Mizrahi Movement

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orthodox zionist organization, founded in europe in early 1902.

Mizrahi was founded by Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines as the religious Zionist organization within the World Zionist Organization (WZO), after the fifth Zionist Congress of 1901 resolved to enter the educational sphere. Since many members of the WZO believed secular nationalism to be antithetical to Judaism, they could not agree to a program of secular Zionist education.

They founded the Mizrahi organization, an acronym for merkaz ruhani (spiritual center), under the banner "The Land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel." In 1904, a world conference of Mizrahi was convened in Bratislava, Czechoslavakia (then Pressburg, Hungary), and the Mizrahi World Organization was founded with the objective of educating and promoting religious Zionism. The first convention of the American Mizrahi organization was convened in 1914, under the influence of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, then general secretary, who had recently toured the United States.

After World War I, Ha-Poʿel Ha-Mizrahi (Mizrahi Labor) was founded, which established a group of religious kibbutz and moshav settlements in Palestine. Although Ha-Poʿel Ha-Mizrahi worked very closely with Mizrahi, the two were separate and autonomous and remained so as new political parties in the Israeli Knesset (parliament), until they merged in 1956, becoming the National Religious party (NRP). From 1951 to 1977, they occupied ten to twelve seats in the Knesset. Although the Mizrahi-Ha-Poʿel Ha-Mizrahi movement played a major role in establishing the public religious character of Israel in its initial decades of nationhood, the party's power and prestige declined by the 1980s. Always they struggled to establish the Sabbath rest and kashrut (dietary laws) in all national institutions, settlements, and organizations, so that a state constitution should be based on Halakhah (Jewish religious law).

Since 1981, the number of NRP Knesset seats declined by more than 50 percent. This has been attributed to the perceived accommodative stance of the majority party, Likud, to religious tradition; to ideological confusion, stagnation, and an absence of NRP leadership development; and to a move by NRP to the religious right, which led many former Mizrahi loyalists into the more sectarian religious parties, such as Agudat Israel and SHAS.


Friedman, Menachem. "The NRP in TransitionBehind the Party's Electoral Decline." In Politics and Society in Israel (Studies in Israeli Society 3), edited by Ernest Krausz. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1984.

Liebman, Charles S., and Don-Yehiya, Eliezer. Civil Religion in Israel: Traditional Judaism and Political Culture in the Jewish State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Luz, Ehud. Parallels Meet: Religion and Nationalism in the Early Zionist Movement, 18821904, translated by Lenn J. Schramm. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1988.

Schiff, Gary S. Tradition and Politics: The Religious Parties of Israel. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1977.

chaim i. waxman