Gush Emunim was founded in 1974 under the slogan “The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel.” Its founders perceived the state of Israel as the instrument through which God was bringing redemption, making it imperative upon the people and the state to take practical steps to ensure Jewish sovereignty over all parts of the Land as it was defined in the Bible.
The Roots of Gush Emunim
The roots of the Gush Emunim philosophy are found in the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and the later interpretations of his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook.
The elder Rabbi Kook believed that the Jewish people and the Land of Israel were mystically bonded by the spirit of God. The Zionist movement, even at its most secular, was a divine instrument in bringing the redemption, which is close at hand. He interpreted Zionism according to the kabbalistic notion of “practical messianism,” which links divine redemption to the actions of human beings. According to Rabbi Kook, the return to Zion and the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel will lead to redemption and the Messianic Era.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook took over as head of the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva upon his father’s death in 1935. He spent the next 50 years teaching, expanding, interpreting, and publishing his father’s practical-messianic ideas. Eventually, the elder Rabbi Kook’s belief that settling and building the Land of Israel would bring the Messiah would be interpreted by his son to apply especially to lands captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
While both father and son were highly respected in the national religious community, many leaders of this camp distanced themselves from their messianic teachings. Some moderate religious Zionists felt that the younger Kook was misinterpreting the teachings of his father according to his own, more radical theological and political beliefs.
Between 1948 and 1967, the national religious camp became an important part of the political landscape in Israel, bringing a moderate interpretation of Judaism that fully integrated itself into Israeli society. This political moderation was massively transformed by the Six Day War.