The following article delineates five different philosophies that have developed within the past century and a half within the observant Jewish community in terms of how they view and interact with Zionism.
It is important to understand these five different views so that unnecessary confusion will not develop and so that we all develop a better understanding about who we are, and where other people in the political spectrum in Israel actually stand. We should also note that it is possible that a person can stand somewhere in between these five points. One can be a 1.5 or a 4.5. But let’s begin.
We will start with Group One.
Members of Group One are people that view Zionism as, essentially, a force of evil. They honestly feel that Zionism is responsible for the destruction of much of Judaism, and that after the holocaust, Hashem would have brought the Messiah were it not for the fact that the Zionists had grabbed hold of Israel and declared it a state. They would never join the government in Israel and spurn any funding that the Zionist government would offer. Members of Group One include both Satmar groups, the Neturei Karta and other constituents of the Eida HaChareidis.
Members of Group Two are people who view Zionism negatively, but are willing to work with them politically. They will “hold their nose” so to speak and join in coalitions with Zionist parties and other political parties too. They will accept funding from the Israeli government, and indeed, will actively pursue such funding.
We will skip Group Three for now and come back to it at the end.
Members of Group Four are people who view Zionism as the beginning of the redemption of Israel. They hold the view that the Zionist movement is the vehicle that Hashem will use to bring the redemption. They, therefore, recite Hallel on Yom Ha'atzamut with a bracha. This group is known as Chardal which stands for Chareidi Dati Leumi. Members of this group are completely observant.
Members of Group Five are people that also view Zionism as the beginning of the redemption, but are more lenient in their observance of religious practice. They do not describe themselves as Chardal, but rather as Dati. The men will wear yarmulkas but they will not necessarily wear tzitzit. They will observe Shabbat and keep to a regular hechsher of Kashrut.
Now we arrive at Group Three. Members of Group Three are very supportive of the State of Israel. They will donate to Israel, pray for the well-being of soldiers, and a small percentage of them, if they are living in Israel, will even join the IDF. The Nachal Chareidi movement, prior to the rise of Yesh Atid, was growing steadily and was comprised of Group Three people. It is this author’s contention that the overwhelming majority of American Chareidim lie somewhere between 2.6 and 3.6 on this spectrum. Most of the Rebbeim of members of group Three were Group Two members, and some were Group One.
Group Three members do not have a name. One can create a name such as Nationalist Chareidi, or Chareidi Leumi, but this probably will not be effective at all because most people in Group Three do not wish to disassociate themselves from the label “Chareidi.” Some use the term “American Chareidi” even though that will also subsume Group Two American Chareidim. Also, it does not include the Group Thee Israeli Chareidim who have no ties to America. Perhaps a term like “Chareidi Kvutza Gimel” may emerge in the future.
Group Three members suffer from bad public relations. Their view has not been articulated publically for a number of factors, beyond the scope of this analysis.
There are a number of Gedolim that one might have associated with Group Two who, in fact, are Group Three. Rav Elya Meir Bloch zt”l of the Telze Yeshiva was probably a Group Three member, by virtue of his forceful stance in attending the Israeli Day Parade.
It is my theory that Group Three Gedolim did not necessarily raise their voice to the banner of Group Three because they did not wish to unnecessarily alienate their Group Two peers.
It is my experience that many members of Group Two who live in Israel will avoid Seforim written by those who associate themselves with Group Four.
Group Threes in Israel do not have any significant infrastructure to speak of. They have no school system and do not really have a community to fit into, other than their own groups of social peers. When American Chareidi families move to Israel they generally enroll their children in Group Two schools.
They will, however, often react negatively when they hear their child come home and speak negatively about secular Zionists. They will say, “Hey, this wasn’t the Yeshiva education I received!” Depending on how frustrated they get, they may move back to America, or frantically look for a school that is closer to a 2.5. Some will make the jump to full Group Four schools.
If one publicly identifies a Gadol as a member of Group Three, people in the Group Two world may become angry and accuse the author of Lashon Harah, etc. Nonetheless, it is clear that Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, and Rav Elya Meir Bloch were adherents to the platform of Group Three.
It is possible for a person to vacillate between different groups as well. There were great Rabbis who, prior to the rise of the Nazis were closer to one than to two, but later ended up a strong two.
It is this author’s view that in the Chareidi world Rav Shteinman was closer to a Group Three than any other leading sage in recent times. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who in this author’s opinion was previously closer to a Group Two, has thrown his entire support to Rav Shteinman because his father-in-law Rav Elyashiv had backed Rav Shteinman.
The political reality of a viable Group Three emerging was nearer than ever before. Of late,though, there has been much tension between the Group Twos and Group Fours. Perhaps members of Group Four and Group Five, rather than attacking and lumping all Chareidim together, should rather encourage and help create an infrastructure for Group Three Chareidim for a number of reasons, including making a stronger and more united Eretz Yisroel, and a more economically vital one too.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org