STRICTLY ORTHODOX JEWS opposed Zionism: return to Zion must be preceded by the messianic redemption.

Strictly Orthodox Jewish disapproval of Zionism as summarized  by Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok (2010):  “Many of the Strictly Orthodox disapproved of Zionism for completely different reasons. Although the Torah teaches that it is the duty of all Jews to pray for the return to Zion, this ingathering must be preceded by the messianic redemption. Only when God has sent His long-promised “anointed one” will the exiles of Israel return to the Holy Land and all nations will turn to Jerusalem to learn of the One God. 

The neo-Orthodox leader, Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-88), had taught that it was forbidden to accelerate divine deliverance and that it would happen in God’s good time. The Zionist movement was thus perceived as an evil conspiracy against God’s will and yet another episode in the long history of false messianic hopes” (Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok, “Judaism: A Beginner’s Guide”, Oneworld, 2010).

In 1912, a group of Strictly Orthodox Jews founded the Agudat Israel to preserve Torah Judaism. This organization was determined in its opposition to Zionism, which they saw as a threat to Orthodoxy. As Rabbi Dov Schneerson (1866-1920) put it”[the Zionists] make the impression… that the whole purpose of the Torah … is merely to strengthen collective feeling. This theory can easily be adopted by young people who regard themselves as instruments prepared for the fulfilment  of the Zionist ideal. They naturally regard themselves as completely liberated from the Torah and the commandments for now, they think, nationalism has replaced religion, and is the best means for the preservation of society.” 

Nonetheless, the Orthodox anti-Zionists did accept that it was desirable to return t the Promised Land, and among the early settlers there was a strong Orthodox presence. In the early days, its leaders used to campaign against the Zionists, protesting t the British Government and the League of Nations about their nationalistic aspirations,. On occasions they even joined forces with the Arab leaders who were disturbed by the increased Jewish presence in Palestine. So deep was the rift between Zionists and the ultra-Orthodox that a member of the Agudat Israel executive was assassinated by the Jewish underground military organization in 1924. In response, one Orthodox spokesman declared that the Zionists were “evil men and ruffians” and that Hell had entered Israel with Theodor Herzl” (Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok, “Judaism: A Beginner’s Guide”, Oneworld, 2010).

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