Who is really in control? Gush Emunim

Israeli Orthodox, messianic, right-wing activist movement committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights is Gush Emunim. While not formally established as an organization until 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Gush Emunim sprang out of the conquests of the Six-Day War in 1967, encouraging Jewish settlement of the land based on the belief that, according to the Torah, God gave it to the Jewish people. While Gush Emunim no longer exists officially, vestiges of its influence remain in Israeli society.

Gush Emunim was closely associated with, and highly influential in, the National Religious Party (NRP). Nowadays, they refer to themselves – and are referred to by the Israeli media – as Ne’emanei Eretz Yisrael נאמני ארץ ישראל (Hebrew: “Those who are loyal/faithful to the Land of Israel”). It also had a close relationship with the Jewish Agency.

Gush Emunim was founded by students of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook in February 1974 in the living room of Haim Drukman, who is also credited with coining the term. In addition to Drukman, its ideological and political core consisted of other disciples such as Hanan Porat, Moshe Levinger, Shlomo Aviner, Menachem Froman, Eliezer Waldman, Yoel Ben-Nun, and Yaakov Ariel. Kook remained its leader until his death in 1982.

In late 1974, an affiliated group named Garin Elon Moreh, led by Rabbi Menachem Felix and Benjamin (Beni) Katzover, attempted to establish a settlement on the ruins of the Sebastia train station dating from the Ottoman period. After seven attempts and six removals from the site by the Israel Defense Forces, an agreement was reached according to which the Israeli government allowed 25 families to settle in the Kadum army camp southwest of Nablus/Shechem. The Sebastia agreement was a turning point that opened up the northern West Bank to Jewish settlement. The small mobile home site housing 25 families eventually became the municipality of Kedumim, one of the major settlements in the West Bank. The Sebastia model was subsequently copied in Beit El, Shavei Shomron, and other settlements.

In 1976, Gush Emunim founded the settlement-building arm Amana, which soon became independent and is still active.

The ideological outlook of Gush Emunim has been described as messianic, fundamentalist, theocratic, and right-wing. Its beliefs were based heavily on the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who taught that secular Zionists, through their conquests of Eretz Israel, had unwittingly brought about the beginning of the Messianic Age, which would culminate in the coming of the messiah, which Gush Emunim supporters believe can be hastened through Jewish settlement on land they believe God has allotted to the Jewish people as set forth in the Hebrew Bible. The organization supported attempts to co-exist with the Arab population, rejecting the population transfers proposed by Meir Kahane and his followers.

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