||Speeces held by members of the Agudat Israel on Hol ha-Moad Pessah 5621. Agudat Israel in Erez Israel was founded in 1912, but was inactive in public life until July 1919, when it was refounded in Jerusalem by members of the extreme Orthodox faction who were fanatically opposed to Zionism. From 1919 until 1935, under the leadership of Moshe Blau, Agudat Israel was completely identified with the ultra-Orthodox community. The principle guiding its activities was the achievement of complete social and political separation from the community organized under the auspices of the Zionist Movement. Agudat Israel fought bitterly to avoid being included in the officially recognized framework of the Jewish population of Palestine (Keneset Yisrael) and obtained the right for those who so wished to cease to belong to it. They established separate rabbinical institutions, under the leadership of R. Hayyim Yosef Sonnenfeld, which operated alongside the chief rabbinate headed by R. Abraham Isaac Kook. Under the leadership of Jacob Israel de Haan (1922–24), Agudat Israel in Palestine attempted to achieve a modus vivendi with the Arab nationalists. However, this policy was discontinued after de Haan's assassination by the Haganah, for subversive activities (1924). The relentless personal attack carried on by Agudat Israel against Rabbi Kook violently antagonized most of the growing yishuv. Other Agudist leaders, notably Isaac Breuer and Pinhas Kohn, managed through political action with the British authorities and the League of Nations to prevent the unification of the Jewish community in Palestine within a single organizational framework. They thus obtained official recognition of the separation of the settlers of the "Old Yishuv," from the Keneset Yisrael, or organized Jewish community, and the competence of the Va'ad Le'ummi ("National Council of the Jews for Palestine"). An attempt made by Agudat Israel to establish an agricultural settlement, Mahaneh Israel, failed, mainly through lack of funds.
In 1935 the waves of immigration from Poland and Germany brought with them a different type of Agudat Israel member, who wanted to integrate economically and, to a certain extent, even politically into the new yishuv. This brought about a fundamental change in the structure, aims, and political activities of Agudat Israel in Palestine. In February 1935 a delegation arrived from the movement's headquarters in Poland, which reorganized the Agudat Israel administration in Palestine and established an agency to deal with matters of immigration and absorption and to negotiate with outside bodies. This agency represented immigrants from Poland and Germany, the members of the
Orthodox workers' organization Po'alei Agudat Israel, and members from the old yishuv. The latter lost its dominance in the party, and the ultra-Orthodox community separated from Agudat Israel (Neturei Karta). Even before this, however (in the late 1920s), Agudat Israel had begun to cooperate with the official yishuv institutions, particularly in the municipalities. This tendency was now increased, mainly among Po'alei Agudat Israel.
The Peel Commission recommendations on the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine (July 1937) caused a heated debate in Agudat Israel in Palestine. In principle, all rejected the idea of a secular Jewish state, but opinions were divided as to whether, in view of the existing plight of European Jewry, the idea should be rejected entirely, or whether, should such a state be established, its inhabitants might not return to the religious fold. Almost all the representatives of the old yishuv in Agudat Israel rejected the idea of a Jewish state. The representatives of the immigrants from Germany were divided in their opinions. The immigrants from Poland and Po'alei Agudat Israel tended to accept the idea of a Jewish State.
From 1940 to 1947 Agudat Israel cooperated with the national Jewish institutions, and also had a special committee to coordinate policies regarding the British authorities. In April 1940, the leader of Agudat Israel in Poland, the hasidic rabbi of the Gur dynasty (the "Gerer Rebbe"), and his son-in-law, R. Yizhak Meir Levin, arrived in Palestine, and a new drive was launched for active participation in the life of the yishuv. The influence of the Polish immigrants in Agudat Israel greatly increased. When Agudat Israel joined those who demanded a Jewish state, it received representation in the Provisional Council of State (Mo'ezet ha-Medinah) which signed the Declaration of Independence.
Agudat Israel became a political party when the State of Israel was founded in 1948 and has been represented in all national and municipal bodies. Its leader, R. Y. M. Levin, was minister of social welfare from 1949 to 1952. In all these institutions Agudat Israel fought for the observance of the halakhah in public life. Its principal campaigns have been in the field of education and, in 1953, after the educational "trends" were abolished and a unified school system established under the law of compulsory free education, Agudat Israel organized an independent school system of its own. It has also achieved the exemption of "religious" girls and of yeshivah students from military service.