Moderate Religious Zionism

Beyond the settler movement.

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Ravitzky uses this text to show that aggressive settlement is not necessarily the truest expression of Jewish religion. Here is a Talmudic text that privileges social benefits over and above the settling of Israel. Ravitzky suggests that today too, it behooves us to choose the social benefits of peace over and above the inclination toward expansive settling. This choice is not counter-religious; it is prototypically religious.

Meimad

In addition to Netivot Shalom, Ravitzky is also a leader in Meimad, another moderate religious Zionist group.

Meimad was established in 1988, and in 1999 it became a political party. Meimad was founded by Rabbi Yehuda Amital, the head of Yeshivat Har Etzion, a yeshiva in Gush Etzion, a block of West Bank settlements. Despite his yeshiva's location, Amital is open to territorial compromise as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. Like Netivot Shalom, Meimad believes that placing the Land of Israel above all other values and concerns contradicts the Torah.

Meimad also believes that political discourse and halakhic (Jewish legal) discourse should be completely distinct. Meimad's official platform rejects appealing to halakhah to settle political differences. Meimad does, however, believe in the importance of retaining the Jewish character of Israel, insisting that democracy is achievable in this context.

Non-Orthodox Groups

Traditionally, the "religious" part of religious Zionism referred to some form of Orthodox Judaism, but in recent years, non-Orthodox religious movements have had an increasing voice in Israeli life.  

The Reform and Conservative movements have been particularly vocal about their desire to imbue Israeli life with a sense of religious pluralism. Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, has called for the dismantling of Israel's Chief Rabbinate and its courts--which control marriage, divorce, and conversion.

In general, Schorsch is heartened by the Conservative movement's strides in Israel and believes that the Israeli public has gained interest in non-Orthodox religion. He's noted that "the introduction of genuine religious pluralism is certainly possible. Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, the faculty of Tel Aviv University decided recently to build on campus a panoply of three synagogues (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox) rather than a single, exclusively Orthodox synagogue."

Not surprisingly, the liberal movements bring their general theologies to Zionism.

Rabbi Richard Hirsch, honorary president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, puts the challenge this way: "The State of Israel is the testing grounds for keeping the covenant between God and God's people. How do Jews as a people create a just society when they are given responsibility? How do Jews use political power? How do Jews apply Jewish values in everyday conditions of a Jewish society?"

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Daniel Septimus

Daniel Septimus is Executive Director of The Sefaria Project. Previously, he served as Chief Executive Officer of MyJewishLearning, Inc.