech he made just before the six day war. These were his words:
"Nineteen years ago, on that famous night, when the decision of the establishment of the State of Israel was made by the governors of the nations of the world, when all the people flocked to the streets to publicly celebrate, I could not take part in the joy. In those first hours I could not make peace with what was done, with the horrible news, that God's words from the prophecy in the Twelve Prophets: "My land was divided" was coming true. Where is our Hebron? Are we forgetting it? And where is our Nablus? Are we forgetting it? And where is our Jericho? Are we forgetting it? And where is our east side of the Jordan? Where is every lump and chunk? Every bit and piece of the four cubits of God's land? Is it up to us to give up any millimeter of it? God forbid! In the state of shock that took over my body, completely bruised and torn to pieces – I could not rejoice then.”
Hanan Porat, another of the yeshiva’s dominant students and founder of the settlement movement in his own right recalled the occasion:
“In those days, no one spoke of the complete Land of Israel," said Porat, "the concepts 'Hebron' and 'Nablus' did not exist. It was like after the War of Independence a screen fell on all those pieces of land beyond the Green Line, even though they were a part of the land's backbone, they seemed like something far out of our reach. It was a very hard thing.”
From that time on, religious zionsim has grown exponentially as a movement, as have the settlements on the mountains of Israel. The rise of this ideology can be seen continuing to grow today as demonstrated by the elections that took place six weeks ago. A new right wing coalition is emerging with some familiar faces - like Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party and likely incoming prime minister. But on the other hand, these elections will be remembered for another reason - the rise of Itamar Ben Gvir and the religious zionist parties.
With a large number of seats, these right wing parties have been demanding ministerial positions in Netanyahu’s government - this is the reason why negotiations have taken so long. Although none of the official coalition deals between the Likud and its partners have been signed yet, most are reportedly final, with the Likud is hashing out the final details of its deal with United Torah Judaism. The other partners are Shas, the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam.
Although not set in stone yet, the details of the some of the deals that have been struck is exciting for settlement movement. Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionist movement will likely serve as a minister within the defence ministry. This week the Knesset passed the first reading of the “Smotrich Law”. This enables MK Smotrich to serve as a minister within the defense ministry, responsible for civil matters in the West Bank. Surely this will result in policies that are pro the settlement movement, allowing the words of the prophet Ezekiel to move forward with greater speed.
Another piece of legislation passed its first reading this week was an amendment to the police law, so that the would-be national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir will receive broader control over the police budget and greater involvement in police priorities. This will probably result in a harder line being taken by the state of Israel towards terror.
An illustration of the scale of Ben-Gvir’s rise in Israeli politics is that in March 2020, his party Otzma Yehudit was shunned by other right wingers and only received 0.42% of the votes. Today, it is a very different picture.
We wait to see how the coalition may develop over the next couple of weeks, knowing that God’s purpose will continue to be outworked on the mountains of Israel.
This has been Daniel Blackburn joining you for this weeks edition of Bible in the news.