‘… the expression of an almost inevitable development of the Zionist project’
Post-Zionism and the Temple
Dr. Ron Naiweld, who studies the literature of Hazal (the ancient Jewish sages) at CNRS (the National Center for Scientific Research) in France, and is doing research on the “rabbinization” of the Jewish world, sees the growth of the Temple movements as part of a post-Zionist trend. “The Zionist project has, in a way, run its course, and in its place movements are arising that are asking questions about the substance, content and legitimacy of that project,” he said. “It is yet another post-Zionist movement, really − like the ‘state of all its citizens’ idea. It’s a movement that said: ‘Zionism has brought us to here and now it’s time to move on, to continue from here. And this is the time of our redemption.’
“The religious redemption discourse possesses a logic of its own,” he continued. “The issue of the Temple remains a last protuberance, a dangling tooth that enables the religious Zionists to say, in the face of the religious injunction not to hasten the end, ‘Look, we are not hastening the end; when it comes to the Temple, we are waiting.’ It remains a last, disconnected remnant from all the rest of the activity of the religious Zionist movement. The messianic fervor, which assumed strong activist traits in the settlement project, shunted everything else aside. You cling to every bit of desolate land of a downtrodden Palestinian village, but you forgo the Temple Mount? There really is no logic to it. Until 1967, there was a compromise between two types of discourse, but after 1967, religious Zionism became more militant, with messianic fervor gaining the upper hand over pragmatism.”
From the time of the Second Temple, Naiweld explained, there have been two approaches in the Jewish world to the essence of halakhic law. “Daniel Schwartz addressed this subject 20 years ago in a groundbreaking article. There is the approach of the priests, which presents a realistic conception of halakha, holding that the law is determined by the nature of things. In other words, something will be pure or impure because it is pure or impure by the nature of its creation; because God created it pure or impure. In the face of this, there is the Pharisaic-rabbinical conception of the law, which is a nominalist concept. It holds that the halakha was determined by the human agent, which in the case of the Talmud consists of a group of rabbis who decide whether something is pure or impure, and this categorization does not derive from the inherent nature of the things.
“The struggle between these two approaches existed throughout Jewish history,” he added. “In the Second Temple period, it is seen in the struggle between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. You can see it in the form of people like [the late] Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sanctify the law, the halakha, which is the determining element: intellectual religiosity, as compared with messianic movements − for whom halakha is divine law, because it expresses the true nature of objects and of human beings. That is why viewpoints like this will assume a very essentialist direction in terms of racism as well, because of the difference between Jews and Gentiles: A Jew is by the nature of his creation a purer being. Similarly with the holiness of the land: The soil of Israel is essentially holier, the stones are holier because the land was destined by God to serve as the place of the Children of Israel.”
Can it be said that these movements are the avant-garde of contemporary Judaism?
“It is an avant-garde that is the expression of an almost inevitable development of the Zionist project. And secular Zionism has nothing of interest to offer that can withstand these arguments. After all, the redemption is already under way; the Jews have already returned to the Land of Israel and the settlement enterprise is highly active. It doesn’t make sense for that activism to stop just before the Temple. That is the next logical target. There is no reason to stop at the Holy of Holies. If everything is so holy, then what is holiest is even more holy.”