Gush Emunim

Gush Emunim
(Bloc of the Faithful)
   A movement that promotes the establishment of Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as a means of promoting retention of these areas, especially the West Bank. It is an aggressive settlement movement that combines religious fundamentalism and secular Zionism to create a new political force. Its leaders assert a biblically based Jewish claim to Judea and Samaria. Gush Emunim became active after the Six-Day War (1967) in establishing Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, but it was not until after the Yom Kippur War (1973) that it organized politically in order to oppose territorial concessions and to promote the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the Occupied Territories.
   The founding meeting of Gush Emunim took place in 1974 at the Etzion Bloc (Gush Etzion). Among those playing leading roles in the movement's founding were Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the leader of the Kiryat Arba settlers; Hanan Porat, one of the revivers of Jewish settlement in Gush Etzion; Rabbi Haim Druckman, an educator who was one of the leaders of the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement and subsequently became a member of the Knesset; Rabbi Eliezer Waldman; and Rabbi Yohanan Fried.
   Gush Emunim began as a faction within the National Religious Party (NRP), but because of distrust of the NRP's position concerning the future of Judea and Samaria, the movement left the party and declared its independence. The Gush Emunim members, mostly yeshiva graduates, rabbis, and teachers, launched an information campaign to explain their position. Gush Emunim has since refused to identify with any political party and has gained a unique political status. During the tenure of the government of Yitzhak Rabin from 1974 to 1977, Gush Emunim protested the disengagement agreements with Egypt and Syria, staged demonstrations in Judea and Samaria to emphasize the Jewish attachment to those parts of the land of Israel, and engaged in settlement operations in the Occupied Territories. Gush Emunim's primary commitment is to settlement beyond the 1949 armistice agreement demarcation lines, which had served as the de facto borders between Israel and the Jordanian-annexed West
   Bank and between Israel and the Egyptian-administered Gaza Strip and Sinai from 1949 to 1967. Gush Emunim has continued to push for settlements in all parts of Eretz Israel.
   Gush Emunim's spiritual authorities and political leaders were educated in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, whose founder was Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Eretz Israel. Kook believed that the era of redemption for the Jewish people had already begun with the rise of modern Zionism and the growing Zionist enterprise in Palestine. Israel's victory in the Six-Day War transformed the status of Kook's theology. It seemed clear to his students that they were living in the messianic age and believed that redemption might be at hand. Kook's views were expounded by his son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, who succeeded him as the head of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav.
   Gush Emunim has become a highly complex social and institutional system comprised of a settlement organization, regional and municipal councils, and independent economic corporations. Its spiritual leadership is composed of distinguished rabbis and scholars. Though a powerful force in Israeli politics, Gush Emunim never organized itself into a political party that would vie for seats in the Knesset. Increasingly, its interests in this regard were represented by the NRP, which by the 1980s had entered into a close political association with the settler community in the West Bank generally and with the Gush Emunim in particular. Prominent rabbis and members of Gush Emunim were among the most vociferous opponents of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank completed in August 2005.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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