Until 1967 religious
Zionists in Israel were marginalized both
by the secular majority, and by the more visibly
religious groups that seemed to offer a more
authentic, uncompromising brand of religion.
War of June 1967 resulted in the the capture
of East Jerusalem and other territories of the Biblical Land
The long-range fate of these territories,
and their Arab inhabitants, became a major
controversy of Israeli policy makers. From
a purely secular perspective, the choice was
between the military security that was offered
by the expanded borders and the relative demographic
stability that would be achieved by excluding
their large Arab population from the domain
of a Jewish state.
A religious claim provided strong justification
for those who wished to hold on to the occupied
territories: If the State of Israel was viewed
as the unfolding of a Messianic scenario,
then the miraculous victory of the Six-Day
War was an essential stage in that process.
The territories belong to the Jewish people
(i.e., the State of Israel) by Divine decree
and they may not be handed over to foreign
The issue of territories, viewed in an eschatological
context, became the defining feature for broad
segments of religious Zionism in the post-1967
Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi
Kook's son Zvi Yehudah Kook, with its
centre in the yeshivah founded by the
elder Kook, Jerusalem's "Merkaz Harav,"
thousands of modern young religious Jews campaigned
actively against any territorial compromise,
and established numerous settlements throughout Judea
and Samaria. Many of these settlements,
though originally founded illegally, were
subsequently granted official recognition
by the Israeli government, especially under
The most powerful political voice of the
movement against territorial compromise became
"Gush Emunim" (the Bloc of
However the fundamental policies of Gush
Emunim filtered down to the mainstream,
particularly to religious educational networks,
in which a land-centered nationalism was presented
as the highest form of religious virtue, and
the histories of Zionism and the State of Israel were viewed as irreversible
steps in the unfolding Messianic fulfillment.
The aspirations of Gush Emunim were
widely respected by the Jewish public, especially
as long as Arab intransigence made the return
of the territories a far-off theoretical possibility.
agreements with Egypt (1977) and the Palestine
Liberation Organization (1993) put the
return of occupied lands onto the actual political
agenda, Gush Emunim found itself in
active opposition to the policies and laws
of the State of Israel.
In the '90's mainstream Rabbis were ordering religious Jews to disobey military
commands to evacuate occupied lands, and branding
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin a "traitor" to the higher
Jewish cause. A follower of these views assassinated
Rabin in November 1995.
The Gush Emunim movement, like the
secular right-wing parties, was generally
vague or ambivalent about the status of the
non-Jewish residents of the occupied territories.
A more extreme position was taken by Meir
Kahane, whose banned racist party "Kach"
scorned democracy as an un-Jewish import,
and advocated laws that would prohibit sexual
and social contact with Arabs, actively calling
for the eviction of Arabs from territories
that belonged by rights to the Jews.