A Forgotten Religious-Zionist Manifesto

Today, Rabbi Abraham Isaac ha-Kohen Kook (1865-1935) and his disciples—literal and figurative—are the thinkers most associated with religious Zionism. But even before Kook began to develop his ideas about the Jewish people’s return to its homeland, many rabbis had joined the Zionist movement. Among these was Yehuda Leyb Don Yahya, a member of a family of Russian Chabad Ḥasidim and a leading disciple of one of the most prominent rabbis of his day, the fiercely anti-Zionist Ḥayyim Soloveitchik. Don Yahya published a pamphlet in 1901 in which he sought to reconcile traditional views of messianic redemption with Theodor Herzl’s secular, political Zionism. Bezalel Naor summarizes his ideas:

Don Yahya begins by clarifying that the return of the nation to its land can in no way be viewed as the complete redemption prophesied in Scripture. The prophets’ vision, while including the ingathering of exiles, extends beyond that to [all of] mankind acknowledging God and embracing His Torah.

[Yet] Don Yahya is flummoxed by various rabbis who adopt an all-or-nothing attitude to the Zionist organization’s [attempt] to secure from the Ottomans a safe haven for Jews in the Holy Land. Just because the Zionist dream does not encompass the comprehensive vision of the prophets of old is no reason to reject Zionism. Granted that the Zionist goals are much more modest in scope; that still does not justify opposing the movement.

Don Yahya’s own reading of the sources—biblical and rabbinic—is gradualist. He anticipates a phased redemption. The Jews’ return to the land is certainly the beginning, the first installment in a protracted process which will eventually . . . culminate in the restoration of the Davidic dynasty in the person of the messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple.

Don Yahya [also] points to the democratic character of the Zionist congresses. If more religious Jews would join the ranks of the Zionist movement, they would be able to turn the tide and steer the movement in a more religious direction. He chides those religious elements opposed to Zionism not to gloat and say, “We told you so,” in the event that Zionism deviates from Judaism. [Instead], these anti-Zionist agitators should be held responsible for bringing about that outcome by instructing observant Jews to stay clear of the movement.

Read more at Seforim

More about: East European Jewry, History of Zionism, Messianism, Religious Zionism

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security