Zionism INTRO

Religious Zionist Movement (also known as Mizrachi; an acronym for Merkaz Ruchani or “religious centre”) is a religious ideology that combines Zionism and Judaism, offering Zionism based on certain principles in a fusion of Jewish heritage and religion.

Religious Zionism can be traced to the "augurers of Zion" (Mevasrei Zion, precursors of Hibbat Zion) that include Rabbis Yehudah Alkalai, Zvi Kalischer, Shmuel Mohilever, and Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin. The purpose of Religious Zionism is to restore political freedom and religion based on the Torah, as Judaism based on the commandments is essential for Jewish life in the homeland of Israel.   


Founded in Vilna at a world conference in 1902, the first Rabbis who came out in support of Mizrachi were Rabbi Yehuda Shlomo Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. The two men believed that the change in the status of Western Europe’s Jews after emancipation led them further to salvation and that individuals should therefore be able to accelerate the coming of the Jewish Messiah by reaching natural salvation. To achieve such enlightenment, Zionism’s main pillars are the Kibbutz Galuyot (or Gathering of the Exiles), the return to Eretz Israel (agricultural work), and a revival of the Hebrew language in everyday life. Zionism also called for a creation of a Jewish state, and the desire to return to Israel had always been a part of Jewish worship. In 1917, the U.K. government signed the Balfour Declaration, conveying support for the Zionist movement and calling for a home for Jews in Palestine.

The teachings of Mizrachi state that the Torah is the heart of Zionism and also maintains that Jewish nationalism is a means of obtaining their religious objectives. This group was the first official Religious Zionist party and pushed for laws that enforced kashrut (being kosher) and observance of Shabbat (the Sabbath). An important figure of the Zionist movement is the Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, who attempted to intertwine the teachings of Zionism with Orthodox Judaism with the slogan Torah va¬'Avodah (“Torah and Labor”). Mizrachi branched away to a separate trade union wing that was founded in 1921, which was named Hapo’el Hamizrachi, in which religious Jews were represented by the Histadrut and tried to attract the religious Labour Zionists. 

However, Judaism was redefined drastically by the Holocaust during the Second World War, where six million Jews were killed mercilessly by the Nazi Party. Despite these horrific events, the Holocaust also mobilised further support for the Zionist campaign in the post-war era. In 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. In 1956, several Zionist religious sects including Mizrachi and Hapo’el Hamizrachi formed the National Religious Party (Mafdal), in order to advance the rights of religious Jews in Israel that is still active today. Religious Zionism has also pledged many of its efforts and resources to constructing a national-religious education system.


Often called Kippot Sruggot (due to the knitted kippot skullcap worn by male members of the sect), the Zionists have differing factions of Orthodox Judaism that is distinguished by the individual style of dress worn by certain sub-Judaic religious groups (such as Litvish Haredi, Sephardi Haredi, and Hassidic Jews).

Most religiously observant Zionists tend to be right wing supporters regarding Israeli politics, and a large number vote for the Mafdal (National Religious Party), the Likud (Conservative party) and the National Union (nationalist party) parties. Still, there is also a smaller minority of left wing Zionists, who are represented by Rabbi Michael Melchior and the Meimad party (as part of the Israeli Labour Party). In modern times, many religious Zionists had settled in the West Bank, although nearly all had been forcibly expelled from the Gaza Strip from August to September 2005.


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