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The Zionist Aspect of Religious-Zionist Policy in Palestine in View of the Holocaust

Hava Eshkoli (Wagman)

  1. See, for example, Hava Eshkoli, Silence: Mapai and the Holocaust 1939–1942 (Hebrew) (Jerusalem:Yad Ben-Zvi, 1994); idem., “Mapai and the Fate of European Jewry 1933–1945,” Kivunim, (Hebrew), 8 (1995), pp. 141–159; Dina Porat, An Entangled Leadership (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1986) ; English edition: The Blue and Yellow Stars of David (Cambridge 1990); Arrow in the Dark (Hebrew) (Sede Boqer and Jerusalem: Ben-Gurion Heritage Center, 1998).
  2. The Mizrachi movement, established in 1902, on the basis of a tripartite slogan—“Eretz [the Land of] Israel for the People of Israel in accordance with the Torah of Israel”—has always waged a two-front struggle: against the domination of secularism in the Zionist movement, on the one hand; and against the anti-Zionist leanings of the haredim (ultra-orthodox) on the other. It is a middle class movement in its social orientation. The Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi federation was established by religious pioneers (haluzim) on Passover in 1922, on the basis of the Torah va-Avodah ideology, which coupled basic Mizrachi ideals with a call for social justice and productive life in Eretz Israel. True to this ideology, Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi followed a path similar to that of the Labor Movement in Palestine and was active in the “conquest of labor”(injecting Jewish laborers into all aspects of productive labor in Palestine), the Haganah, clandestine immigration, organizing Aliya Bet and rural settlement.
  3. According to Shlomo Zalman Shragai, Mizrachi bases itself totally on the idea of belief in the advent of the Messiah and full redemption, which Jews are required to promote by means of their actions in building Eretz Israel. See his “The Calculus of Religious Zionism and the Torah va-Avodah Movement,” Yitzhak Raphael and Shlomo Zalman Shragai, eds., The Book of Religious Zionism, A (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1977), p. 241.
  4. Moshe Unna, On Separate Paths: The Religious Parties in Israel (Hebrew) (Alon Shevut: Yad Shapira, 1984), p. 47.
  5. Meeting of the Zionist General Council. See Aviva Halamish, “Immigration and ImmigrantAbsorption Policy of the Zionist Organization, 1931–1937,” (Hebrew), Ph.D. dissertation, Tel Aviv University, 1995, p. 348.
  6. Meeting of plenary Zionist General Council, April 21, 1937, Central Zionist Archives (CZA) S 5/2141. See Anita Shapira, Visions in Conflict (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1988), pp. 322– 323.
  7. See Shulamit Eliash, “The Jewish Community in Palestine and the Peel Report of July 1937,” (Hebrew), M.A. dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, 1971,pp. 114–115.
  8. Speech by Rabbi Berlin at World Mizrachi Conference, Av 5699 (August 1939), ReligiousZionist Archives (RZA), Mossad Harav Kook, World Center, Conference File 10/9 B/94.
  9. Remarks by Rabbi Berlin, “Jewish Country and Jewish Territory” (December 1939), see Nathan Bistricki, ed., Torah and Building (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Jewish National Fund, 1950), p. 44.
  10. Remarks by Rabbi Berlin at meeting of the Inner Mizrachi Main Committee, January 21, 1941. See Yitzhak Arigur, Ilan ve-Nofo: Biography of the Late Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1951), p. 297.
  11. Remarks by Rabbi Berlin, meeting of the Inner Zionist General Council, September 10, 1941, CZA, S 25/1840.
  12. Remarks by Syrkis, meeting of the Inner Zionist General Council, August 26, 1941, CZA, S 25/1857.
  13. Rabbi Fishman made it clear at this debate that, however strong his messianic beliefs were, he did not believe Eretz Israel could be secured without conquest. For that purpose, national forces should be created; Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, April 6, 1941, CZA 33/2. See also Geula Bat-Yehuda, Rabbi Maimon and His Times (Hebrew) ( Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1979) pp. 484–486.
  14. For example, Inner Mizrachi Main Committee, RZA World Center, 1941 (38-50), 41/1.
  15. See, for example, Prof. Pik, meeting of Zionist General Council, December 27, 1939, CZA, S 25/1858.
  16. Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Federation—Report to the Eighth Conference, Tel Aviv, 1942, pp. 33– 34.
  17. Meeting of the Inner Zionist General Council, September 10, 1941, CZA, S 25/ 1840. Notably, Moshe Unna, one of the most important intellectuals in the Torah va-Avodah movement, also opposed the “Biltmore plan.” See Yeshayahu Klinov to Moshe Shapira February 22, 1942, CZA, S 25/2085. With regard to the institutions’ attitude toward the postwar rights of Diaspora Jewry, see, for example Eshkoli, Silence, p. 320.
  18. Meeting of World Center of Mizrachi with Political Committee (elected at a session of the Main Committee), November 17, 1941, Beit Meir (joint consultation between Mizrachi and activists in General Zionists A and B).
  19. Remarks by Rabbi Berlin, meeting of Inner General Zionist Council, January 6, 1942, CZA, S 25/1840. See also his “Pity and What Transcends It,” Hatsofe, January 23, 1942. In this article, Rabbi Berlin advocates an end to the use of pity to explain Zionist demands: “Our demands, claims, and justice are too lofty for that.”
  20. See, for example, Isaiah Bernstein, “Back to Building or Back to Exile?” ibid., January 27, 1942. Discussions of this topic continued immediately after the war; see, for example, “Does the Diaspora Have a Tomorrow?,” CZA, Broadsheets Shelf, Mizrachi.
  21. Moshe Shertok to Rabbi Berlin, September 24, 1941, CZA, S 25/932.
  22. Meeting of Mizrachi World Center, April 27, 1942, Beit Meir; meeting of Inner Mizrachi Main Committee, June 14–15, 1942, RZA, World Center , 1942, 41/1.
  23. Meeting of Inner World Mizrachi Main Committee, July 9, 1942, RZA World Center, 41/1; Resolutions of Main Committee, October 20, 1942, RZA, 1945, 22/1.
  24. As he expressed it, this, of all rationales, would appeal to the emotions of non-Jews who deemed the Bible holy. Rabbi Fishman offered to travel to the United States and organize the rabbinical community there for information activity in this vein. Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, October 11, 1942, CZA; Bat-Yehuda, Rabbi Maimon, p. 489.
  25. World Center of Mizrachi, November 9, 1942—Policy Proposals, Beit Meir.
  26. Yisrael Gan-Zvi, “Red Star of David Strategy,” Hatsofe, November 3, 1942.
  27. February 24, 1943, secret memorandum from Rabbi Meir Berlin about his meetings in the United States concerning Zionist and rescue affairs , RZA. For a lengthy description of the report, see Yitzhak Cohen, “The Mizrachi/Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Movement and Its Responses to the Holocaust in 1939–1945,” (Hebrew). M.A. thesis,Haifa University, 1992, pp. 72–76; Arigur, Ilan ve-Nofo, pp. 330–342.
  28. Remarks at mass rallies sponsored by Mizrachi and at a press conference in Tel Aviv upon his return from the United States, Arigur, Ilan ve-Nofo.
  29. Meeting of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, February 3, 1944; see report, “Rabbi Meir Berlin in Eretz Yisrael,” (Hebrew), RZA, World Center, 1944, 44/1.
  30. “Zionist Policy and Mizrachi,” remarks at a district conference of Mizrachi teachers in Tel Aviv, November 2, 1942, in Arigur, Ilan ve-Nofo, p. 329.
  31. Ibid., p. 338; see also meeting of Mizrachi World Center, January 17, 1944, Beit Meir.
  32. See Ha-’Olam, May 25, 1944.
  33. Meeting of Inner Main Committee of Mizrachi, May 10, 1943, RZA, World Central Committee, 404.
  34. Remarks by E. Syrkis at meeting of Zionist General Council, May 18, 1943, CZA, S 25/297.
  35. Continuation of Mizrachi Inner Main Committee meeting, May 17, 1943.
  36. Mizrachi Inner Main Committee meeting, May 26, 1943, RZA, 1944, 22/1.
  37. Inner Main Committee of the World Mizrachi federation, April 12, 1945, RZA. (The committee reported its September 16, 1942, decision concerning the Biltmore resolution.) Rabbi Fishman, speaking at the Jewish Agency Executive meeting on February 7, 1945, was one of the most vehement opponents of any backtracking from the Jerusalem-Biltmore plan. He was also unwilling to settle for the political and economic empowerment of the Jewish Agency in respect to aliyah and settlement; instead, he demanded, foremost—with the party’s consent—“that we be assured that Eretz Israel will be a Jewish state.” See Bat-Yehuda, Rabbi Maimon, p. 522.
  38. Message from the Chief Rabbinate, Ha-’Olam, May 25, 1944.
  39. Moshe Krona, “Rescue and Redemption,” Hatsofe, February 5, 1943.
  40. Moshe Krona, “In Days of Trial,” Ba-Metsar: Anthology of Current Affairs (Hebrew), World Alliance of the Torah va- Avodah Movement, Tel Aviv, Sivan 5702 (Spring 1942), pp. 129– 132.
  41. Moshe Krona, “Zionism in the Test of the Times,” Yitzhak Warfel, ed., Areshet (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Association of Religious Writers, 1944), especially pp. 32–33.
  42. Meeting of Mizrachi Inner Main Committee, May 10, 1943, RZA, World Center, 404.
  43. Resolutions of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, January 22, 1945, CZA, S 25/2083.
  44. Abridged minutes of meeting of Inner Zionist General Council, March 5, 1945, RZA, World Center, 404.
  45. S. Nahorai, “Facing the Holocaust,” Zera’im (February 1944), p. 2.
  46. Ha-’Olam, May 25, 1944.
  47. Rabbi Binyamin, “Something,” Moznaim 12 (Spring 1941), pp. 385–386.
  48. See Yehuda Bauer, From Diplomacy to Resistance, pp. 83-84, 146–155; Eshkoli, Silence, pp. 68–73.
  49. Hatsofe, September 10, 1939, p. 2. See Meir Edelstein, “The Religious Movements in Eretz Israel and Their Attitude Toward the Holocaust 1939–1942” (Hebrew), M.A. thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993, p. 76. Concerning the problem of manpower shortage in HaPo’el ha-Mizrachi settlements, see Dov Knohl, ed., Be-hitnadev ‘am—Religious Volunteers in the Second World War (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Moreshet, 1989), Part A, pp. 75–76.
  50. Meeting of Zionist General Council, December 7, 1939, CZA, S 25/1834. See also Ariel Levanon, “Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan: His Responses to the Holocaust” (Hebrew), Final Paper, under guidance of the author, Noam Academy, 1997.
  51. Meeting of Zionist General Council, May 7, 1941, CZA, S 25/1856.
  52. Syrkis argued, “If we give over another 10,000 boys, we will not remedy the situation but we will have abandoned Eretz Israel,” ibid.; remarks by Rabbi Fishman in meetings of the Jewish Agency Executive, October 22, 1939, April 20, 1941. See Bat-Yehuda, Rabbi Maimon, pp. 477, 487.
  53. Meeting of the Inner Zionist General Council, December 27, 1939, CZA, S 25/1858. Interestingly, later in the war, Prof. Hayyim Pick referred to the mobilization issue in the context of the phrasing of a Zionist program, of all things. “How a Jew can give his life, to go even to Tobruk, if he doesn’t even know why he’s doing it?” he wondered.
  54. Meeting of Mizrachi Inner Main Committee, October 20, 1941, RZA, and Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” p. 86. Shapira’s remarks at the beginning of the war: meeting of HaPo’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, November 6, 1939; Edelstein, ibid., p. 76.
  55. Dr. I. Wolfsberg, “Remarks about Pacifism,” Ba-Mishor (January 25, 1940), p. 6.
  56. Rabbi Binyamin, “Something,” Moznaim, 12 (Spring 1941), pp. 385–386.
  57. idem.,” Be-hitnadev ‘am (Mobilization in the Yishuv As It Is—and As It Should Be),” Ha-hed, Year 17, a-b (Autumn 1942), p. 13.
  58. Rabbi Binyamin, “Something,” Moznaim, 12 (Spring 1941), pp. 385–386.
  59. Rabbi Binyamin, “Remarks about Mobilization,” Ba-meitsar, pp. 107–113.
  60. Rabbi Binyamin, “At This Time of Jewish Suffering,” remarks at a conference of Hebrew writers in Jerusalem, July 12–13, 1942, Moznaim, 14 (August 1942), pp. 378–380; ibid., “On the Writers’ Conference and Its Results,” remarks at writers’ gathering in Tel Aviv, July 1942, ibid., 15 (September 1942), p. 69.
  61. Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee Council—Political Resolutions, June 25, 1940; see Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” p. 78.
  62. Shlomo Zalman Shragai, Processes of Change and Redemption (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1959 (chapter on “Zionist Tension—Unlike the Other Nations,” April 1941), p. 41.
  63. Meeting of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, May 13, 1941, Religious – Zionist Archives, Bar-Ilan University(RZA-BIU), file 93; see Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” p. 87.
  64. World Central Committee, Bulletin, April 20, 1942; meeting of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, May 12–13, 1942, ibid., p. 152. As for the movement’s press, see, for example, “The Mobilization,” Ba-mishor 93 (January 2, 1942).
  65. See resolutions of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee on mobilization, Hatsofe, May 17, 1942, and Rabbi Berlin’s article the next day.
  66. See Yoav Gelber, Volunteering and Its Role in Zionist and Yishuv Policy 1939–1942 (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: 1979), p. 538. Rabbi Fishman, in the Jewish Agency Executive, and Rabbi Berlin and Shragai, in the Va’ad Leummi Executive, always opposed sanctions against evaders.
  67. B. [R. Meir Berlin], “The Outcry of Blood and the Shout of Rescue,” Hatsofe, December 3, 1941; ibid., “The Voice of Our Brethren’s Blood,” Hatsofe, January 11, 1942.
  68. Ibid., “Valorously to God’s Assistance,” Hatsofe, August 2, 1942.
  69. Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, October 26, 1941, CZA, Minutes.
  70. Meeting of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, May 12–13, 1942, RZA, BIU, File 93.
  71. Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” pp. 75-87, 149–160; Cohen, “Mizrachi/Ha-Po’el haMizrachi,” pp. 116–126.
  72. Remarks at the Eighth Conference, RZA-BIU, Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi, File 226.
  73. See Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” p. 153.
  74. Ibid., pp. 155–156.
  75. B., “To Grieve and Mourn, to Rescue and Avenge!” Hatsofe, November 25, 1942.
  76. "On Our War Agenda: The Ghetto Destroyers’ Companies,” ibid., November 25, 1942.
  77. Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, November 29, 1942, CZA, Minutes. See also Gelber, Volunteering, p. 688.
  78. Yoav Gelber, The Struggle for a Jewish Army (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi,, 1981), , p. 53.
  79. “Conference of Rabbis to Encourage Mobilization,” Hatsofe, December 9, 1942. In the matter of Rabbi Amiel’s stance, see Eshkoli, “Religious Zionist Responses in Mandatory Palestine to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 11(2) (Fall 1997), pp.213-238.
  80. “Conference of Rabbis to Encourage Mobilization,” Hatsofe, December 9, 1942.
  81. Ibid.
  82. Wolfsberg (Aviad), “[Remarks] about the Mobilization,” Hatsofe, February 18, 1943.
  83. Broadsheet by Rabbis Herzog and Ouziel: “Arise and Awaken for the Holy War,” ibid., March 1, 1943. See also the call of the Chief Rabbinate of Tel Aviv and Jaffa to mobilize for a compulsory war against the Jews’ enemies, ibid., April 9, 1943. The Chief Rabbinate declared Saturday, March 27, 1943, as “Jewish Mobilization Sabbath” in Tel Aviv. See Gelber, Struggle for a Jewish Army, p. 55.
  84. B., “Wholeheartedly and Willingly,” Hatsofe, March 2, 1943.
  85. Ibid.
  86. Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, May 9, 1943; see also Gelber, Struggle for a Jewish Army, p. 70.
  87. Gelber, ibid., pp. 87, 202.
  88. Meeting of Inner Zionist General Council, June 24, 1943, CZA, S 25/298; May 18, 1943, ibid, S 25/297.
  89. Ibid., June 24, 1943.
  90. Rabbi Berlin, “[Remarks] About Opening the Induction Bureaus,” Hatsofe, June 28, 1943.
  91. B., “Plainly Speaking,” ibid., August 13, 1943. In this article, Rabbi Berlin quoted the remarks of a Jewish soldier at an induction rally in Haifa.
  92. Meeting of Jewish Agency Executive, September 3, 1944, CZA, Minutes.
  93. B., “Jewish Brigade,” Hatsofe, September 21, 1944.
  94. Resolutions of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi Central Committee, January 22, 1945, CZA, S 25/2083.
  95. Regarding mobilization activity among the religious, see “Mobilization Action in Religious Circles,” Hatsofe, April 4, 1943; see also Gelber, Struggle for a Jewish Army, p. 56.
  96. “Hebrew Soldiers in the Libyan Campaigns!” Hatsofe, November 12, 1942; see also Edelstein, “Religious Movements,” p. 160.
  97. Edelstein, pp. 76–77, 85.
  98. In this matter, see ibid., pp. 161–164. See also Moshe Blau, “Brief Survey of Activities of the Agudat Israel Central Committee in Palestine, Sivan [Spring] 1941–Sivan [Spring] 1944,” Agudat Israel in Palestine in View of the Holocaust (Hebrew), Ph.D. dissertation, Bar-Ilan University (in progress). Blau speaks of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox volunteers, but this estimate is inaccurate. I thank Haim Shalem for making this document available to me.
  99. See Eliezer Don Yihye, “Religious Zionism and Questions of Immigration and Immigrant Absorption in the Yishuv,” in Devora Hacohen, ed., Ingathering of the Exiles — Jewish Immigration to Palestine—Myth and Reality (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: 1998), especially pp. 81– 84.
  100. Ibid.
  101. In this matter, see Hava Eshkoli, “Religious Zionism faces of the Holocaust: The Activities of Ha-Brit Ha-Olamit Torah va-Avodah” (Hebrew), Cathedra 76 (1995), pp. 147–172; Eshkoli, Religious Zionism in Eretz Israel in View of the Holocaust (Hebrew, in press).