YESHA--The Next Generation

By Judy Lash Balint

Jerusalem--Generally, the passing of the baton from one generation to the next in a political or social movement takes place gradually. The older generation of activists take on lessening responsibilities, while a few younger members are brought into the fold and groomed for leadership. In Israel this week, however, we witnessed the abrupt shift of power of the "settlement" movement from the old guard, the founders of the communities in YESHA, to their children--the twenty-thirty year olds, born and bred in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan.

In the wake of the compromise agreement between the YESHA Council and Ehud Barak's government over the removal of certain small outposts, the younger generation has sought to mobilize those who feel that the dismantling of any Jewish settlement is a betrayal of the bond between the people of Israel and the land, and a precursor to evacuations of larger, more established communities across the Green Line.

Last night, outside the Prime Minister's residence, more than 5,000 people showed up to annoint the new leaders. Under the banner of Dor Hemshech (Next Generation) they came to the podium, one after another, to vow to peacefully protest the government's decision. The old-timers stood off to the side, whispering amongst themselves, and looking on with pride at their ideological offspring.

Former MK Geula Cohen was behind the stage. MK Hanan Porat (who resigned his Knesset seat the day after the rally) looked on wistfully, and MK Rehavam Zeevi and his wife accepted the chairs offered to them slightly away from the fray.

Signs waved by the crowd were in Hebrew, English, French and Russian. A few black hats and uncovered heads could be seen, but the preponderance of the throng were the knitted kippa, national religious chevra. Busloads of young people arrived from the Golan and Gush Katif, as well as points in between, but there were also many Jerusalemites in the crowd.

The pleasant-natured Shimon Rikhlin served as MC, setting the tone by encouraging singing and dancing and waving down the few who tried to shout intolerant slogans. One by one, energetic representatives of each of the communities slated for evacuation came forward. A group of four friends from Erez, three of the four standing bare-headed and one sporting a pony-tail, played a rousing rhythm on their drums before telling those assembled before them of their commitment to the land, and its preservation.

Dor Hemshekh leader Hevron Shilo addressed his remarks to Prime Minister Barak: "If you continue along this path of destruction, Honorable Prime Minister, we will be forced to begin a struggle - a just struggle, but responsible; tolerant, but determined. People ask us how we will struggle. I call upon everyone, every outpost that is to be evacuated, to come with musical instruments. We will sit on the roads and sing, we will stand next to the tractors and we'll dance. No one can promise us victory here and now. But a Jew who knows how to sing his faith, a Jew who can sing for his Land and who can sing for his G-d, can rest assured that in the end, his faith will emerge victorious."

Fire burned in the eyes of Yehoshophat Tor of the Judean Hills outpost of Maon. Tor, injured a little more than a year ago in an attack which took the life of his 28 year old friend, Dov Dribben, spoke of his strong conviction that Jews belong in the place where King David wandered and which had remained barren until the Jews returned to settle the land thousands of years later. Tor pledged never to move from the place he had chosen to express his commitment to the God of Israel in the most tangible way--by cultivating the land and raising his family there.

Fiery passion was evident in the words of two women veterans of the YESHA movement, but you could almost sense their weariness as well their relief that the next generation was taking their place at the barricades. Daniella Weiss and a representative of the Golan residents spoke of how they established the settlements, " with our children in our hands." Now those children, "who were raised as free Jews in a free land, imbibing the spirit of Zionism" are ready to take the next steps to protect their parent's investment.

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