December 6, 2022

'Religious Zionist' who aren't really religious at all

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by Dr. Faydra Shapiro, Senior Research Fellow

The greatest surprise of the recent election in Israel was the meteoric rise of the “Religious Zionism” slate of three parties from the extremist fringes to holding the balance of power, winning as they did the third largest number of Knesset seats of any party.

The combination we call “religious Zionist” in Israel is a difficult one for many. The clear and proud merging of faith and politics makes Americans uncomfortable, given the constitutional separation of church and state. That combination is also a real challenge for Christians, whose religion is more based in faith and belief than it is in an entity like the unavoidably political concept of the Jewish people.

A century ago, that combination was also counterintuitive in the Jewish world. Zionism began as a secular, socialist project, one at odds with a religious view reluctant to “force God’s hand” with a Jewish return to the Land of Israel. But the thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) lay the foundation of a resolution to this tension between religious and secular visions. He asserted that even without their intention or knowledge, this secular movement of Jewish nationalism reflected God’s will and was helping to bring about the Messiah…