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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 14.6:
I've heard there were/are very Orthodox Jews who were/are against the state of Israel. How could this be? Who are they?

Answer:

It is pointless to single out this situation as something terrible about Orthodoxy or even the so-called "ultra-Orthodox". In the early 1900s, Reform was officially opposed to Zionism, and even today, there are numerous secular Jews who are strongly anti-Zionistic. Nowadays, most Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews support Zionism (in fact, Reform has its own Zionist movement, ARZA). Many Orthodox Jews support religious Zionism, and even those Orthodox Jews indifferent or opposed to Zionism (particularly secular Zionism) often send their sons and daughters to study Torah in Israel.

Anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews believe that Israel can only be regained miraculously and view the present state as a blasphemous human attempt to usurp G-d's role, and they work to dismantle Israel. However, unlike many gentile anti-Zionists, they firmly believe in the Jewish right to Israel, but only at that future time of redemption. The best-known of the religious anti-Zionists are the Neturei Karta.

There are two common religious grounds given for anti-Zionism. One is that today's Zionism is a secular Zionism, packed with non-Jewish influences, and lacking key features like Moshiach and the rebuilt Temple. Groups based on those groups are more on the non-Zionist, as opposed to the anti-Zionist, side. The other grounds are that that Talmud (Meseches Kesuvos 111a), as part of a discussion of Song of Songs 2:7 verses mentioning oaths, states that when Israel went into the second exile, there were three vows between Heaven and Earth:

  1. One that Israel would not "go up like a wall" [conquer Eretz Yisrael by massive force]

  2. One that G-d made Israel swear that they would not rebel agains the nations of the world [would obey the governments in the exile]

  3. And one that G-d made the non-Jews swear not to oppress Israel "too much" [translation of phrase yoter midai]

Groups holding to those grounds are more on the anti-Zionist side. Note that there was a fourth oath in that piece: one G-d made of the nations that would recieve us, that they would not try to exterminate us. Some believe that oath was violated in WWII, therefore bringing into question whether the other three oaths are still binding, or if the "contract" was already violated. However, many think that gaining statehood by UN proclamation does not constitute a violation of the oath, and is a stronger argument.

The religious counter-reply to the above is that secular Zionism is a preliminary stage of religious Zionism, and that the vows no longer apply since the gentiles violated their part (by such actions as the Roman persecutions, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazi Holocaust). The Balfour declaration of 1917 and the United Nations vote of 1948 are also regarded as having given permission to the Jews to reestablish the state by the non-Jewish rulers of the area. Once this permission was granted it could not be revoked. It should also be noted that these oaths are only mentioned as a side point in one place in a discussion in the Gemoroh and as the viewpoint of an individual. Further, Talmudic texts come in two flavors: halachah (religious law) and aggadah (other topics, primarily ethics, values, philosopy and mysticism). The oaths are mentioned within an aggadic discussion. Yet there is a halachah that one ought to try to settle and gain sovereignty over Israel. There is little precedent for taking an aggadic statement over a halachic ruling. So, many people feel that these oaths do not apply in any case.

Some Religious Zionist Jews see the formation of the secular state as accelerating the process of redemption, with themselves playing a major role in doing G-d's will by serving the state, whose creation is often seen as miraculous.

So-called "non-Zionist" Jews are pleased that Israel exists from a practical standpoint--as a haven for oppressed Jews and as a land imbued with holiness well-suited for Torah study. But they don't generally assign religious significance to the formation of the modern state, and often decry aspects of its secular culture.

[Note: Zionism is used in the strict sense of the Jews should have a homeland, preferably Israel (Israel is where "Zion" is, hence Zionism). Criticizing today's Israeli government regarding policies X, Y, Z is not the same as anti-Zionism.]


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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