Chardal (or Hardal; Hebrew: חרד"ל, acronym for חרדי לאומי, Charedi Le-umi, lit., "National Haredi", plural Chardalim) usually refers to the portion of the Religious Zionist Jewish community in Israel which inclines significantly toward Haredi ideology (whether in terms of outlook on the secular world, or in their stringent khumra approach to Halakha); however, it is sometimes used to refer to the portion of the Haredi Jewish community in Israel which inclines significantly toward Religious Zionist ideology.
It is a term coined by its opponents, and therefore, it still bears a somewhat derogatory tinge. Most members of the communities described call themselves as Torani (lit., "Torah-oriented") or Torani-Leumi. Sometimes, one also hears the term Merkaznik, which refers to the outlook of the Merkaz haRav Yeshiva which was founded by Abraham Isaac Kook.
History and groups
The term Chardal is part of a broad process of certain groups of Religious Zionist youth becoming more strict in certain religious observances, and more ideologically driven by the thought of Zvi Yehuda Kook (son of Abraham Isaac Kook). In the late 1970s, graduates of Mercaz HaRav yeshiva began to reject certain aspects of the Religious Zionist and Bnei Akiva lifestyle. At that time, some of the graduates were already referred to as "plain-clothes Haredim".
According to some sources, the term Chardal was created at a meeting of the youth group EZRA in 1990. (Ezra is the Poalei Agudah youth group associated with Torah im Derech Eretz.) In later years, the term Chardal became a group that actually started separating itself from the broader religious Zionist community in order to dedicate itself to leading a life dedicated to strict Jewish practice, without the influence of outside culture. There was emphasis placed on modesty in dress, and early marriage. Shlomo Aviner was a major ideologue for this group.
All Chardalim built their thought on the writings of Abraham Isaac Kook, as interpreted by his son, Zvi Yehuda Kook. This approach gives a great role for faith and messianism in Judaism. They also stress the study of Yehudah Halevi's Kuzari, and the writings of Judah Loew ben Bezalel.
In recent years, it refers to those under the influence of Zvi Yisrael Thau, who left Yeshivat Merkaz Harav to found the more Chardalic Yeshivat Har Hamor. Thau rejects secular studies and secular influences. He is also against any academic influence on teachers colleges, rejecting the influence of modern educational psychology, and modern approaches to the study of the Bible. Those who follow this approach are called followers of Yeshivat HaKav - "Yeshivot that follow the line".
The term Chardal is sometimes used to refer to those coming from the Haredi world who join Nahal Haredi (the shortened army service for Yeshiva graduates) and continue to live within the broader Chardal world. It is also sometimes used for American yeshivish Jews who moved to Israel and support the state.
On yeshiva.org.il, Chardal is described as, "The people who classify themselves as 'Charedi Leumi', or 'Chardal', try to keep the Mitzvot strictly, Kalah Kechamurah [light and weighty matters alike], while being involved in the national life in the state, and in the settling Eretz Yisrael."
It has also been explained as the "Anglo Orthodox religious sector who follow a Charedi lifestyle, yet may also serve in the army in religious units, attend a Hesder yeshiva, and pursue a work career".
Yet another explanation is, "those connected to the seriousness of Torah learning and stricter observance of Jewish Law - like the Charedim - but who are Zionist and have a more positive view of the secular world and Israel, like the dati leumi camp".
Distinctions from other movements
Despite their roots within Modern Orthodox Judaism and Religious Zionism, the Chardalim have become increasingly distinguished from both currents, while simultaneously retaining continuity with them in theology and ideology.
The Chardalim have vacillated in their support for the state, when that support comes into conflict with their belief that halacha insists on the promotion of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and prohibits the removal of settlements. As a result, the Chardalim have increasingly become opposed to the state's actions against some settlements. While the Chardalim have moved towards Charedi positions on many issues, their uncompromising position on settlements distances them from the Charedim, who are much more willing to compromise on this issue.
Several characteristics differentiate Chardalim from both the Haredi and the mainstream Modern Orthodox religious Zionist world:
Ashkenazi Chardalim might use the modern Hebrew/Sephardic pronunciation of the Hebrew language when praying, as modern Orthodox religious Zionists also do; this in contrast to Ashkenazi Haredim, who continue their tradition of using the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Hebrew.
Notable is the absence of Yiddish in Chardal society and speech.
Many Chardali families have chosen not to own a television, and are not consumers of the general popular culture, in contrast to Modern Orthodox religious Zionists.
Chardalim typically dress like most Modern Orthodox religious Zionists would, but place a slightly larger emphasis on appearing neat, wearing their tzitzit out of their pants, and wearing a significantly larger kippah. Like other religious Zionists, they usually wear colored knitted kippahs. In contrast to Haredim, many Chardalim do not wear only white shirts or a black outfit, and only a handful of Chardalim wear a jacket and a hat; these are usually only worn by the highest levels of rabbinic leadership of the Chardal world.
Chardalim see the return to the land and its building as a very important mitzvah, since they believe we are in the dawn of the Messianic age. Therefore, hiking in the land, building settlements, and knowledge of its flora and fauna are considered as mitzvot.
Most Chardalim say prayers for the State of Israel, mark the Israeli Independence Day, and Chardali men serve in the Israel Defense Forces, while most Haredim do not. An exception forms the small group of extreme right-wing Chardalim who firmly oppose the current State of Israel and want it dismantled, to subsequently replace it with a Torah-based theocracy.
Chardalim fiercely opposed Israel's mass expulsion of Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria in 2005. While some Haredim also opposed the retreat and destruction of the Jewish communities, the Haredi rabbis did not condone active opposition; most (with the notable exception of Chabad Lubavitch) adopted a neutral, passively resisting, or even supportive attitude.
Chardalim will usually respect the Daat Torah of a personal rabbi, but are not as dependent as Haredim, who publicly and privately strictly adhere to the advice of their rabbinical leadership. In contrast, Modern Orthodox religious Zionists might have a personal rabbi, but are usually more independent.
Unlike their Modern Orthodox counterparts, Chardali men often grow payot (sidelocks), and an untrimmed beard.
Chardali women usually dress in clothing styles which are banned from the Haredi world for reasons of tzniut, such as hair coverings which reach below the height of the shoulder, jeans skirts, shirts with texts on them (for example, against the expulsion of Jews from Gaza settlements in 2005), and nude feet in sandals.
Chardalim have in common the belief, most identified with Abraham Isaac Kook, that the Zionist movement and the state of Israel play a central role in the Messianic process. This belief is tested when the state takes steps that seem to undermine the Messianic process, particularly removing Jewish residents from settlements, and transferring the parts of Land of Israel to non-Jewish control. Chardalim variously lean towards one of two general approaches to this conflict.
- One approach resists compromising on Jewish control of the Land of Israel, even when this means conflict with the state of Israel. Thus, Chardalim comprised many of the most forceful opponents of anti-disengagement movement in the 2000s, and continue to actively oppose the removal of small settlements unauthorized by the government. Generally, this opposition is passive and verbal, but in rare cases, it has gone as far as vandalism of Israeli army property or stone-throwing at soldiers.
- A second approach, the "statist" approach, is more willing to accept the government's policy decisions and the "will of the Jewish people", even when it seems to conflict with other religious priorities. This group sees the State of Israel as an "entity of holiness" whose decisions have intrinsic value even when in tension with other religious values. This stream is identified with Yeshivat Har Hamor, which split off in 1997 from the flagship Chardali yeshiva Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav due to these and other theological differences.
It should be noted that the term "statist" also refers to many more moderate religious Zionists, who are willing to accept the "will of the Jewish people" as a consideration when it comes to many other issues, such as the secular nature of society. This latter group predates the Chardal movement by decades, and is identified much more with the mainstream Religious Zionist movement than with the Chardalim.
Ahavat Yisrael (Rappaport) - There are schools for both boys and girls located in Jerusalem, as well as in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Their philosophy is "To adhere to an open Haredi approach to Halakha and lifestyle, while at the same time leaving the possibility for army service and university studies as a goal".
Many Chardalim live in West Bank settlements. The settlement town of Kiryat Arba, led by its Dov Lior, is considered a Chardal stronghold, as is the town of Beit El, led by Rabbi Melamed and Shlomo Aviner. Chardalim are also predominant in many other settlements, including Yitzhar, Bat Ayin, Ofra, Shilo, and the Jewish parts of Hebron. There are yeshivot in Ramat Gan and Yerucham which are seen as Chardal yeshivot. Some Jerusalem neighborhoods are also Chardal strongholds, such as Har Nof, Kiryat Moshe, and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Past leaders (deceased)
- Aryeh Bina (1912–1994)
- Mordechai Eliyahu, former Chief Rabbi of Israel (1929–2010)
- Avraham Shapira, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, and dean of the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva (1914–2007)
- Yaakov Ariel
- Shlomo Aviner
- David Bar Hayim of Machon Shilo Institute
- David Dudkevitch of Yitzhar
- Shmuel Eliyahu
- Elyakim Levanon
- Dov Lior, rabbi of Kiryat Arba
- Zalman Melamed, his son Eliezer Melamed
- Shmuel Tal, who has instructed his students to cease celebrating Israeli Independence Day due to what he sees as a betrayal of Zionist ideals by the Israeli government.
- Zvi Yisrael Thau, dean of Yeshivat Har Hamor
- Daniella Weiss, Former Mayor of Kedumim Village in Samaria
- Professor Hillel Weiss, of "Professors for a Strong Israel"
- "Charedi Dati Leumi". yeshiva.org.il. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
- Archived November 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Jta News". Nefeshbnefesh.org. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
- Fundamentalist or Romantic Nationalist?: Israeli Modern Orthodoxy, Shlomo Fischer
- From Orthodox religious Zionist to Orthodox Hardal, Yoske Ahitov, Deot 24 (in Hebrew)
- Orthodox Judaism is Ill, Bambi Sheleg (in Hebrew)
- The Hardal Dilema, Nadav Shenrav (in Hebrew)
- About Rabbi Thau (in Hebrew)
- On "The Tanakh Debates"