It's not been a good couple of weeks to identify as a frum Jew. It started, annoyingly enough, with an Orthodox Jew delaying a Port Airline flight in Toronto after he discovered that his seat mate was a woman. As the stories in the newspapers described, he did his machmirest to convince someone, anyone, to switch seats so he wouldn't have to sit next to her, all the while scrupulously avoiding directly acknowledging her existence.
It continued with a paranoid schizophrenic in Chareidi garb attacking merrygoers at the Yerushalayim to'evah parade with one of the victims tragically succumbing to her injuries a few days later.
And if that wasn't enough, an Arab home in Yesha was firebombed resulting in the death of one of the adults inside along with an infant. The attackers are presumed to be Jewish because of graffiti left on the scene.
But as I write this their identity has not yet been confirmed. Too many people have concluded that this terrible attack was perpetrated by radical Jewish activists in Yesha and certainly they would make logical suspects but remember that for years it was common wisdom that Mohammed al-Dura had been killed by Israeli snipers, only it turned out that he had been murdered by his fellow Arabs. It may still turn out that this was a revenge attack from within the Arab community with the murderers clever enough to leave Hebrew graffiti knowing that the press would jump to that conclusion all too willingly. And certainly if it turns out that Jews were responsible for this attack then they must be punished to the full extent of the law.
Who are these radicals then, these children of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a"h? According to different sources they are a small, disorganized group. Others say they are a growing movement working at setting up their own governing system to run in parallel with the State's since they find Israel too tolerant of its Arab population and want to do something to fix that. Some of them are messianists all too happy to work towards igniting the Gog of Magog war so that a halachic state of Israel can be created on the ashes of the secular one, ruled by Moshiach Tzidkeinu.
In short, they are the Neturei Karta of the Dati Leumi community, extremist nutbars who have taken a general philosophy and dragged it to an extreme conclusion.
Unlike the Neturei Karta these activists are not harmless nuts who are best avoided. Their tactics are disgusting and the effect they threaten to have on Jewish society is terrible.
Look, my feelings towards how Israel should run and what its population should be composed of is no secret. I think Israel should be a Jewish state with a very small Gentile minority so as to keep the vending machines and electrical grid running safely on Shabbos. If the Arab population of Israel, including Yesha, were to announce tomorrow that it is moving to Jordan and setting up shop there I'd be amongst the first to donate towards their moving costs. I would like to see a State where people kept Shabbos and no chometz could be found for the entire duration of Pesach. And I have no scruples when it comes to war. Smash the enemy, then set the terms for peace. No one cares how you won, only that you did.
I also recognize that forcing these changes before their proper time, before we have guidance from the Ribono shel Olam, could be disastrous. As it says in this weeks parsha, we have not yet come to the resting place where we are meant to be. Therefore we have to walk a fine line between disliking the situation we find ourselves in and changing it through methods that blur the distinction between us and our enemies.
From a moral standpoint this is easy to understand. If we abandon the moral high ground that we have struggled to hold throughout this long struggle we lose any internal justification for our insistence on Israel's survival. If we are no better than the enemy then we have no more rights to the land than the enemy. That alone is reason to reject the growing extremism in our midst.
But even more that there is the practical. Let's say that the extremists are, their nutso beliefs aside, correct in their approach. Negotiations haven't work. Co-existence, like the kibbutzim, is only practical in small areas with willing communities. This is one land for one people - us - and they have to go. Let's terrorize them into leaving.
Let's say that tactic leads to success. The so-called Palestinian Authority along with Hamas realize they are outmatched and there is a mass migration to Jordan or elsewhere. Then what?
Then we will discover that the savagery we brought upon ourselves during this war will remain with us after the war. The crazies out there, the ones with the big knitted kippot serugot and flying peyos will still be crazy. They will still espouse a simplistic "Us against the world" attitude and any Jews who disagree, who want to establish a democratic state will become the new enemy. Is that what we want?
Those who remember Rabbi Kahane favourably because he spoke the truth about our ability to share Israel with the Arabs usually forget that the Arabs weren't his only ideological enemies. He also had enough venom for Jews who disagreed with him. First he'd clean out the Arabs, he told us, and then he'd go after the internal enemies, those Jews that disagreed with his demagogic vision of Israel.
That's the society that these extremists are pushing us to, step by step. They envision a fascist country with a mythical leader and an ideological unity where a defined enemy of the people is joined by dissenters from the majority population. That description should sound eerily familiar and scary in the extreme.
That is the even better reason to forcefully reject what these extremists offer. We are God's people and we cannot deviate from that standard. We lose what made us special for Him to choose us and that ends our meaningful existence.