In 'Like Dreamers' a Paratrooper from the 1967 War Dives Into the Settler Movement

Book Excerpt

Enraptured:  Supporters carry Hanan Porat as they celebrate the government’s agreement in December 1975 to allow the first Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank, at the Sebastia railway station.
Getty images
Enraptured: Supporters carry Hanan Porat as they celebrate the government’s agreement in December 1975 to allow the first Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank, at the Sebastia railway station.

By Yossi Klein Halevi

Published October 17, 2013, issue of October 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

Mercaz — “the center” — had finally fulfilled its ambitious name. From the beginning of the crisis, which Rabbi Zvi Yehudah had seemed to intuit in his Independence Day speech, to the war’s astonishing culmination, when he was one of the first civilians at the Western Wall, Mercaz had been central to the greatest moment in Israel’s history.

Mercaz felt vindicated in its most daring theological premise: that secular Zionism was a trustworthy repository of the redemptive process. The secular state that had tried to sever the people of Israel from the God of Israel had instead confirmed faith. For Mercaz, the kibbutznik paratroopers at the Wall were a revelation. Who could have imagined kibbutzniks praying at the symbol of piety and exile?

Rabbi Zvi Yehudah entered the study hall. Students held each other by the shoulders and danced before him. “Raise your heads, gates,” they sang, “and admit the glorious King.”

The rabbi spoke from a lectern draped with an Israeli flag. In covering a lectern that held holy books with the flag of secular Israel, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah was saying: This flag is no less holy than the velvet cloth covering the Torah ark behind me. On the wall hung a banner that read, “May the Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our time” — prayer turned into demand.

Voice strong, tone defiant, the rabbi warned the world not to interfere with God’s plan and try to wrench the liberated lands from Israel’s control. Not even the democratically elected government of Israel, he continued, had the right to withdraw from the territories — a warning aimed at the Labor-led national unity government, which declared its willingness to exchange territory for peace.

Hanan Porat approached the lectern. Broad-shouldered and powerfully handsome, with a wave of brown hair, he projected far beyond his short stature. Of the dozen paratroopers in Mercaz — who were holy, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah liked to say, only half joking, because they descended from heaven like the Torah at Sinai — the rabbi especially loved Hanan, heir of Kfar Etzion.

Hanan embodied the Mercaz synthesis of yeshiva student and sabra, spirit and matter. And now Hanan carried the additional aura of the Six-Day War’s most heroic battle, Ammunition Hill, where paratroopers had fought face-to-face with Jordanian soldiers in the trenches. Hanan happened not to have actually fought in the trenches and had seen little fighting during the war, all of which Hanan acknowledged. Still, for young religious Zionists, Hanan was a hero.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.