Biblical Priests and Zealots


Zealotry, I am arguing, is a paradigmatic religious lethal violence. Brutal zealots play a significant role in Jewish canonic history and exegetical heritage.

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran 

The methodic examination of this rich reservoir of authentic materials offers an opportunity to advance our understanding of religious violence, its dynamics and implications. The present article illustrates the scientific potential of the sociological study of sacred texts. At the background of this and related research is the exposure  and rereading of the Jewish religious legacy of violence – often dormant, at other times dominant – alongside a legacy oriented towards peace, moderation and accommodation.

The above two maintain intense dialectical relationship.

While my broader project is to trace the normative, moral and political aspects of zealotry, in this particular paper I am focusing on its cultic aspect, relating it to the issue of collective and bodily boundary management. Furthermore, I draw attention to the homology of the ideal-types of zealotry and priesthood conventionally considered polar opposites in many respects. I usually employ the elaborate corpus of our accumulated knowledge on priesthood as a means to help me solve the riddle of zealotry.

In this article I exploit some insights concerning zealotry to shed light on yet unidentified dimensions of priesthood. Among others, I suggest that priests might be seen as zealots in a golden cage. A positive feedback from Jewish Studies scholars encouraged me to carry-on my Jewish Sociology project.

Prof. Gideon Aran: Place of religious Zionism in Israel


Session Nine: the place of religious Zionism in various areas – the settlement of the country or hearts / Religious Zionism between the Land of Israel to the people of Israel

Chair: Mr. Elyashiv Reichner

Participants: Prof. Gideon Aran , Mr. Pinhas Wallerstein , Dr. Gadi Taub , Rabbi Yaakov Medan

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Where the face of religious Zionism ? Is integration into society or even the leadership ? Or perhaps isolation and seclusion of review now ? The struggle between the trends which have not yet been decided . Involvement and influence of religious Zionism fundamental questions of society and the state are far outweighed by the relative size . Thus the character and Lhcrotih important impact on the future of democracy in Israel.

16-17 June 2013 , held a conference on the subject which showed different trends and their implications , both in terms of principle and practical angle – as reflected in a series of areas of life here and now.

Kookism: The roots of Gush Emunim – Preface Part 2


The Gush-Emunim movement has always been a major factor in forming the ideological foundation of the West-Bank settlements concept and was a key contributor toward achieving this goal:

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran 

gidon aranGush-Emunim helped forge some of the settlement plans along the way, secure the necessary financial resources as well as the support of the Israeli establishment and the Israeli public, organize and represent the settlers in front of the decision makers and even when it came to training the settlers and as well as motivating them – Gush-Emunim was there. However, the people behind Gush-Emunim weren’t the only ones responsible for this ambitious and decisive project.

Apart from Gush-Emunim there were other people and organizations working with or without Gush-Emunim in making the Judea and Samaria settlement dream come true: Among those responsible we ought to mention the Israeli governments that helped the settlers both officially as well as under the radar for many years. In addition, most of the people that were involved obviously followed their own financial or social interests: From building contractors to those looking to improve their quality of life.

The Haredim who settled in Beitar Illit, the Russian immigrants from Ariel or the Middle-East Jewish decedents who settled in some of the Gush Katif towns designated for further development didn’t necessarily possess the same exact political consciousness people from Gush-Emunim had. Moreover, they didn’t necessarily share their ideals and yet the GE block played a key role by providing the spirit and the energy they needed as well as the moral and practical leadership and also by serving as their de-facto representatives in front of the Israeli public and decision makers.

It was long before the GE has exhausted its own resources, and by that I mean their own “home court” settlers who identified with their ideology completely, that they have reached the conclusion according to which their success depends first and foremost on their ability to bestow their legacy upon the politicians, the public and the market forces.

Kookism: The roots of Gush Emunim – Preface Part 1


In the seventies, somewhere during the period of disillusionment and dissatisfaction that followed the Yom-Kippur war, I was a research student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and so I decided to examine a new social phenomenon looming on the Israeli horizon.

Written By Gideon Aran 

Gideon AranI was drawn to it because it seemed exotic and somewhat charismatic, perhaps even a bit somnambulistic, all of which perfectly suited my initial intention of specializing and focusing on quite radical sects.

At first, I thought we are dealing with a temporary phenomenon and therefore I first intended to witness its rise and its decline altogether. However, over the years my object of contemplation turned into a prominent and influential religious-nationalist movement that became known as “Gush Emunim” (From now on will also appear as “GE” – Translated from Hebrew: Bloc [of the] Faithful). What could have been considered a curiosity at first has proved itself to be an historic phenomenon of enormous significance.

The GE has to be grasped and understood as a religious movement

This is in fact one of the main arguments this book is set to prove. In Gush Emunim you can find elements of both religious regeneration and revival. Furthermore, the religious significance of the block competes with its own political significance, and finally the influence it had on Judaism as a whole is not less important than the its political influence on The State of Israel. For example, this book examines the great role Gush-Emunim has had in transforming the Israeli identity in terms of both the Judaization of Zionism as well as the Messianism of Judaism.

I believe that the Messianism of the religious Judaism is necessarily linked with its own  Zionization. The members of Gush-Emunim do not adhere to both Zioniem and the Torah as usual but rather believe that their Religious and Zionist views are one. The faith-based transformation of the Bloc’s supporters can be briefly summarized as a transition from religious Zionism to a Zionist religion. Inspired by Gush-Emunim the Israeli Jewry became of a more Zionist and a lot more Messianic nature. It was only just recently when it seemed that each of these radical orientations is losing its might and potency, and mainly that the combination of the two has lost some of the hegemonic grip it used to have before.


Hamakom (the Place)


This paper (co-authored with Z. Gurevitch) challenges the predominant conception of the place in traditional and modern Judaism. We argue that, not only Diaspora Jews but modern Israelis and their ancient Israelite predecessors were “never in place”.

Written By Gideon Aran

The implications of this documented thesis, buttressed by historical and phenomenological analysis, raise questions relating to the ever changing contours of the State’s borders, the discontents that inhere in the Zionist collective experience, the catch of biblical heritage and the Territories, the ironic side of the relations with the Palestinians, the façade of Jerusalem’s  authenticity and the high-voltage cable that links it with Tel Aviv, the idea of the desert and the sense of  local patriotism, the paradox of Jewish nativism, and the improbability of the Land of Israel as axis mundi. Continue reading Hamakom (the Place)

“The Legacy of Religious Violence in Judaism” – Lecture by Gideon Aran


“The Legacy of Religious Violence in Judaism”

Lecture by Gideon Aran at The Graduate Institute, Geneva

Tuesday 29 April 2014, 18:30 – 20:00

The lecture discusses the Jewish case of religious violence. This by no means implies that Judaism is more (or less) violent than any other religion. In fact, we witness an impressive legacy of non-, or, anti-violence in Judaism.

Gideon Aran
Gideon Aran

However, I will rather focus on the dialectical relationship between religious tradition and violence in Jewish history and mythology, and in the contemporary Jewish world, particularly in the Jewish State. My argument regarding Jewish violence implies a general theoretical model of religious violence that can be applied in a comparative context.

This lecture offers a partial survey of the components of Jewish tradition relating to violence while analyzing and illustrating their development and influence along three Millennia from biblical times, through the middle ages and modernity to these very days.

I’ll analyze the various transformations that these violent motifs have undergone, their linkage to ever-changing social and cultural circumstances, their social-political roots and implications, and their relationship to other Jewish traditions.

I’ll trace how ancient motifs have emerged and been processed over time, and observe present day violent behavior in the light of ancient motifs. Along the way, I will explicate the dynamics that characterizes the Jewish violence tradition and its paradoxical natureby clicking here

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My work on Super-Religiosity consists of two parts. The present essay which is theoretical and methodological in nature presents a thesis on radical religion and discusses the measures of religion. The next essay (Numen, forthcoming 2013) presents an empirical “case” to which the analytic model of Super-Religiosity is applied. The first essay may serve as a conceptual and analytic introduction to the second, while the latter one may serve as an illustration and test of the former. 

Written By Gideon Aran

The religious group at the empirical focus of the two essays is the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox in contemporary Israel, known as Haredim. More precisely, the work on Super-Religiosity depicts and analyzes the hard core of the Haredi society that manifests religious extremism. The discussion of the Haredi world is harnessed to the effort to deconstruct and reevaluate the prevalent concepts of tradition and fundamentalism, and suggest new perspective on scaling religiosity and on high-scale religiosity. Continue reading ON RELIGIOSITY AND SUPER RELIGIOSITY – Preface

Zaka’s Active Key Role In The Middle Eastern Suicide Terrorism Scene


Anyone who has viewed footage of a suicide attack in Israel will have seen bizarre bearded men busily working at the center of the gruesome site. At a certain moment they turn their fluorescent safety vests inside out. Previously the orange side, emblazoned “medic” was on display. The reversed side is yellow and bears the word “Zaka”, a Hebrew acronym that stands for Identifying Disaster Victims.

Notes by Prof. Gideon Aran

Zaka is an organization of Jewish Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) volunteers that has gained a monopoly on managing the deaths of victims of terrorism in Israel. It operates a network of a few hundred well-trainee and well-equipped personnel throughout the country. These men can arrive at any terrorism site rapidly, offer first aid, and then turn to their central task—carrying for the bodies of the dead in strict obedience to Jewish religious (halakhic) ritual norms and in keeping with traditional Jewish respect for the dead. Continue reading Zaka’s Active Key Role In The Middle Eastern Suicide Terrorism Scene

Gideon Aran: On Religiosity And Super Religiosity – Abstract


 On Religiosity and Super Religiosity essay submits a thesis on radical religion, discusses the measures of religion and proposes the concept of Super-Religiosity. It will be followed by a second essay (in an upcoming issue of Numen, 4, 2013) that presents a contemporary “case” to which the analytic model of Super-Religiosity is applied.

Prof. Gideon Aran
Prof. Gideon Aran

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran

Though the two essays systematically relate to each other and are complementary, they can be read independently of one another.

The theoretical core of the essay addresses the issue of the measurability of religiosity. It supports the recent claim that religion in general and religious extremism in particular, is not so much a matter of belief or experience but rather it is essentially a matter of performance of the self and the group. It then argues that advancing our understanding of religious extremism requires turning the spotlight from a performance oriented towards religion’s environment to religious inward-facing performance. Continue reading Gideon Aran: On Religiosity And Super Religiosity – Abstract

Prof. Gideon Aran – Academic Study And Precipitants Of Suicide Terrorism


I trace a surprisingly hitherto unchallenged tendency of academic study to focus either on the precipitants of suicide terrorism or on its consequences.

Notes by Prof. Gideon Aran

Prof. Gideon Aran
Prof. Gideon Aran

The literature looks, on the one hand, at what preceded and ostensibly led to the attack (i.e. the HB’s psychological and social profile, his motivations and the organization’s ideology, the recruitment and indoctrination of the HB, the structure of the terrorist cell, the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to ST, the policies and military actions that elicit it, and the culture that embraces ST and praise the HB). Continue reading Prof. Gideon Aran – Academic Study And Precipitants Of Suicide Terrorism