From the point of view of their theology, the process was one of irreversible progress. First the establishment of a Jewish polity in the nation’s ancient land in 1948, then the ingathering of Jewish exiles from throughout the world, then the victory against the Arab armies in the Six Day War of 1967, which gave Israel control of the ancient heartland of biblical Israel-the area they call Judea and Samaria and which most of the world calls the West Bank.

The younger Rabbi Kook called on his followers to establish settlements in these territories, because it was God’s command that Jews live in all parts of the land he gave them. Since Israel was the instrument of a divine plan, its government need take no account of the practicalities of strategy, diplomacy, and geopolitics. Quite the opposite-those who worried about such considerations were displaying a lack of faith in God.

It’s not surprising, then, that an Israeli government that wants to withdraw from territories is a crisis for this community. Of course, the settlers face the practical, and very real, crisis of leaving homes to which they are deeply attached and in which they have brought up children who have known no other home.

But beyond that, it is a theological crisis, for the country to which they have sworn loyalty is now acting contrary to its divine purpose, as they understand it. An Israel that hands over territory to non-Jews is something that just cannot be. —