Like Giants Sitting on the Dwarf’s Shoulders: Religious Anarchism and the Making of Modern Zionist Historiography

Yossef Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


German and Central European Jews shaped many primary Jewish responses to modernity. The religious renewal, or the alleged “Jewish Renaissance” among German Jews in the first decades of the 20th century, offers a radical encounter with tradition as part of Jewish modernism. In this paper, I aim to examine a group of revolutionary young intellectual anarchists, striving for a new religious excitement free of the traditional binding part of established religions. In various forms, religiosity became the only possible way of radical political thinking, a kind of antinomian liberation theology. In the absence of traditional communal ties of orthodox praxis and systematic theological speculation, these political intellectuals turn to historical discourse as their leading theological super-structure. Their critique of modernism was merged into a nostalgic rethinking of pre-modern religious forms and cultural patterns. The Zionists among them contributed much to the ammunition of the sacred covenant of Land, Blood, disrespect toward any form of legal normativity, and solid messianic expectation. This fatal combination is responsible for many disturbing elements in the contemporary Israeli public sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1239
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Jewish history
  • Zionism
  • heresy
  • mysticism
  • political theology
  • religiosity
  • religious anarchism
  • theology


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