Ultra-Orthodox & Anti-Zionist

Groups like Neturei Karta and the Satmar Hasidim bitterly oppose the modern State of Israel.

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In other words, these groups' fierce oppo­sition to the state of Israel is not directed against its secular nature or its laws and mores but, rather, against its very existence, regardless of its nature. In the words of the late Satmar rebbe, Yoel Teitelbaum, "even if the members of the Knesset [Israeli parliament] were righteous and holy, it is a terrible and awful criminal iniquity to seize redemption and rule before the time has come."

According to this logic, the concepts "Torah state" or "halakhic state" [one run according to Jewish law] are oxymorons; any Jewish state prior to the messianic age--by the very nature of its human, natural, mundane provenance--undermines and denies the Torah and takes a stand against the halakhah. The faithful, therefore, are not enjoined to struggle for the refashioning of the Jewish character of the society and the state but are required to unqualifiedly isolate themselves, to separate themselves socially from the majority of the people of Israel and politically from the State of Israel. Consequently, any use of Zionist budgets and institutions is utterly forbidden, the members of these circles doing their ut­most to deny themselves any benefit from them.

In this orthodox anti-Zionist view, then, the only hope for the Jewish state is its total destruction: "But [we] need mercy that this kingdom will be destroyed only by a force from above, by the Lord, may He be blessed, not by the [non-Jewish] nations; for if, God forbid, this is to be done by the nations, it will, of course, constitute a great danger for [the people of] Israel." The Zionist endeavor is destined to make way for the true, com­plete, miraculous salvation, for the redemp­tion that will rise on its ruins as its total negation.

Numerically speaking, this ideology is marginal. All told the extremists number today 20,000 in Israel and several tens of thousands in the United States and in Europe. But their indirect influence--the chal­lenge posed by their radical views--is widely felt in ultra-Orthodoxy. They project an image of consistency and unwavering faith of a kind of avant-garde whose demands disturb the bourgeois complacency of others.

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Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky

Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky is the Saul Rosenblum Chair of Jewish Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University. He is the author of Messianism, Zionism and Jewish Religious Radicalism and History and Faith: Studies in Jewish Philosophy.