Mystic, Messianist, and Modernizer: The Legacy of Rav Kook

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who served as the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, is generally regarded as the intellectual progenitor of religious Zionism. Born in Russia in 1865, Kook developed a theosophy that combined various strands of Jewish mysticism with ideas plucked from modern and secular currents, most importantly from secular Zionism. While strictly Orthodox, he rejected Orthodoxy’s view of Judaism as unchanging and called for a religious renewal made possible by Zionism; this, as Yehudah Mirsky points out in his recent biography, would lead to reconciliation between religious and secular Jews and hasten the coming of the messiah. Samuel Thrope writes:

In his own way, Kook was no less radical than the young [secular Zionist] pioneers. Unlike other representatives of traditional Judaism in Palestine, he did not dismiss the anti-religious Zionists as heretics and sinners. His Kook’s response to Zionism’s revolutionary, secular challenge to tradition—its claim to have wrested the mantle of Jewishness from Judaism—was to transform it into theology. Even as the pioneers sought to sacralize their secular undertaking, Kook intended to re-appropriate Jewish nationalism as a religious movement springing from the deepest wells of the faith. The pioneers might have seen themselves as socialists and enlightened rebels; in Kook’s admiring eyes, they were unwitting saints.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Mandate Palestine, Messianism, Mysticism, Religious Zionism

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank