Guarding the Gates of Zion: Hasidic Arguments against Zionism

Carolyn Shaffer


Today, it is common in the popular media to draw attention to the connection between Jewish religious fervour and Israeli nationalism, and justifiably so. Groups such as Gush Emunim exhibit the powerful convergence of Torah and nationalism. Because of this, it is easy to envision a directly proportionate relationship between the level of a Jew’s religious observance and his or her support for Zionism and the State of Israel. However, this is not and has never been an accurate view of the picture. Zionism’s roots were in the secular Jewish world, and from the start, it met strong opposition from the religious community. All Orthodox Jews, and notably the Hasidim, strongly opposed the Zionist movement from its inception, and while some Orthodox groups later embraced the Zionist cause, many groups remain resistant. In fact, some oppose the state even as they reside within it. This paper charts the history of Hasidic opposition to Zionism, examining the theological, political and social arguments. The opinions and policies of prominent Hasidic anti-Zionist rabbis and groups is discussed and briefly contrasted to those of Hasidic Zionists. Finally, the question of whether there is something inherently Hasidic in the opposition to Zionism is addressed.


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© Centre for Studies in Religion and Society
University of Victoria
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ISSN (Print): 1705-2947
ISSN (Online): 1712-5634