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Religious Zionism, or the Religious Zionist Movement (a branch of which is also called Mizrachi) is an ideology that combines Zionism and religious Judaism, basing Zionism on the principles of Torah, Talmud et al. and authentic heritage.


Religious Zionists are a faction within the Zionist movement who justify Zionist efforts to build a Jewish state in the land of Israel on the basis of Judaism.

In 1862, German Orthodox Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer published his tractate Derishat Zion, positing that the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only by self-help.[1]

The main ideologue of modern religious Zionism was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, although Haredi and not Dati Leumi, nevertheless justified Zionism according Jewish law and urged young religious Jews to support efforts to settle the land, and the secular Labour Zionists to give more consideration to Judaism. Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner was another prominent rabbi who supported Zionism.

Rav Kook saw Zionism as a part of a divine scheme which would result in the resettlement of the Jewish people in its homeland. This would bring salvation ("Geula") to Jews, and then to the entire world. After world harmony is achieved by the refoundation of the Jewish homeland, the Messiah will come. Although this has not yet happened, Rav Kook emphasized that it would take time and that the ultimate redemption happens in stages, often not apparent while happening.

Religious Jews believe that since the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael) was given to the ancient Israelites by God, the right of the Jews to that land is permanent and inalienable. To generations of diaspora Jews, Jerusalem, also known as Zion, has been a symbol of the Holy Land and of their return to it, as promised by God in numerous Biblical prophecies. (See also Jerusalem, Jews and Judaism)

Many other great rabbis who were not necessarily zionist in the same mold as Rav Kook, did view the settlement of the land of Israel to be a divine commandment, especially in light of the Balfour Declaration.

Despite this, some religious Jews were not enthusiastic about Zionism before the 1930s, and many religious organisations opposed it on the grounds that an attempt to re-establish Jewish rule in Israel by human agency is blasphemous, since only the Messiah can accomplish this. They considered it religiously forbidden to try to hasten salvation and the coming of the Messiah. They saw Zionism as an expression of disbelief in God's salvation and power, and therefore as a rebellion against God. Rabbi Kook developed a theological answer to that claim, which gave Zionism a religious legitimation.

Rabbi Kook's answer was the following:

Zionism was not merely a political movement by secular Jews. It was actually a tool of God to promote His divine scheme and to initiate the return of the Jews to their homeland - the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God wants the children of Israel to return to their home in order to establish a Jewish sovereign state in which Jews could live according to the laws of Torah and Halakha and commit the Mitzvot of Eretz Israel (these are religious commandments which can be performed only in the land of Israel). Moreover, to cultivate the land of Israel was a Mitzvah by itself and it should be carried out. Therefore, settling Israel is an obligation of the religious Jews and helping Zionism is actually following God's will.[2]

Another big problem of religious Jews with Zionism is that Zionists were largely secular Jews, and in some cases were atheist in their point of view. The atheism of the early Zionists was imported from Marxism by Socialist Zionism which saw Zionism as an avant-garde effort of building an advanced socialist society in the land of Israel, while solving the antisemitism problem. The Kibbutz is a good example of Socialist Zionism: it was a communal settlement set to fulfill national goals, in which no Jewish law was observed (such as Kosher food). Rabbi Kook had an answer to this as well:

Secular Zionists may think they do it for political, national or socialist reasons, but in fact - the actual reason for them coming to resettle in Israel is a religious Jewish spark ("Nitzotz") in their soul, planted by God. Without their knowledge, they are contributing to the divine scheme and actually committing a great Mitzvah.
The role of religious Zionists is to help them to establish a Jewish state and turn the religious spark in them into a great light. They should show them that the real source of Zionism and the longed-for Zion is Judaism and teach them Torah with love and kindness. In the end, they will understand that the laws of Torah are the key to true harmony and a socialist state (not in the Marxist meaning) that will be a light for the nations and bring salvation to the world.

Professor Shlomo Avineri explains the last part of Kook's answer:

"... and the end of those pioneers, who scout into the blindness of secularism and atheism, but the treasured light inside them leads them into the path of salvation - their end is that from doing Mitzva without purpose, they will do Mitzva with a purpose." (page 222, 1)

History and organizations

Aliyah to Israel and settlement

Pre-Zionist Aliyah
The Return to Zion • The Old Yishuv
Prior to the founding of Israel
First Aliyah • Second Aliyah • During WWI • Third Aliyah • Fourth Aliyah • Fifth Aliyah • During and after WWII • Berihah
After the founding of Israel
Operation Magic Carpet • Operation Ezra and Nehemiah • Jewish exodus from Arab lands • Polish aliyah in 1968 • Aliyah from the Soviet Union in the 1970s • Aliyah from Ethiopia • Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1990s • Aliyah from Latin America in the 2000s
Judaism • Zionism • Law of Return • Jewish homeland • Yerida • Galut • Jewish Messianism
Persons and organizations
Theodor Herzl • World Zionist Organization • Knesset • Nefesh B'Nefesh • El Al
Related topics
Jewish history • Jewish diaspora  • History of the Jews in the Land of Israel  • Yishuv  • History of Zionism  • History of Israel  • Israeli Jews  • Anti-Zionism  • Revival of Hebrew language  • Religious Zionism  • Haredim and Zionism  • Anti-Zionism

The first Rabbis who supported Zionism were Rabbi Yehuda Shlomo Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. They argued that the change in the status of Western Europe's Jews following emancipation was the first step toward salvation (גאולה) and that therefore one must hasten the messianic salvation by a natural salvation — whose main pillars are the Kibbutz Galuyot ("Gathering of the Exiles"), the return to Eretz Israel, agricultural work (עבודת אדמה) and the revival of the everyday use of the Hebrew language.

The Mizrachi (a portmanteau of "Merkaz Ruchani" or "religious centre") is the name of the religious Zionist organization founded in 1902 in Vilna at a world conference of religious Zionists called by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines. It operates a youth movement, Bnei Akiva which was founded in 1929.

Mizrachi believes that the Torah should be at the centre of Zionism, a sentiment expressed in the Mizrachi Zionist slogan Erezt Israel le-am Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael ("The land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel"). It also sees Jewish nationalism as a tool for achieving religious objectives. The Mizrachi party was the first official religious Zionist party and founded the Ministry of Religion in Israel and pushed for laws enforcing kashrut and the observance of Shabbat - the Sabbath. It also played a role prior to the creation of the state of Israel in building a network of religious schools that exist to this day.

Major figures in the religious Zionist movement include Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook who became the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1924 and tried to reconcile Zionism with Orthodox Judaism.

The Labor Movement wing of Religious Zionism, founded in 1921 under the Zionist slogan "Torah va'Avodah" (Torah and Labor), it was called Hapoel Hamizrachi. It represented religiously traditional Labour Zionists both in Europe and in the Land of Israel where it represented religious Jews in the Histadrut.

In 1956, Mizrachi, Hapoel HaMizrachi and other religious Zionists formed the National Religious Party to advance the rights of religious Zionist Jews in Israel.

The flagship religious institution of the religious Zionist movement is "Mercaz haRav" yeshiva (founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook), which supplied the religious Zionist movement with most of its Rabbis and scholars.

Another branch of Religious Zionism is Kahanism, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahanism blends Religious Zionism with the ideology of the pre-state Right Wing movements of the followers of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Today, Hazit is the leading wing of such school of thought within the movement. Other parties and groups such as Gush Emunim, Tkuma, Meimad et al., all represent sectarian interests within the movement.

Religious Zionism today

Religious Zionists are often called "Kippot Sruggot", which means knitted skullcaps, because of the knitted kippot worn by the men. In Israel, different factions of Orthodox Judaism can be distinguished by the style of dress of their members (such as Litvish Ashkenazi Haredi, Sephardi-Haredi, Ashkenazi-Hasidic, Religious Zionist, etc.).


Most religious Zionists are right wing supporters. The main party representing them is the National Religious Party, but they also vote for Likud (Conservative party), National Union (nationalist party), Hazit and Shas. However, there is a minority of leftist religious Zionists, headed by Rabbi Michael Melchior and represented by the Meimad party (which ran together with the Israeli Labor party).

Many settlers in Judea and Samaria are religious Zionists, along with most of the settlers forcibly expelled from the Gaza Strip in August and September 2005. Many other religious Zionists are supporters of the pro-settlement movements Gush Emunim and the banned Kach.

Military service

Military service is an important value among most religious Zionists.

Many religious Zionists take part in the Hesder program, whereby they are able to combine military service with Yeshiva studies. Others attend a pre-army Mechina, delaying their service by one year. 88% of Hesder students belong to combat units, compared to a national average of below 30%.

Female religious Zionists can be exempted from military service, but usually do a one to two-year national service instead (such as working at hospitals, schools and day-care centers). In recent years there have been a growing number of women religious Zionists who choose to serve in the military, although it is still considered controversial among the movement.

Notable religious Zionist figures

This is a list of current notable religious Zionist leaders. The list is sorted lexicographically according to the last name.

  • Rabbi Shlomo Aviner - head of Ateret Cohanim yeshiva and ideologue of the Religious Zionist Movement, part of Tzohar young rabbinical movement and Ma'aglei Tzedek movement for social justice.
  • Rabbi Haim Drukman - former member of the NRP
  • Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu - unofficial spiritual leader of the NRP
  • General (ret.) Effi Eitam - former IDF General, leader of Ahi.
  • Rabbi Binyamin (Benny) Lau - Rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue, Jerusalem. Director of the Center for Judaism and Society and the Institute for Social Justice at Beit Morasha, Jerusalem. Founder of Moshe Green Beit Midrash for Women's Leadership at Beren College.
  • Rabbi Dov Lior - rabbi of Hebron
  • Rabbi Meir Kahane, American-Israeli rabbi, Jewish leader, Knesset member, assassinated in New York. Founder of the American Jewish Defense League and the Israeli Kach party.
  • Rabbi Nachman Kahane, a graduate of Yeshivat Mir, a rabbinic scholar and the rabbi of the Young Israel of Jerusalem's Old City. He is the brother of slain Jewish leader and Knesset member Rabbi Meir Kahane who founded the American Jewish Defense League and the Israeli Kach party. He is currently working on an interpretation of the Tosafot of the Talmud. He is also the director of the Institute for Talmudic Commentaries and has created a database of reliable Kohanim in Israel.
  • Baruch Marzel - right-wing Kahanist leader based in Hebron
  • Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute (Machon HaMikdash), which focuses on preparations for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. For the 1981 Knesset elections, Rabbi Ariel ran as number 2 on the Kach list with Rabbi Meir Kahane as the leader and number 1.
  • Zevulun Orlev - leader of the NRP
  • Rabbi Avraham Shapira - spiritual leader of Religious Zionism and head of Mercaz haRav yeshiva.
  • Rabbi Yuval Sherlo - pragmatist religious Zionist Rabbi, part of Tzohar young rabbinical movement and Ma'aglei Tzedek movement for social justice.
  • Rabbi Dov Begon - head of Machon Meir yeshiva
  • Rabbi Yehuda Amital - Rosh Yeshiva emeritus of Yeshivat Har Etzion

Religious Zionist books

  • Eim HaBanim Semeichah; Eretz Yisrael, Redemption and Unity by HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal
  • Orot HaKodesh; The Lights of Holiness by HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Kook
  • Kol HaTor; The Voice of the Turtledove by HaRav Hillel Rivlin
  • Or HaRa'ayon; The Jewish Idea by HaRav Meir Kahane
  • Kol Dodi Dofek; The Voice of my Beloved Knocketh by HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

See also


  • The Zionist Idea and its variations - Professor Shlomo Avineri, Am Oved publishing, chapter 17: "Rabbi Kook - the dialection in salvation"

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikisource. The original article was at Religious Zionism. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion wiki, the text of Wikisource is available under the CC-BY-SA.


  1. Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (Jewish Encyclopedia)
  2. Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1991). Torat Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications. 

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