MembersMapping the Tension in Israeli Society

The wisdom of Israel’s great pre-state rabbi is needed to address the deep divisions in the Jewish state

By Solomon Kirsch |
Rabbi Kook would have much to say about today's divisions in Israel
Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

As strife and polarization between Left and Right, so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’, are rampant around the world, from North America to East Asia and everywhere in the middle, the position of the great Rabbi of pre-state Israel, Abraham Isaac ha’Cohen Kook, remains profoundly relevant. He discerned the psychological and spiritual dynamics underlying popular ideological conflict and believed in the potential of a more inclusive and constructive approach.

Rabbi Kook (1865-1935) was an outstanding and colorful figure active in pre-state Israel. He was born and raised by a father and mother from opposing streams of Judaism in Eastern Europe, the Lithuanian and Hassidic movements. For him these were naturally different essential aspects of the whole. When he became a Zionist and moved to Palestine to serve as the Rabbi of the new Jaffa – Tel Aviv city, and later as that of Jerusalem, he was confronted and challenged by both the ‘old settlement’ of the ultra-Orthodox and the ‘new settlement’ made up mostly of very secular Zionist pioneers. This tension would lead to a career and an ideology preaching compromise,...

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