Jewish fundamentalism (Hebrew: פונדמנטליזם יהודי‎) refers to fundamentalism in the context of Judaism. The term fundamentalism was originally used in reference to Christian fundamentalism, a Protestant movement emphasizing biblical literalism. Today, it is commonly used more generally in reference to movements that oppose modernist, liberal, and ecumenical tendencies in society and their own religion and is often coupled with extremist ideologies and/or political movements. This is important in the Jewish context because the two movements most commonly associated with Jewish fundamentalism, Religious Zionism and Haredi Judaism,[1] stray far from biblical literalism due to the importance of Oral Law within Judaism. In fact, Karaism, the Jewish movement most known for biblical literalism, is rarely considered fundamentalist.[citation needed]


Like other fundamentalist movements, fundamentalist Judaism usually presents itself as the only valid form of Judaism, Jewish culture, and truth. However, Religious Zionism and Haredi Judaism, the two movements most broadly associated with Jewish fundamentalism, differ in significant ways and have historically been opposed to each other (though recently there has been more overlap with the rise of the Hardal movement). Religious Zionism is more associated with political extremism while Haredi Judaism is associated with anti-modernism and maintaining control over women by men and patriarchal family structures.[2]

Haredi Judaism

Main article: Haredi Judaism

Haredi Judaism consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism that are characterized by their strict adherence to halakha (Jewish law) and traditions in opposition to modern values and practices.[3][4] Its members are usually referred to as ultra-Orthodox in English; however, the term "ultra-Orthodox" is considered pejorative by many of its adherents, who prefer terms like strictly Orthodox or Haredi.[5] Haredi Jews regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews,[6][7] but other movements of Judaism disagree.[8]

Religious Zionism

Main article: Religious Zionism

Religious Zionism is an ideology that combines Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. It began primarily with the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who saw Zionism as part of a divine scheme to return Jews to their homeland and eventually bring about the coming of the Messiah. Religious Zionism gained a new force after Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel conquered the West Bank, a territory rich in Biblical history. The Gush Emunim movement took off under the leadership of Tzvi Yehudah Kook and spearheaded the proliferation of Israeli settlements in the newly conquered territory.

Religious Zionism is still a relatively broad term encompassing both moderate and extreme elements. The extremist elements are often associated with anti-Arab racism and violence, often with ideological inspiration from Kahanism. They have been associated with Jewish religious terrorism against both Palestinians and, in some cases, the Israel Defense Forces. The Hilltop Youth movement is especially associated with the most extremist forms of Religious Zionism.[9]


Jewish fundamentalism was ignored for much of the 20th century, and it was only when it began to have an effect on Israeli politics and international relations that scholars began to study it in earnest.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Jewish fundamentalism in Israel". Fundamentalism (religious movement). Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Yuval-Davis, Nira (1999). The Personal Is Political: Jewish Fundamentalism and Women's Empowerment in In: Howland C.W. (eds) Religious Fundamentalisms and the Human Rights of Women. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 33–42. ISBN 978-0-312-29306-2.
  3. ^ Raysh Weiss. "Haredim (Charedim), or Ultra-Orthodox Jews". My Jewish Learning. What unites haredim is their absolute reverence for Torah, including both the Written and Oral Law, as the central and determining factor in all aspects of life. ... In order to prevent outside influence and contamination of values and practices, haredim strive to limit their contact with the outside world.
  4. ^ "Orthodox Judaism". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Archived from the original on 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2019-05-15. Haredi Judaism, on the other hand, prefers not to interact with secular society, seeking to preserve halakha without amending it to modern circumstances and to safeguard believers from involvement in a society that challenges their ability to abide by halakha.
  5. ^ Shafran, Avi (February 4, 2014). "Don't Call Us 'Ultra-Orthodox". Forward. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  6. ^ Tatyana Dumova; Richard Fiordo (30 September 2011). Blogging in the Global Society: Cultural, Political and Geographical Aspects. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 126. ISBN 978-1-60960-744-9. Haredim regard themselves as the most authentic custodians of Jewish religious law and tradition which, in their opinion, is binding and unchangeable. They consider all other expressions of Judaism, including Modern Orthodoxy, as deviations from God's laws.
  7. ^ "Orthodox Judaism". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Archived from the original on 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2019-05-15. Orthodox Judaism claims to preserve Jewish law and tradition from the time of Moses.
  8. ^ Nora L. Rubel (2010). Doubting the Devout: The Ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish American Imagination. Columbia University Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-231-14187-1. Retrieved 24 July 2013. Mainstream Jews have—until recently—maintained the impression that the ultraorthodox are the 'real' Jews.
  9. ^ Goldman, Paul. "'Fundamentalist' Jewish Terror a Growing Threat to Israel: Experts". NBC News. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  10. ^ Brownfeld, Allan (February 2002). "Jewish Fundamentalism: An Old Problem Re-emerges". Jane's Terrorism & Security Monitor: 12–15.