Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Real "Religious Zionist"

8 of the Third Month 5768

There has been a lot of buzz concerning Caroline Glick's The Two-Pronged Assault on Religious Zionist.

As usual, Glick makes several good points, supported by her keen observations and logical deductions.

Yet, her piece prompted me to provide my Esser Agaroth on what I believe to be a deeper issue here, who is a Religious Zionist.

I know that the following rabbis did not asked to be dragged into this debate, at least not on this blog. However, I would like to start off with a few rabbinic examples of Religious Zionists.

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel shlit"a of the Temple Institute and Sanhedrin is arrested for having the audacity to discuss halachoth (Jewish Laws) which are contrary to Israeli Law.

Now that's "religious," but is it "Zionist?"

The late, great Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz"l, Rosh Yeshivath Merkaz HaRav Kook, took a clear stance that soldiers in the IDF should refuse orders which contravene halachah, like kicking Jews out of their homes, and assisting the government to turn over Jewish-controlled land to goyim, even more so, Arabs which have sworn to destroy us.

He even publicly ripped up the opposing opinion of another popular rabbi. There are those who have tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress this story. But Yes, Rabbi Shapira most definitely did do this.

I say yes, as Rabbi Moshe Tzuri'el shlit"a reminds us: "Zionism is simply a part of the Torah." Now that's "religious" AND "Zionist." I would expect nothing less from someone who was in the same class at Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshivah with Rabbi Dov Lior shlit"a and Rabbi Zalman Melamed shlit"a who led the last stand in Azza at the K'far Darom synagogue.* No one could argue that was "Zionist," or could they?

Other rabbis are called before a beth din, accept upon themselves its authority, say they're coming, then don't show up. That doesn't sound very "religious" to me. Does it sound very "Zionist?"

I don't know. I suppose it depends upon what your definition of "Zionist" is.

Then, of course, we have the YeSh"A Council, which makes secret deals with the government to evacuate Jewish strongholds in Yehudah and Shomron (Judea and Samaria). And then lies about it. Now THAT doesn't sound very Zionist. It doesn't sound very religious either. That's because it's not. Neither is beating up religious Zionists, and then lying about that, too.

It certainly does not sound like the YeSh"A Council, which receives its budget directly from the Office of the Prime Minister, is very religious or Zionist.

If "Zionist" means that you believe in Zion as the Jewish Homeland then my friend, the Hassidishe rabbi in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Me'ah Sha'arim, would consider himself a "Zionist." However, if your definition of "Zionist" is Shimon Peres's definition of "Zionist," then you can count him out.

Truly the only meaningful disagreement in hashqafah (perspective) between the religious Zionist and the religious non-Zionist vis-a-vis the Jewish Homeland is not the "where;" it's the "when," "how," and "by whom." Do we take an active part in staking claim to Israel as the Jewish Homeland, the concept of which originates from our Holy Torah? Or is our action to be manifested in prayer and learning Torah alone, waiting for the Mashiah to come and do everything else?

Unfortunately, this difference seems to be played up more than the similarities between the communities. Community leaders across the board are guilty of this, including the secular left, which has a penchant for "mixing in."

Unfortunately, Caroline Click is right. There is an alliance between the non-Zionist and the left wing. I would correct her on one minor [probably unintentional], nit-picky point. It is the leadership of the religious non-Zionist community which maintains the alliance. On Glick's side, voting records tend to indicate that this leadership reflects the opinions of their communities.

I can answer that.

The Belzer Rebbe shlit"a tells his hassidim, "You have the right to vote, but not the right to choose."

How many Belzer and Gerer hassidim and Litvaks have told me they would gladly vote for Baruch Marzel, for example? A lot. I know that they are honest, because in the same moment they tell me that they can't go against their Rebbes. Thus their pipe dreams of rebeldom fade away.

I am not saying that Baruch Marzel is the answer. I am only using him as an example. Just as many of the mamlachtim are unsatisfied with what they're getting, or rather what they're not getting, from their so-called religious Zionist rabbis, and are thus having to search elsewhere, such as in Breslov or Breslov-influenced communities, the non-Zionist youth and young adults are also searching outside of their communities for the answers to their answered questions. "Da'as Torah," which unfortunately has become a glorified substitute for "because I said so," is becoming an increasingly unsatisfactory response to their halachic questions.

Rabbi Me'ir Kahane ztz"l hy"d said that when you ask a halachic question, you are entitled to receive a halachic answer, and "Da'as Torah"

(Watch, as all kinds of "religious Zionists" run away, screaming in horror, as I single-handedly dash all of their PR hopes to de-demonize the settlers, simply by mentioning "his" name.)

But, I digress....

So, what does it mean to be "Religious Zionist?"

I'll tell you what being a "Religious Zionist" inherently does NOT mean. It does NOT mean blind and undying loyalty to the "almighty" (leHavdil) state, in particular a state which increasing shows distain for the Torah, the ONLY justification the Jewish People have for laying claim to Israel as its homeland.

Blind loyalty to the state equated with "Zionist" is the most profound and fundamental error made my both the mamlachti majority of "religious" Zionists and the religious non-Zionists.

Confused? You should be. That's the whole point, to get you to worry about words and labels, to confuse you with hashqafah so that you are prevented from getting down to the nuts and bolts to the actual halachah of how we are to relate to the Land, to those currently have power over it, and to those you are supposed to have power over it.

I may be accused of wanting my cake and eating it, too. But at least I don't hand out cake to reward the soldier for kicking me out of my house.

The point I am attempting to drive home here is that there are many Jews who refer to themselves as "Religious Zionists." Yet, there are clearly two camps, not one: The Torah Zionist camp, headed by the rabbis mentioned above, and the "Mamlachti" camp led by rabbis such as Yuval Cherlow mentioned by Caroline Glick. Admittedly, the "Mamlachti" camp is clearly the majority. We must ask ourselves why. "Loyalty" apparently has its rewards.

The Hesder Yeshiva program faces constant threats of funding cuts, discrimination against the soldiers it produces. Hesder Yeshivah soldiers are now unable to serve in the prestigious Golani and Paratrooper brigades. Soldiers have also received disciplinary actions for refusing to participate in mixed-gender events. Such actions wouldn't have anything to do with the many Hesder Yeshivah Heads signing declarations in support of refusing orders to evacuate Gaza and the Northern Shomron, would it?

Meanwhile, the "mamlachti" pre-IDF "Mechinah" Program flourishes.

No doubt I will be accused of encouraging the various rifts within the Jewish People to continue, contradicting the efforts of others to unify Jews.

Ask yourself this question: What is the value of Jewish unity, if we are unified and moving the wrong direction? Israel was pretty unified around the Golden Calf. And we are still paying the price for it.

In addition, I am hoping that by clarifying some terms which thrown around quite freely, that those like-minded individuals out there, struggling with the insanity of blind and undying loyalty to any non-Torah entity, will finally realize that they are not alone. And there is no requirement to call yourself a "Religious Zionist" to be a part of this unity.

However you choose to self-identify, if your loyalties lie with the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Torah, EVEN when that contravenes the dictates of the State [and state] Of Israel, and you believe that Israel is the Jewish Homeland, because HaShem gave it to us, and 60 years ago began to give it back to us, then you are a real Religious Zionist.


* Rabbi Dov Lior is the Chief Rabbi of Qiriyath Arba-Hevron. Rabbi Zalman Melamed is co-Chief Rabbi of Beth-El and the Rosh Yeshivath Beth-El

Cross-posted on the B'nei Elim Blog and on Jewish Indy.


Devorah Chayah said...

Reminder: this is a war for hearts and minds. Is it any wonder that the confusion of the language is central to the enemy's strategy?

There are only two kinds of Jews --- the loyalists (loyal to Hashem and His Torah) and the rebels (against Hashem and His Torah). The loyalists have to take control of the dialogue and restate the Truth in ways that all can understand. Confusion, like doubt, is an Amalekian trait. We have to fight Amalek wherever he appears.

We should start by insisting that there is no Zionism unless it is "religious" Zionism. A return to the homeland without any intent to keep the covenant is worse than worthless, it is dangerous as the many murdered Jews can attest.

"Zionism" is simply stolen terminology unless it is rooted in Torah. That's why there is also no such thing as a xian zionism, G-d forbid!

Esser Agaroth said...

Devash, Good points. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Zionism is part of the Torah is clear. It also is clear that the Torah is not part of Zionism. This is why a so called Jewish country is and can be ruled by an actively anti-religious elite. So some suggest in order to resolve our problems we need to vote relegious leaders into office. I'm afraid it won't work. Why? Because those very offices are shaped around a model that is not Jewish: democracy. For more on this please visit or

Ariel Ben Yohanan (Bereny)

Batya said...

Fantastic post!
You inspired me.

Rafi G. said...

I a very confused by this.

Esser Agaroth said...

Rafi, Could you be more specific?

Devorah Chayah said...

Ariel ben Yohanan, I agree 100%.

Ya'akov, here is something pertinent from INN:

Ofra Rabbi Oks Arabs To Build Jewish Homes on Sabbath

( Rabbi Avi Gisser of the community of Ofra, north of Jerusalem, has ruled that Arab workers may work on the Sabbath to build homes for Jews because of the possibility of a High Court halt to construction. Left wing groups have appealed to the court to halt building of nine homes in Ofra, claiming that the land belongs to Arabs.

Jewish law prohibits working on the Sabbath except in special cases or if lives would be put at risk by not working. Non-Jewish workers may work on the Sabbath, but Jews generally may not tell them to do so on their behalf. In this case, Rabbi Gisser explained that the commandment to settle all of Israel overrides the prohibition.

However, other rabbis differ from his decision and say that preservation of the Shabbat is the most important consideration if there is not a direct threat to life.

Maybe the rabbi has had a nervous breakdown?

Esser Agaroth said...

With all due respect to Rav Gisser, who was helpful and supportive to me regarding some halachic money matters when I lived in Ofra, I don't know what's up with him.

7 years ago, he was the one who led the charge to show that it was forbidden to pick olives outside of yishuvim, while Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was sitting one yishuv away saying the opposite.

Ofra is notorious for allowing Arab workers into the yishuv.

The advisory committee to the town voted to disallow Arab workers into the town, but the resident using them threatened to sue for discrimination because the Arab was an "Israeli citizen." The committee caved in. BTW, many workers with Orange ID's {so called Palestinian} work in the yishuv. They even have their own parking lot.

Ofra's current situation, both spiritually and physically is the same which prompted me to leave. It is in danger. At the very least, Arabs are threatened into doing reconnaissance and drawing maps.

Regarding work on Shabbath, even if there is what to back him up, I'm not sure how he would justify the building of nine houses. Ofra residents continually go around thinking that their yishuv is safe from expulsion.

The Talmud brings down that own may have a goy prepare a contract/bill of sale even on Shabbath in order to acquire land in Eretz Yisrael, and the Jew may sign it. Neve Ya'aqov {then called kfar HaIvri} in Jerusalem was purchased this way. The Qinyan to purchase Meah Sha'arim was done on Shabbath.

Building? We need to investigate this further.

BUt certainly this on going Ofra attitude of "Our Arabs are different" is endangering their town.

Esser Agaroth said...

Here's the full article. I am unable to understand Rav Gisser's jump from the Shulkhan Aruch to the building of these houses. Neither do I see this in anyway the same as Rav Goren and Rav Orbach's ruling. What am I missing here?

Supreme Court Hearing Against Yesha City on Sunday

Mad Zionist said...

I think the problem we face is that as a people we have a tiny, eensy-weensy minority that believe that the Land of Israel is our religious OBLIGATION to settle, and that land is our EXCLUSIVE heritage given to the Jews by God.

That this obligation is not in some mystical, post messianic era to come, but now, today, and for all generations past, present and future. We are absolutely violating our covenant, no less important or essential to Judaism than the bris millah, to rule over Zion.

Some say that Religious Zionism means believing moshiach will come once we've settled the land as we are obligated, while others, like myself, believe that only God will determine when Moshiach comes, not man, and that it is our obligation to settle the land not for messianic reward but because it is God's will according to Torah.

Either way, the above factions are both religious Zionists, yet we are few in number compared to all of world Jewry, maybe 5-10%, and that's why we are not yet ready or able as a people to actualize a truly Jewish State.

Anonymous said...


- MZ: "..yet we are few in number compared to all of world Jewry, maybe 5-10%, and that's why we are not yet ready or able as a people to actualize a truly Jewish State.

- ABY(B): This is a typically democratic concept and we know that Judaism, Torah or Halacha has nothing to do with the size of popular support of an idea. What matters is: truth.

That's why we MUST act in a way that promotes the respect of ALL applicable mitzvot. The return of Jewish masses to Eretz Israel before the declaration and under the State of Israel does present a new fact on the ground and it is reasonable to accept and indeed pray for a Jewish spiritual and institutional renewal (that is a “reoldal”).

In my view this precisely is the challenge of Judaism in our times. Will we as a nation be able to act on our Torah and refund the Jewish kingdom run by Torah institutions the Torah way or will we limit our national life to ape the Hellenist goyim? In other words, will we chose to live or to die? We are commanded to live and I hope we will chose to do so. said...

I remember learning some time ago that you could purchase a house in Erets Yisrael if it's being redeemed from an Arab... so I'm not so sure it's that far from having the work completed on the Shabbat. But I'd consult with a posek like Rav Bar-Hayim b4 taking action.

Back to the subject of Zionists, or "Torah Jews" etc... how are "Shastitutes" classified??