The Zionist movement was fueled by two things: religious beliefs of the Jewish people regarding a return to their ancient homeland and the waves of anti-Semitism which swept the Jewish world in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
It was established as a political organization in 1897 under Theodor Herzl, and was later led by Chaim Weizmann.
It was Herzl’s idea of practical Zionism, but with an important twist. It was going to be a Jewish state as defined by Jewish tradition. He felt this could be done only through cooperation with the Zionist movement. There were and still are three main viewpoints with religious Jewry regarding the Zionist movement.
One sees in the accomplishments of Zionism the beginning of the process of redemption; it is the introduction, as it were, to the messianic age.
A second group was represented by the ideas expressed by the fathers of the Mizrachi movement. It was founded in the early 1900s by Rabbi Jacob Reines.
He purposely did not want to advance the cause of Zionism as having anything to do with the messianic era or the redemption of the Jewish people. He saw it only as a practical solution to a terrible problem, namely Jewish persecution to the point of destruction.
The third opinion was that Zionism had to be opposed unequivocally because it was a secular movement that would secularize the Jewish people and diminish loyalty to Torah. It would substitute nationalism for religion.