Word of the Day / Hardal

Israeli society has many, many flavors, one of which – a specific group of Orthodox Jews – shares its name with a tangy condiment.


One of the defining characteristics of most groups of Israeli Haredim, especially of the Ashkenazi variety, is non-Zionism (which sometimes extends into blatant anti-Zionism, including the burning of Israeli flags). But there are some Orthodox Jews whose approach to Judaism is similar in certain ways to that of Haredim – gender roles can be quite rigid, secular education can be seen to be of little value; typically, the boys have ringlets around their ears (called payes in Yiddish), and men and women are likely to sit at separate tables at the weddings of 18-year-olds. Yet though the guys (who wear large knitted kippot rather than black hats) may study in yeshiva for a while, they also serve in the Israel Defense Forces and proudly celebrate Independence Day. In a Judaism that abounds with sects, denominations and subcategories, who are these Jews? Why, mustard, of course.

Though the word "hardal" means "mustard," at least when the context is what to put on your hot dog, the acronym Hardal is actually a combination of Haredi – a word that comes from the Hebrew for "fear," as in fear of God, and is largely but somewhat inaccurately rendered into English as "ultra-Orthodox" – and "dati leumi," which refers to religious Zionists, meaning Orthodox (but not Haredi) Jews, who, unlike Haredim, typically serve in the army and believe in combining religion with the modern world, very much including the work force.

People who are identified with Hardal are known as Hardalnikim, though chances are they don't identify themselves as such. There is a fairly significant overlap between Hardalnikim and the hard-core, sometimes violent members of the settler movement. Hardal is essentially a right-wing outgrowth of Israeli modern Orthodoxy, more extreme both religiously and politically than the mainstream dati leumi movement. Depending on your point of view, it might be just the thing to clear your sinuses, or it could burn your tongue.