Since Israel’s founding, there has been a fairly sharp distinction between religious Zionists—who tend to wear modern clothes, serve in the IDF, pursue secular educations and careers, and support the Jewish state with fervor—and Ḥaredim—who dress in their community’s distinctive style, shun military service, believe men should devote themselves primarily to study of Jewish texts, and observe Jewish law very strictly. Moreover, the latter tend to suspect the former of a lack of religious commitment, and to view them as at least vaguely heretical. Aryeh Meir, writing in a ḥaredi publication, makes the case that the two communities have much to learn from one another, and that there is more that unites them than divides them:
[I]t is hard to point to a fundamental religious disagreement between the religious Zionist and ḥaredi communities. Both believe in the same Torah, observe the same halakhah, and espouse similar (though not identical) patterns of authority and instruction.
[Moreover], the situation that divided our communities has changed significantly. The Jewish state and its religious conflicts are very different now from some decades ago. The state and its population have become more religious. There is an affinity—not only rhetorical but also financial and institutional—between the state and its more traditional constituencies. If words such as “Zionism” and “nationalism” were once identified with the secular left, today they possess a strong religious connotation.
The struggle between religion and secularism endures, of course; in some respects it has even intensified. Yet, the state is no longer clearly secular and neither is Israel’s dominant culture.
The fierce philosophical and practical debate over the state, which tore the religious community apart from within, has long subsided. Both Ḥaredim and religious Zionists understand that the state of Israel is not (or at least not yet) the anticipated final redemption; at the same time, it does not preside over some kind of internal exile. Most members of both communities do not deny the great significance of the state as part of a Divine plan of returning to Zion.