Self-Segregation of the Vanguard: Judea and Samaria in the Religious-Zionist Society

Nissim Leon. Israel Affairs. Volume 21, Issue 3. 2015.

Organized religious Zionism is an ideological and institutional phenomenon in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel. It combines a commitment to the Orthodox Jewish religious tradition with a desire to take part in the revolutionary historical Zionist movement. This combination creates a constant dilemma in religious-Zionist thought and action concerning their appropriate degree of integration in general society. For the most part, the practical, and not just philosophical, religious-Zionist attempt to resolve this dilemma is seen in the creation of social and political settings based on a pattern of ‘segregation within integration’. A prominent example is the ‘hesder yeshiva’ system for graduates of religious-Zionist schools who want to serve in the predominantly secular army while maintaining a religious way of life. Another example is Bar-Ilan University, a religious-Zionist university that integrates Torah and modern scholarship. The religious-Zionist settlement movement that developed in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip in the 1970s and became deeply rooted in the 1980s and 1990s, was another attempt to resolve the dilemma. The settlement movement is essentially an attempt to develop a pattern that we shall call ‘self-segregation of the vanguard’, that is, an attempt to turn an ideological minority into a social elite.

The religious-Zionist settlement movement combines revolutionary national action with a conservative, religious way of life. On the one hand, the leaders of the religious-Zionist settlement movement see themselves as spearheading a national mission with pan-Jewish significance. On the other hand, living in the movement’s communities entails a certain degree of segregation from general society. A religious-Zionist settlement is also a community-based tool for Orthodox self-defence against what a fundamentally conservative society perceives as different, and thus threatening, to its way of life, its religious ethos and its continuity. A selective religious enclave such as the religious-Zionist settlement, located relatively close to the centres of employment, commerce, services, and entertainment in central Israel, is also an efficient means for moderating friction with secular society. Moreover, Judea and Samaria are suitable places for the development of a distinctive suburban lifestyle for the religious-Zionist core populations, enabling them to be part of the new Israeli middle class at a price affordable to young couples and (usually large) religious families. Below, this argument is described in detail through expansion on the concept of ‘organized religious Zionism’. The study then considers the impact of the settlement movement on organized religious-Zionist society and its contribution to self-segregation in religious-Zionist society. In addition, the implications of this segregation for the dilemma of modern Orthodox Judaism are elaborated. This account relies upon a combination of primary (philosophical, theological, and religious guidance literature) and secondary (for the most part, research studies and ethnographic material) sources pertaining to observations and examinations of communities in Judea and Samaria.

Organized Religious Zionism

The founders of organized religious Zionism upheld the Zionist political vision of a state for the Jews and sought the active representation of those religiously observant Jews who supported the Zionist idea. They sought a niche for religious culture in a national movement that was led mostly by secular forces but which focused on a territory with constitutive status in Jewish tradition.

The Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi movements were the key bearers of the religious-Zionist idea. Through the establishment of educational, welfare, and youth systems, these movements developed and consolidated a distinctive social core for the dissemination of their spiritual values. Among the prominent institutional examples were state-religious schools, established in the early years of the state, and yeshiva high schools and ulpenot (religious high schools for girls) affiliated with the religious-Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva, established during the period of the settlement movement. Meir Har-Noy, one of the leading figures in religious Zionism and an activist in the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria in the 1980s, describes these central bodies:

When we associate someone with the religious-Zionist camp, we mean that he starts his education in a preschool of the national-religious women’s movement Emunah. Afterwards, he goes to a state-religious school and then to a yeshiva high school or religious high school. The girls go on to an ulpenaulpanit, or religious high school. Concurrently, from the fourth grade on, he is an active member of a religious youth movement such as Bnei Akiva or Ezra … After high school and the matriculation exams, the young people go on to a hesder yeshiva or pre-military academy, or else they go to the draft office and are conscripted immediately. Some spend a few years in an advanced, non-hesder yeshiva before being conscripted. Most of the girls volunteer for a year or two of National Service.

The terms used by Har-Noy — Emunah, yeshiva high school, ulpanit, Bnei Akiva, Ezra, hesder yeshiva, and pre-military academy — indicate three things about religious-Zionist society. First, the religious-Zionist idea is deeply entrenched in gendered, age-based educational and military frameworks that inculcate and foster the movement’s ideals and practices; secondly, these institutions lay the foundation for ideological and religious separatism; thirdly, education per se occupies an important place in this society. It is clear, then, that Religious Zionism has developed comprehensive socialization frameworks for its people from a young age until the age of military service and beyond.

Organized religious-Zionist society is an ideological minority in present-day Israel. Its adherents account for no more than 10% of the Israeli population, and no more than 15% of Israeli Jews. Religious-Zionist parties such as the National Religious Party (NRPHabayit Hayehudi) and the National Union (Ichud HaLeumi) obtained about 7% of the seats in elections to the 18th Knesset in 2009. Nevertheless, organized religious Zionism has always been an integral part of what sociologists call the ‘dominant culture’, developing politically within the mainstream of the Zionist movement. Religious-Zionist settlement projects, including the Religious Kibbutz Movement and the moshavim of Hapoel Hamizrachi, were strongly influenced by the Zionist images of the pioneer and the sabra (the native-born Israeli). Some of the adherents of the present-day religious-Zionist settlement movement even see themselves as the successors of the old Zionist pioneers. Furthermore, the religious-Zionist political organizations were part of the mainstream Zionist institutions in Palestine, and since the establishment of the state they have been active members of most governing coalitions, both on the left and on the right. In addition, the educational culture of religious Zionism is imprinted with the Ashkenazi religious profile of Jews from Eastern Europe, which according to Israeli sociologists was central to the dominant culture in Israel for decades. For instance, for many years the Ashkenazi form of Torah study and prayer dominated the mainstream religious culture of alumni from the religious-Zionist educational institutions.

For many years, the political and social activism of the religious Zionists was indicative of a desire to be part of mainstream Israeli life. In this sense, religious Zionists differed from Israeli ultra-Orthodox (haredim) who adhered to a rigid religious and social insularity. Nevertheless, many adherents within the former stream came into contact with a society and culture that differed from theirs in a variety of everyday contexts. They encountered their secular counterparts in the ranks of the army, in public administration, in teaching and academic research occupations, and numerous livelihoods in the private economy. Indeed, there is evidence of a self-regarding sense of being in the vanguard of Israeli society-in-the making. Most are native Hebrew speakers and see their culture as the quintessential Hebrew, Jewish, and Israeli culture. A sociological study carried out more than three decades ago, at the height of the establishment of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, traced the occupations of graduates of prominent religious-Zionist yeshiva high schools, such as the Midrashia in Pardes Hanna, the yeshiva in Kefar Haro’eh, and the yeshiva high school in Nehalim. The findings showed that graduates of these institutions tended to select career-oriented academic studies. Close to 85% intended to obtain suitable resources which would ease their integration into the professions of the new middle class. The study quotes from a statement of Midrashia objectives which seek ‘to raise a generation versed in and dedicated to the Torah who will be involved in all walks of life [such as] engineers and attorneys, teachers and doctors, accountants and knowledgeable officials, rabbis, rabbinical-court judges, and yeshiva deans’. Integration into the professions of the new middle class became a yardstick not only for the graduates’ success, but also for the success of these yeshivas. Such socio-economic trends have only intensified in recent decades. In religious-Zionist synagogues, especially urban ones, there is a pronounced presence of members from the liberal professions and engineers, who spend their workdays in heterogeneous workplaces, that is, places where most employees are secular.

In the religious-Zionist settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, too (see below), much of the population views academic studies as a good way of integrating into general Israeli society through the professions of the new middle class. For example, two longstanding, leading settlements in Judea and Samaria, Karnei Shomron (pop. 6600) and Elkana (pop. 3200), both founded in 1977, illustrate this professional orientation. A background article on Elkana in a major Israeli newspaper chose to label the town ‘the Savyon of Samaria’, a term reflecting its affluence and prestige in Israeli terms. This status is also reflected in property values there relative to other Jewish localities in Judea and Samaria, as well as the very high socio-economic rating of Elkana relative to other towns by the Central Bureau of Statistics. It is worth noting the level of academic education in these two towns compared with low socio-economic localities such as Beit She’an or those in the upper middle class, such as Shoham in central Israel. The percentage of residents with college/university degrees in the 1995 census was 47% in Elkana and 30% in Karnei Shomron. For Shoham figures were 44%, Kefar Haveradim 48%, whereas the low-income, working-class town of Beit She’an had 4.6%. Giv’atayim, which over the years transformed from a working-class city to a place for the upper middle class, recorded 30% with university degrees.

In summation, from an historical standpoint, organized religious Zionism developed as an ideological and institutional trend within the Zionist movement. Sociologically, it is an ideological minority that wants to be part of general society.

The Religious-Zionist Settlement Movement

The term ‘settlement movement’ refers to those Israelis and new immigrants who decided to live in the territories captured by Israel in the Six Day War (June 1967). This demographic development was motivated by political ideology and economic considerations. The military victory generated a wave of messianic fervour and renewed pioneering which became known as the ‘Greater Israel’ movement, inspiring individuals and families to settle in cluster groups in the newly acquired areas. Other settlers, however, were encouraged to set down roots when the government offered incentives in the form of low-priced land and mortgage rates in these areas, appealing to young couples with a desire for rapid upward social mobility, as well as economically ‘weak’ sectors in the population. Three salient examples of successful settlement towns in Judea and Samaria illustrate the demographic boom: Ma’ale Adummim in Judea, established in 1977, had a population of 34,600 in 2009; Ariel in Samaria, established in 1983, registered a population of 18,300 in 2010; and Modi’in Illit in Samaria, established in 1990, recorded a population of 44,900 in 2009

Often the motivation to settle in the newly acquired territories combined both ideological and socio-economic considerations. Although the consolidation and enlargement of these towns in recent decades was part of an ideological effort led by the Israeli Right to retain the entire historical Land of Israel for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, these places were also preferred as low-priced communal environments for specific sectors of the population: For example, in Ma’ale Adummim, children of immigrants from Islamic countries could realize their desire to become part of the Israeli middle class by buying spacious apartments; in Ariel, recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union could live in an inexpensive urban location close to jobs in central Israel; and in Modi’in Illit, young ultra-Orthodox couples among whom the husband studies Torah and the wife earns a living, could obtain inexpensive and sizeable housing for their prospectively large families.

Organized religious Zionism is a dominant component in the political ideology of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria. Its Weltanschauung emanated from the reactions of young religious Zionists to the euphoric outcome of the Six Day War and even more so to the collective traumatic and inconclusive outcome of the Yom Kippur War (October 1973). In both instances, a messianic interpretation of events voiced in certain religious-Zionist yeshivas, especially Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem, stimulated action by the settler movement. Implementation of the ideology focused to a large extent on the West Bank, captured from Jordan during the Six Day War. Movement members, drawing upon biblical designations, referred to these areas as ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’. Although Israeli Jews also moved into the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, most of the religious-Zionist settlers made their homes in the territory formerly occupied by Jordan. With state assistance, dozens of communities, large and small, were established. These new localities became facts on the ground that sought to change the interpretation of Zionist activity, the political development of the State of Israel, and geopolitical relations in the Middle East. The area became the demographic and political heartland of the religious-Zionist settlement movement and the focus of its awareness.

Two prominent factors account for the centrality of Judea and Samaria in religious-Zionist settlement activity: First, biblical Judea and Samaria were an integral part in forging the bond between Jews and the Land of Israel. Cities such as Hebron, Nablus (Shechem), and Jericho—all situated in the West Bank—are central to the biblical narrative, and the settlers, who espouse a religious ethos, regard this association as a legitimization for their actions. Biblical sites such as Kiryat Arba, Shiloh, and Bethel inspired the establishment of Jewish towns by the religious-Zionist settlement movement. Secondly, settling in Judea and Samaria was consistent with old-time Zionism, which also drew upon the Bible for its inspiration, and with a messianic interpretation of the outcome of the Six Day War as voiced by the followers of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, head of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem. The messianic interpretation perceived the Israeli victory in the Six Day War, and especially the capture of Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem, as an act of divine intervention that had brought the final redemption near. As a result, Merkaz Harav circles began calling on Jews to ‘return’ to the ancient parts of the land that had just been liberated by God in order to facilitate redemption. Thus, they called for a renewal of Zionist settlement which embraced religious intentions. The religious understanding of the act of settlement is expressed linguistically by the word used by Israelis to refer to Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria: mitnahalim. This word is derived from a Biblical root meaning ‘to take possession of’ and ‘settling in the portion of land that was either inherited or given by God’. In other words, the word signifies that the land already belongs to the settlers by right.

Alterations in the religious and political consciousness of religious-Zionist circles would not have come about were it not for a social transformation among the religious-Zionist settlers. Many of the latter belonged to the young generation of religious Zionists who had lived through the establishment or consolidation of the state. These people came mostly from longstanding urban communities and had entered the academic professions of the new middle class in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. By settling in Judea and Samaria, they were able to take part in a major, ideologically important act that they believed in and had been reared in through the religious-Zionist schools and youth movements. They were acting in accordance with religious modernism that organized religious Zionism had developed over the years, especially in connection with the principle of the ‘sacred revolt’ developed by people in Hapoel Hamizrachi. According to this principle, the religious Orthodox way of life does not stand in contrast to social and revolutionary Zionism. In fact, it can bring new energy to the Zionist revolution, as well as to the Orthodox community. Moving to Judea or Samaria was a resumption of the ‘sacred revolt’, directed this time against the passivity of their parents’ generation and the embourgeoisement of Israeli society. These concepts fit in well with the messianic circles’ radical, activist interpretation of current events.

The religious-Zionist settlement movement in Judea, Samaria, and later the Gaza Strip, did not function in a vacuum. Reaction to the settlement-oriented ideology of organized religious Zionism framed the political agenda of Israeli society. Israeli politics became divided between dovish and hawkish camps; the former viewed Jewish settlements in these areas as an obstacle to future agreements with the Palestinian national movement and Arab countries, whereas the latter claimed that settlements were an important security measure for safeguarding the State of Israel and another step forward in the practical fulfilment of Zionism. The doves advocated disbanding the settlements; the hawks campaigned for the strengthening of these settlements. In the 1990s, this political polarization of Left and Right brought about a severe political crisis following the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization. These negotiations had taken place against the backdrop of the Palestinian Intifada in which Israel contended with waves of organized and violent popular resistance to its military and civilian presence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Impact of the Settlement Movement on Religious Zionism

Although most religious Zionists do not live in Judea or Samaria, the settlement movement plays a decisive role in shaping their ideological, political, and educational agenda. For many years, the religious-Zionist settlement movement determined the profile of organized religious-Zionist society. Division between a ‘hawkish’ centre which supported the idea of settlement and ‘dovish’ fringes that favoured territorial compromise in any peace negotiations framed its ideological orientation. The settlement movement in Judea and Samaria brought a new, invigorating element to much of the religious-Zionist population and drew its concerns into the mainstream of Israeli politics. Religious Zionism was not initially part of the Zionist core. For many years, it was marginal to Zionist activity and was burdened with a complex dilemma: on the one hand, it was committed to the Zionist ideal of the new Jew who did not bear the socio-economic traits of dependency upon a host regime characteristic of Diaspora Jewry; on the other hand, it was committed to preserving the way of life of religious Orthodoxy which had received its definitive stamp during nearly 2000 years of exile. The attempt to balance these two world views finds expression in Haim Be’er’s period novel Et ha-zamir (The Time of Trimming). Be’er uses his hero, Nahum Gewirtz, a young kashrut supervisor in the army, to explain the change in religious Zionism after the Six Day War. The book follows the transformation that Gewirtz undergoes after the war. The religious-Zionist movement, as described by Be’er, went from following the leaders of the Jewish return to history to attempting to lead Israeli Jewish society back to Jewish mythology, from pragmatically straddling the fence between the ultra-Orthodox world and the secular Zionist environment to resolutely choosing its own path in shaping the future.

Whereas religious-Zionist forces initially expressed a desire to integrate into the Zionist movement as a bridge between Orthodoxy and secular Zionism, in the past few decades, against the backdrop of the settlement movement in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, voices have urged organized religious Zionism to take a leading role in Israeli society. The movement envisioned a switch from small-scale to large-scale politics; rather than a focus on serving the people and therefore remaining content with minor government ministries such as Religious Affairs, Welfare and Social Affairs, and the Postal Authority, the focus turned to moulding the nation and therefore insisting on the Education and Interior Ministry portfolios. The shift was from the politics of a minority that demands integration to the politics of a minority that seeks leadership; from the politics of a social sector to the politics of a political avant-garde. This transformation finds expression in works of religious-Zionist political theology, such as Rabbi Ya’akov Filber’s Ayelet ha-Shahar (Morning Star), a philosophical work that has become prime reading fare among settlement adherents. In this book, Rabbi Filber describes the settlement movement as an innovative factor in the Zionist movement and the Jewish people. He writes:

Along with the weakness of spirit that has befallen the general populace since the establishment of the state, there has been a Torah revolution among the national-religious population. In its wake, a population devoted to the Torah and the state has developed. A population spread over the land, from the Golan in the north to Eilat in the south. Despite its many accomplishments at its inception, it still lacks leadership in order to contend fully with the social, personal, and intergroup problems that frequently arise in Israeli society. When these lacunae are filled, its public impact on giving life in Israel a Jewish character will be more evident and significant.

As noted above, religious Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza became the focal point for the establishment of dozens of high schools and institutions of higher learning serving not only the residents of those areas but also religious Zionists living in the major urban areas. For example, two hesder yeshivas at opposite ends of the religious-Zionist social and philosophical spectrum are Har Etzion yeshiva (known as ‘the Gush’ because of its location in Gush Etzion in Judea) and Har Bracha yeshiva (situated in the settlement of Har Bracha in Samaria). These post-high school yeshivas take part in the army’s arrangement with organized religious Zionism. Their students perform only half of the standard time allocated to compulsory military service and spend the rest of the time studying Torah in the yeshiva. Har Etzion yeshiva, which promotes complex dialogue on basic political and religious questions of concern to religious-Zionist society, serves as a focal point for liberal circles in religious Zionism. Over the years, Har Etzion has managed to be home to both an activist discourse and a discourse of political compromise. With respect to the religious discourse, the yeshiva has served as fertile ground for the development of modern Orthodoxy in religious-Zionist circles. An indication of the salient symbolic status of Har Etzion was the appointment by Prime Minister Shimon Peres, following the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, of Rabbi Yehuda Amital, a minister in the Labour Alignment government to the head of the yeshiva. The selection of Rabbi Amital to this post was part of Peres’ attempt to prevent a major rift among Israeli Jews in the political aftermath of the assassination and encourage moderates in religious-Zionist society. At the other end of the spectrum is the Har Bracha yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. This yeshiva—situated in the settlement of Har Bracha, on a hill above the Palestinian city of Nablus in Samaria—was responsible for the development of a form of activist, authoritarian religious and nationalist fundamentalism referred to in religious-Zionist terminology as ‘national haredi’, that is, a combination of uncompromising religious piety and vehement nationalism. The yeshiva made the headlines when some of its soldier-students said they would refuse to obey military orders to disband new settlements (small ‘outposts’) and engaged in protest actions when left-wing and right-wing Israeli governments threatened to have the outposts disbanded. This led to a structural change in the yeshiva when Defence Minister Ehud Barak expelled it from the hesder programme. In any event, these two yeshivas have had a powerful impact on the religious-Zionist discourse, manifested in both the social and educational positions held by their alumni in the religious-Zionist world and in the media agenda of the settlement movement. For instance, one prominent newspaper in the settlement movement discourse that has a wide circulation even in urban religious-Zionist communities is Besheva, started by the head of the Har Bracha yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. The paper gives space to ultra-conservative religious views and activist nationalist views and serves as a focal point for discourse in which the radical views within the religious-Zionist settlement movement are expressed.

The Contribution of the Settlement Movement in Judea and Samaria to Religious-Zionist Segregation

In addition to its political and ideological influences, the religious-Zionist movement left its imprint upon Zionism in two respects: First, the religious-Zionist settlement movement in Judea and Samaria has helped its people cope with the secularization and modernization taking place in Israel in recent decades. Secondly, it has fostered the expansion of ‘Torah cadres’.

Initially, organized religious Zionism attempted to serve as a middle ground, bridging the gap between the secular world and the ultra-Orthodox world. It had on-going contact with the centres of non-religious life in Israel, yet was committed to a conservative religious way of life. This state of affairs necessitated a complex way of life. In recent decades, however, the core population of organized religious Zionism has become more religiously segregated in an effort to preserve its unique religious way of life. In urban communities, this trend is manifested in the establishment of separate neighbourhoods and private religious-Zionist educational institutions that attempt to control who is admitted to them. In order to realize this selectivity, admission criteria for students now include their religious profile, and sometimes that of their parents, as well as proven academic achievement in religious and secular subjects. Although the selectivity is perhaps most obvious in admissions to private schools—yeshivot for boys and ulpenot for girls—it is also manifested in patterns of acceptance to urban synagogues. This is undoubtedly the nature of an ideological minority striving to be a political elite with a formative agenda. Nevertheless, this selectivity creates a web of dilemmas regarding the ideological foundations of the actively proclaimed yet mixed message of religious Zionism. The dilemmas are obvious in the case of the religious-Zionist settlement movement, especially in suburban communities in Judea and Samaria.

From its inception, the religious-Zionist settlement movement strove for active involvement in the state; it wanted to take a significant part in leading and revitalizing Zionist ideology. But the settlement movement also stood out in its self-segregation and the distancing of religious Zionists from anything different and unfamiliar to the alumni of its educational institutions. The settlement as a selective ideological and religious entity exemplified this paradox. From the very start, not everyone could join a religious-Zionist settlement. Candidates had to be approved by reception committees whose guidelines were based upon a homogeneous religious and personal profile. This turned these communities into religious and ideological, and, at times, socio-economic enclaves (for example, Elkana). These reception committees functioned within the code world of core organized religious Zionism, with its divisions, emphases, and cultural nuances.

Another interesting manifestation of the testing and self-segregation processes affecting religious Zionism under the influence of the settlement movement can be found in its religious discourse. This language became increasingly influenced by the exegetical writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook and it became one of the identifying foundations of the religious-Zionist community in the period of the settlement movement. A poetic, sometimes vague theological language, far removed from the tone of practical study, it reflects a thoroughly complex philosophy that serves as a resource in creating a distinctive identity for the movement. This language, full of expressions of messianic and spiritual significance, has found a place in the standard language of pulpit rabbis, schoolteachers, and youth-movement leaders. It has become an integral part of the religious-Zionist identity, far removed from the practical, modernistic ideological language of the leading spokespersons of organized religious Zionism prior to the days of the settlement movement, such as Rabbis Isaac Jacob Reines and Meir Bar-Ilan, thinkers such as Moshe Unna, and public figures such as Zerach Warhaftig. It is very different, too, from the relatively clear style of the religious language employed by spiritual leaders in Islamic countries.

Evidence of awareness of the distinctiveness and self-segregation of the religious-Zionist settlement movement can be found in present-day ideological and social attempts to undermine it. And here there are two contradictory trends: one is entailed by contemporary efforts of upper middle class urban congregations to develop ‘light’ nationalist politics backed by religious liberalism and social integration into society, not necessarily in an attempt to take a leading role, but definitely in hopes of influencing it. A prominent example of this viewpoint can be found in the reworked agenda and profile of Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish House)—the New National Religious Party—led by Zevulun Orlev and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz. While they support the religious-Zionist settlement movement, this is not the focal point of their political agenda. They harken back to diverse educational, social, and welfare issues which engaged earlier religious Zionism.

The second trend that has developed within or in relation to the settlement movement, especially in Judea and Samaria, is the expansion of ‘Torah cadres’. This development commenced in the mid-1990s against the backdrop of the political processes in which Israel and the PLO were embroiled following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It intensified in religious-Zionist organizations that had operated for many years in the urban periphery, as well as among weak population groups in Israel, but had not been prominent in religious-Zionist activity because of the charisma of the settlement movement. The Torah cadres were established around new hesder yeshivas established within the ‘Green Line’—the geographical marking on maps that divides the areas that were part of Israel before the Six Day War from those captured in the war. The yeshivas were comprised of young students and couples who sought to resume this activity and establish new urban religious-Zionist communities. These activists argued that the settlement movement had distanced religious Zionism from social action and turned it into a sectarian organization. The Torah cadres sought to recover the pioneering charisma that the settlement movement had in its early days, but this time directed their ideological energy not at Judea and Samaria but towards the interior of the country. A look at the development of the Torah cadres shows that some integrated communities were indeed built, but in many places they formed the basis for new, segregated religious-Zionist communities. In these places, some saw the religious-Zionist settlements in Judea and Samaria as a distinctive religious community model that was worth copying to the urban context.


This article shows the distance organized religious Zionism travelled from its early attempts to develop an integrationist position vis-à-vis the secular Jewish majority in Israel to the distinctive, segregationist milieu of the religious-Zionist settlement movement. Some will attribute this trend to the impossibility of maintaining conservative religious values while also taking responsibility for Israeli Jewry as a whole. In other words, according to this view, religious Zionism had to choose between integration and segregation, and it chose segregation. However, the case of the religious-Zionist settlement movement can also be understood in the opposite way. The movement seems to be succeeding in holding onto both options. On the one hand, its religious conservatism is manifested in the community organization of many of its localities; on the other hand, it maintains that the religious-Zionist settlement movement has an essential role to play in revitalizing the pioneering activity of Zionism. Thus, we have here not a choice between two incompatible options but rather a transformation of the religious-Zionist dilemma—integration from a place of segregation. Although the segregation may be rooted in the threat of secularization and contact with those who are different, it is justified on the grounds that selectivity and distinctiveness are essential for realizing the potential of a rigid national ideology that has to contend with the apathy of its supporters and demonization by its opponents.