Three main trends in Israeli Judaism have been characterized as fundamentalist: militant religious Zionism, the ultra-Orthodoxy of the Ashkenazim (Jews of eastern European origin), and the ultra-Orthodoxy of the Sephardim (Jews of Middle Eastern origin) as represented by the Shas party. All three groups stress the need for strict conformity to the religious laws and moral precepts contained in the sacred Jewish texts, the Torah and the Talmud.
The fundamentalist impulse in Israel is rooted in events that took place well before the country’s founding in 1948. Since the destruction of Jerusalem’s Second Temple by the Romans in 70 ce (see Jerusalem, Temple of), most Jews had lived in the Diaspora—that is, dispersed far from the land of Israel promised by God to the Jewish people according to the Hebrew Bible. During their prolonged “exile” (Hebrew: galut), Jews all over the world prayed daily for the coming of the messiah, who would lead them back to Israel and deliver them from their Gentile oppressors. In the late 19th century, some Jews, primarily secular intellectuals such as Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), a Viennese journalist and playwright, concluded that the ancient problem of anti-Semitism could be solved only by the creation of a Jewish state. Zionism, the movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, thus represented a secularization of the traditional messianic theme. Instead of waiting for God and the messiah to lead the Jews back to the land of Israel, Zionists argued, Jews should take it upon themselves to return there. For Herzl and his closest associates, the messianic aspect of this “ingathering of the exiles” was irrelevant: the crucial point was to create a state where Jews would no longer be at the mercy of non-Jews.
Most Orthodox Jews—and Orthodox rabbis in particular—were opposed to Zionism, primarily because, in their view, it called upon humans to do what only God and the messiah could do. In traditional Judaism, the return to the land of Israel was inseparable from the messianic redemption of the people of Israel. Thus, returning to the land and creating a state would amount to defying God’s will and would only postpone the real redemption and the real ingathering of exiles. Orthodox Jews also objected to the fact that Herzl and most other early Zionist leaders did not advocate a state based on strict conformity to Jewish religious law. Hostility toward Zionism prevailed among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis through the early 20th century. However, it virtually disappeared among the former with the coming of the Holocaust, which appeared to confirm the Zionist argument that Jews could be safe only in their own state.
Modern Orthodox Jews strictly observe Jewish religious law but have nevertheless devised ways to participate in modern society, both in the Diaspora and in Israel. The ultra-Orthodox, in contrast, insist on separating themselves from Gentile society, as well as from Jews who do not follow the religious law as strictly as they do.
Jewish Extremist Groups
Jewish religious terrorism is a type of religious terrorism committed by extremists of Judaism with religious rather than ethnic or national motivations
Jewish extremists in France