January 28, 2020

The Paradox of Religious Zionism

“The family of religious Zionism is flourishing in terms of its quantity, quality and contribution to the nation and the state. Its members’ activities are prominent in the fields of defense, settlement, academia, education (see this week’s Education Ministry publications about the achievements of religious high schools) and volunteering. However, when it comes to ideology, and politics in particular, it is in crisis. The horizons of the parties that presume to represent this varied public are gradually shrinking, and thinkers and ideologues, as well as broad-minded activists, are avoiding involvement in them.

On the other hand, rabbis who don’t know how to contain this rich ideological and human variety are the leading spokesmen – in limited and often infuriating language – on behalf of this entire community. Although the education minister withdrew his statements about conversion therapy for LGBTs, and his party, Habayit Hayehudi, included a woman on its slate, that didn’t help. The prevailing sentiment in the rabbinic Hardali (ultra-Orthodox nationalist) world differs in essence from that of the autonomous religious community, the community of the majority.

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Until the Six-Day War religious Zionism established itself in its religious niche. The transformation began with the appearance of the Gush Emunim settlement movement in the mid-1970s. The momentum of settlement and the process of assuming responsibility on matters of defense and policy, too, brought on a dramatic change in the nature of this community. From a defensive, reclusive group it turned into a blossoming tree, whose branches have become intertwined with the overall Jewish-Israeli landscape.”

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