The Grandfather of Israeli Ultra-Orthodoxy and His Complex Attitude toward Zionism

No figure is more associated with the non-ḥasidic ḥaredi community in Israel than Rabbi Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz, better known by his pen name, the Ḥazon Ish. Born in Russia in 1878 to a rabbinic family, he pursued an ascetic life of study and shunned the spotlight, never assuming any official position. Yet after he left Eastern Europe for the Land of Israel, he became a highly influential figure, whose legendary 1952 meeting with David Ben-Gurion had a lasting impact on religion and government in the Jewish state. Allan Arkush argues that, despite his reputation as a hardliner, Karelitz sought, in his own way, to be a moderate:

Anything but a Zionist, [Karelitz] was nonetheless stirred by the changes wrought by the Balfour Declaration and felt obliged to move to the Holy Land now that it would be feasible for him to devote himself to Torah study there. . . . [When he and his wife did emigrate], they didn’t choose a new home to be near potential customers or to live in proximity to other pious Jews in Jerusalem, since he wanted to settle in the midst of the “wilderness” of the “new yishuv” where he could plant seeds of Torah. . . .

The Ḥaredim with whom the Ḥazon Ish affiliated himself took a very different path from the isolationists who regarded the whole Zionist enterprise as a travesty and strove to minimize their interaction with it. Even though they themselves weren’t Zionists, they lived amicably enough alongside them, participated in the development of the Jewish economy, and even established their own kibbutzim. [Karelitz] slowly became a leader in this community, a favored legal guide. He worked hard to establish and solidify the yeshivas of Bnei Brak and other parts of the country and offered stringent if compassionate advice on how to deal with the halakhic problems arising from agricultural life.

[E]ven after the establishment of the state of Israel by people whom he held in low regard, the Ḥazon Ish remained as convinced as ever that the spiritual strength of the Ḥaredim would ultimately triumph over the coercive power of the secular state.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, David Ben-Gurion, Judaism in Israel, Ultra-Orthodox

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict