Degel HaTorah (Hebrew: דגל התורה, lit., Banner of the Torah) is an Ashkenazi Haredi political party in Israel. For much of its existence, it has been allied with Agudat Yisrael under the name United Torah Judaism.
|Split from||Agudat Yisrael|
Ashkenazi Haredim interests (Misnagdim)
|Religion||Haredi Judaism (Misnagdim)|
|Alliance||United Torah Judaism|
|Current MKs||4 (as part of United Torah Judaism)|
Degel HaTorah represents the "Lithuanian wing" of the non-Hasidic Haredim (known by some as "Mitnagdim"), as opposed to the Hasidic-dominated Agudat Yisrael party. Sometimes, the parties compete against each other; at other times, they join forces within a political alliance called United Torah Judaism (UTJ) (Yahadut HaTorah in Hebrew).
In Jerusalem, it was based on a long-standing argument against a 1989 agreement between Degel HaTorah's then spiritual leader, Rabbi Elazar Shach, the venerated Rosh yeshiva of the famed Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, and the spiritual leader of Agudat Yisrael, the Pnei Menachem of Gur, Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter. The deal, based on the demographics of the time, stated that when UTJ would join forces, Aguda would receive 60% of the seats, and Degel 40%. This agreement was first contested in May 2016, when Degel's Knesset leader Moshe Gafni, demanded that the Deputy Education Minister, Rabbi Meir Porush, resign from the Knesset, in order to give Degel 3 out of the 6 seats held by UTJ. Porush was able to keep his ministerial position, under the 2015 so-called Norwegian Law. In the 2018 municipal elections in Jerusalem, the deal was seen to be out-dated, when Degel received 6 seats, while Aguda only received 3. Rumors have it that in the next General Elections, Degel will seek a 50-50 agreement with Aguda, with an Aguda representative as the Chairman of the party.
Degel HaTorah's rabbinical arbiter (posek) was, until his death in 2012, centenarian Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv of Jerusalem. Eliashiv served as one of two Chairmen of Degel haTorah's Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ("Council of Torah Sages"). After Rabbi Eliyashiv's death, Rabbi Ahron Shteinman led the party. In December 2017, after Rabbi Steinman's death at age 103, the spiritual leadership was split between Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, Rosh Yeshiva in Ponevezh, and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a revered Talmid Chacham in Bnei Brak.
Degel HaTorah was founded in 1988 as a splinter from Agudat Israel. Its establishment by Rabbi Elazar Shach was due to ongoing policy disputes with the Hasidic rabbis within Agudat Yisrael. In the 1988 elections, the party won two seats, taken by Moshe Gafni and Avraham Ravitz, and joined Yitzhak Shamir's coalition government. For the 1992 elections, the party allied itself with Agudat Yisrael under the name United Torah Judaism.
- "Guide to Israel's political parties". BBC News. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- Ishaan Tharoor (14 March 2015). "A guide to the political parties battling for Israel's future". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- Ettinger, Yair (18 July 2012). "Rabbi Elyashiv, Venerated Leader in Ultra-Orthodox Community, Dies". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
- Matthew Wagner (14 December 2005). "Degel Hatorah kicks off election campaign". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 June 2015.