Kanai (Hebrew: קנאי, plural: kana'im, קנאים) is a term for a zealot. It means one who is zealous on behalf of God.
The first kanai
Kanaim of the 1st century
Zealotry, described by Josephus as one of the "four sects" of Judaism during his time, was a political movement in first century Judaism which sought to incite the people of Iudaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the holy land by force of arms, most notably during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE).
Kanaim of the 18th century
Kanaim of the 19th century in the Holy Land
Starting in the middle of the 19th century, those fighting the attempts of the Maskilim to introduce secular institutions to Jerusalem were known as kanaim. Among the kanaim was the leader of the Perushim Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin who banned the secular institutions.
Kanaim in the 20th century
In modern history Kana'ut (zealotry) has taken on new meanings. While during the previous centuries Kana'ut was considered a positive attribute, which simulated the zealotry of Pinchas; the kana'im of today are considered by many religious Jews as fanatic. Those feelings became more pronounced when a delegation of the Neturei Karta attended the conference in Tehran on Holocaust Denial. Many Jewish organizations including the Anti-Zionist Satmar issued a formal protest.
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