Religious parties in Israel

The religious parties aim to establish a Jewish State governed by the Jewish religious code, the Halacha. Some parties do not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel and are thereby making a concession towards their ideology by participating to the democratic electoral proceeding. They explain it by the necessity to access to political power to create a religious State. All of them consider the pursuit of the Jewish colonization on the territory of Great Israel as legitimate (« Eretz Israel ») and are opposed to the creation of a Palestinian State, except Shass and to a certain degree Deguel Hatorah.

Some parties are ethnically distinguished between Sephardi and Ashkenazi. The distinction between belonging to a Zionist party or not exists but does not have any consequence.

The most important religious parties:

Mafdal, National Religious party (NRP)

Leader: Yitzhak Lévy

The National Religious Party succeeds in 1956 to the former Mizrahi (acronym of Merkaz Ruhani or « Spiritual Center ») and represents a nationalist or modern orthodox nationalist religion. It is a mixed party, with Ashkenazi and Sephardic and it is the most important religious party. Since its creation, it has been the partner of all government coalitions and traditionally occupied the Ministry of the Interior and Religion, which has been taken over by the oriental orthodox Shas since 1992. The party heads most of the religious legislations of Israel. It had its best results during the 1977 elections (12 seats), but lost most of its influence among the Sephardic with the creation of the Tami and Shas parties. Thanks to the Goush Emounim wing (« rock of faith »), the Mafdal became the colonist’s party and is therefore radically opposed to the idea of a Palestinian State.


Leader: Arié Deri

The Shas (« Sephardic Torah Guardians ») was founded in 1984 as a Sephardic scission of the Israeli Agoudat. The party presents itself as an ultra orthodox religious party, but above all, as a Sephardic party. The party won 4 seats in 1984 and attracted the votes of the Tami. In 1996, they won 10 seats; in 1999 they won 17 seats. It is the second religious party in Israel and is the second party together with the Likoud. Until the end of the 90s it was, from all the religious parties, the less opposed to the idea of a Palestinian State. Since then, the party became more radical under the influence of their number two, Elie Souissa, determined actor of the colonization of the Jewish population in the occupied territories.

Agoudat Israel

Leader: Menachem Porush

This Ashkenazi ultra orthodox party was founded in 1912 in Kattowitz as the Palestinian branch of the Worldwide Organization of the Israeli Agoudat. They advocate the strict observance of the religious law and do not recognize the State of Israel. The party is composed of a supreme authority which has to officially prove or disapprove the decisions taken by the elected among the Knesset party. In 1992, the party joins the Torah unit.

Yahadut Hatorah, Torah Unit

Leader: Avraham Porush

The founding of the party in 1988 resulted from the Israeli Agoudat scission against the continuous rise in the Hassic movement (religious stream founded in Poland in the 18th century). The party wins 2 seats at the elections but will not prosper. It is often qualified as « sister Ashkenazi party of the Sephardic Shas. In 1992, it joins the Torah unit, together with Agouda.

Tami, the Israeli traditional movement

Created in 1981 by Abuhatzeira, a National Religious Party Minister issued from a famous rabbinic line from Morocco. The Tami (Israeli Tradition Movement) was a Sephardic party, more precisely, a Moroccan one. It was more a traditional than a religious party. The party was to have a short success at the 1981 elections (3 deputies: 2 defectors of the NRP and one from the Labour Party), but had only one seat left in 1984 which was occupied by Abuhatzeira. It will be co-opted by the Likoud itself, before the 1988 elections. The party disappeared and its electorate moved to the Shas, which has also gathered thousands of votes from the Likoud.