Brit HaKanaim

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Brit HaKanaim (Hebrew: בְּרִית הַקַנַאִים‎, lit. Covenant of the Zealots) was a radical Jewish underground organisation which operated in Israel between 1950 and 1953,[1] against the widespread trend of secularisation in the country. The group was made up of students at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem and had more than 35 members at its peak.[2] Among its members were Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who later served as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Shlomo Lorincz who later served as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee as a member of Agudat Yisrael.[3] The ultimate goal of the movement was to impose Jewish law in the State of Israel and establish a Halakhic state.[4]


The organisation's members trained using stolen weaponry. It initiated its violent campaign in January 1951. On 18 January, 13 private cars in north Jerusalem, belonging to owners who drove during Shabbat, were torched, and oil-soaked bags were placed in the garage of the Egged Bus Company to protest public transportation on Shabbat. In February 1951, twelve cars and taxicabs and a butcher shop that sold non-kosher meat were torched, and a restaurant that was open on Shabbat was bombed.[5]

The group's most ambitious plan was to carry out simultaneous attacks on the Knesset and the Ministry of Defense during the course of a debate about the drafting of women into the Israel Defense Forces. The original plan was to plant a bomb in the Knesset and torch the archives at the recruitment office of the Defense Ministry. However, the group's leaders feared that such an action would provoke a harsh response from Israeli security services and endanger many lives. The group then modified the plan, under which a smoke bomb thrown into the Knesset Plenum and the electricity cut.[1] By then, however, the group had been infiltrated by two Shin Bet agents, and its members were arrested before this attack could be carried out.[5] After extensive investigations, most members were gradually released, but four were prosecuted and given prison sentences ranging from six months to a year.[5] During the period of their detention, allegations of police misconduct in the treatment of the detainees surfaced, and a parliamentary inquiry was opened. They completed their terms of imprisonment prior to the completion of the trial in the Jalami Prison, near Sha'ar HaAmakim. Since, the group has also sometimes been referred to as the Jalami Underground.

On 26 May 1953, two members of the group were intercepted on their way to the Ministry of Education, where they had planned to plant a bomb in protest at the state school system.[1]

See also[edit]

Kingdom of Israel, another radical underground group operating at the same time


  1. ^ a b c What was the “Zealots’ Alliance”? Knesset website
  2. ^ Pedahzur, Ami & Arie Perliger (2009) Jewish Terrorism in Israel, pp33–34, Columbia University Press
  3. ^ Pedahzur & Perliger, p33
  4. ^ Pedahzur & Perliger, p35
  5. ^ a b c Pedahzur & Perliger, p36