United Torah Judaism
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United Torah Judaism
United Torah Judaism

LeaderYaakov Litzman
Moshe Gafni
Founded1992; 28 years ago (1992)
IdeologyAshkenazi Haredi interests[1][2]
Religious conservatism
Social conservatism
Haredi non-Zionism
Political positionRight-wing[3]
ReligionHaredi Judaism
International affiliationWorld Agudath Israel
ColoursNavy blue
Most MKs
Election symbol

United Torah Judaism (Hebrew: ‎, Yahadut HaTora), often referred to by its electoral symbol Gimel (?‎), is a religious conservative[4]political alliance in Israel. The alliance, consisting of Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah, was first formed in 1992, in order to maximize Ashkenazi Haredi representation in the Knesset. Despite the alliance splitting in 2004 over rabbinical differences, the parties reconciled in 2006, in order to prevent vote wasting. In April 2019, the party achieved its highest number of seats ever, receiving eight seats.

Unlike similar religiously-oriented parties like Shas, The Jewish Home, and Tkuma, UTJ is non-Zionist. However, unlike some other Haredim, the party is notable for its usage of technology and electronic communication.[5]


First logo of the list

Before the establishment of Degel HaTorah and the formation of United Torah Judaism, the two factions were united under one united Agudat Yisrael party, but the late mentor and supreme guide of the non-Hasidic group, Rabbi Elazar Shach, broke away from the Hasidic wing when he concluded that the party was not representing all Ashkenazi Haredim. At that point, he split from them, and created the Degel HaTorah party for the "Lithuanian" Haredi Jews (also known as "Mitnagdim" by some). He chose the name Degel HaTorah, meaning "Flag of The Torah", to be a contrast to the well-known flag of Israel and its connection with the secular-dominated State of Israel (an "anti-Torah" entity, in his opinion). Rabbi Shach was known as an outspoken critic of the secular Israeli way of life.

The UTJ party also had considerable influence on the Israeli Sephardi Jews' Shas party. In fact, the Shas party was founded by Rabbi Shach at an earlier juncture when he was previously also frustrated with the policies of the Hasidic rebbes; so, he turned to the Sephardic Jews, and urged his own Ashkenazi followers at that time, to vote for the new Shas party, which they did in record numbers. Later, Shas broke with Rabbi Shach, as it adopted its own independent political stance under Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yet, Shas always "looks over its shoulder" to see what the Ashkenazi Haredi parties are up to, and usually goes in the same direction, as it has similar needs and interests within the state.

Haaretz cited that some women activists have protested the fact that UTJ, along with other ultra-Orthodox parties, refuses to run female candidates for office.[6] UTJ responded that they have the right to follow the Jewish laws of modesty, which separates roles of men and women, and maintain that they do not deny women the right to vote for any other Knesset parties of their choice. They add that ultra-Orthodox women will not vote for them if they elect women.[7]

2004 split

In January 2004, the party split back into its two factions following a disagreement over how to join Ariel Sharon's coalition, which had been negotiated by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv. Rabbi Eliashiv wanted the five MKs to have a three-month "waiting period" before accepting jobs in the government. Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the Gerrer rebbe, however, thought that all Agudat members should accept positions immediately. The Agudat MKs argued that they should be entitled to follow their own rabbis' ruling, while their Degel HaTorah counterparts accused them of disrespecting Rabbi Eliashiv. The Agudat faction proceeded to follow the rebbe of Ger's instructions, with MK Yaakov Litzman accepting the position as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. This infuriated Degel HaTorah and its leaders, and in response, they left the party, dissolving a twelve-year-old partnership.

Re-unification as a party

In December 2005, there was a meeting between representatives of the two factions, presumably to smooth over the ill-feelings of the previous year and to attempt to re-group before the March 2006 elections. A number of issues were worked out, such as Degel HaTorah's insistence on the joint list being equally divided between the two parties. (In the past, Agudat Israel has received slightly more votes than Degel HaTorah.) Degel HaTorah has re-organized itself. It has a fully equipped modern party office on Hamabit Street 10 in Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood. It conducted a party convention, its first in 15 years, in December 2005.

In early February 2006, Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah agreed to run together as United Torah Judaism, despite the fact that the contentious "sixth seat" issue remained undecided. The two groups finally compromised by proposing dividing the sixth seat between two representatives on a rotating schedule (as was done in the last Knesset between the Belz and Vizhnitz communities for the fifth seat).[8][9] This solution seemed to mollify the respective groups, and paved the way for the re-establishment of a joint list for the 2006 elections, although the Belz court was reportedly irked that once again, it was being asked to sacrifice part of its representation.[10]

UTJ MKs told reporters that any decision to join future government coalitions will be dependent on achieving two "central posts" to be split between Agudah and Degel. Similarly, in order to avoid the problems that led to the 2004 split, disagreements about joining a coalition will not be determined by a majority vote of MKs, but rather taken to the party's rabbinic leaders.[9]

Various media interviews with the party's Knesset members confirmed that it would strongly consider joining a coalition with the Ehud Olmert-led Kadima party, should it be offered to them after the elections.[11] In March 2006, the rabbinical leaders of UTJ, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, issued public declarations urging the Haredi public to vote for the party's list. In the election, the party increased its mandate by one, to six seats.


United Torah Judaism (Yahadut HaTorah - UTJ) is a coalition of two ultra-Orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah, which submitted a joint list in the 1992 election, in which it won four Knesset seats. In the 1999 elections, UTJ won five Knesset seats. UTJ wants to maintain a status quo relationship in regard to religion-and-state issues. The party has no uniform opinion on the issue of increasing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.[4]

Structure and constituency

UTJ was always a coalition of two factions:

The Agudat Yisrael faction takes its directions from the Hasidic rebbes of Ger (Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter), Vizhnitz (Rabbi Yisroel Hager), and Belz (Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach). Policy decisions are also weighed and decided by a Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ("Council of Torah Sages"), a council of communal rabbis, made up of mostly senior and elderly rebbes.

Degel HaTorah's pre-eminent sages are Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, of Bnei Brak. Policy decisions are also weighed and decided by their own "Moetzes" (Council) of experienced communal rabbis, made up of mostly senior and elderly rosh yeshivas.

Election results

Election Leader Votes % Position Seats +/- Outcome
1992 Avraham Yosef Shapira 86,167 3.29 Decrease 7th
Decrease 3 Opposition
1996 Meir Porush 98,657 3.23 Decrease 8th
Steady Coalition
1999 Meir Porush 125,741 3.80 Decrease 9th
Increase 1 Coalition
2003 Yaakov Litzman 135,087 4.29 Increase 8th
Steady Opposition
2006 Yaakov Litzman 147,091 4.69 Steady 8th
Increase 1 Opposition
2009 Yaakov Litzman 147,954 4.39 Decrease 6th
Decrease 1 Coalition
2013 Yaakov Litzman 195,892 5.16 Steady 6th
Increase 2 Opposition
2015 Yaakov Litzman 210,143 4.99 Decrease 9th
Decrease 1 Coalition
Yaakov Litzman 249,049 5.78 Increase 4th
Increase 2 Caretaker
Snap election
Yaakov Litzman 268,688 6.06 Decrease 6th
Decrease 1 Caretaker
Snap election
2020 Yaakov Litzman 274,437 5.98 Increase 5th
Steady Coalition

Knesset members

See also


  1. ^ "Guide to Israel's political parties". BBC News. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (14 March 2015). "A guide to the political parties battling for Israel's future". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "Israel Election 2019: Nearly All Right-wing Parties Declare They Will Recommend Netanyahu to Form Coalition". Haaretz. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Israel Political Parties: United Torah Judaism". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ Kershner, Isabel (20 April 2019). "Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Parties Embrace Technology and Emerge Stronger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ Kaplan Sommer, Allison (8 December 2014). "Threats and backlash for ultra-Orthodox women seeking political voice". Haaretz. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Yahav, Telem (18 December 2012). "Haredi parties: Women have different role". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ Wagner, Matthew (9 February 2006). "Degel, Aguda on verge of reuniting". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ a b Kahn, B.; Ariel, Y.; Zissman, A. (15 February 2006). "United Torah Jewry and Shabbos -- Agudas Yisroel-Degel HaTorah Submits Joint Knesset List". Chairedi.org. Dei'ah VeDibur. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ Ettinger, Yair (9 February 2006). "Deal over final make-up of UTJ list to go down to the wire". Haaretz. Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ Fendel, Hillel (23 March 2006). "Hareidi UTJ Party Hints: We Will Join Kadima Government". Israel National News. Retrieved 2015.

External links

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