Bulletin: Religion in Israel

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New Article: Lahav, What Do Secular-Believer Women in Israel Believe in?

Lahav, Hagar. “What Do Secular-Believer Women in Israel Believe in?” Journal of Contemporary Religion 31.1 (2016): 17-34.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2016.1109866

 

Extract

Secular-believers, who constitute about 25% of Israeli Jews, are self-identified secular people who believe in some kind of divinity. Based on in-depth interviews with secular-believer women, this study aims to reveal their theological assumptions and claims. It examines metaphors and images participants used to relate to the divine as well as the theological categories they emphasized. The study uncovers the pluralistic nature of secular-believers’ beliefs and the common tendency to address faith-related content in a positive light.

 

 

 

New Book: Eshet, The Interest in UFOs and Extraterrestrials in Israeli Society (in Hebrew)

Eshet, Techia. For Their Eyes Only. The Interest in UFOs and Extraterrestrials in Israeli Society. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2015 (in Hebrew).

 

Eshet

 

 

In the last decade of the 20th century, more than fifty years since the first report of a “flying saucer” in the United States, there has been a growing interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials in Western culture in general and in Israel in particular. At times it seems that spacecrafts have landed in Israel en masse and thousands of extraterrestrials have conquered every part of its culture: the TV screens, daily newspapers, websites and billboards. The interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials, which flourished in Israel in various arenas during the 1990s, is discussed in this book in the context of addressing issues of identity and otherness.

This offers a different and fascinating perspective in a an extraordinary and innovative field of study; a “different” world, which is ostensibly distant, but in fact is close in many ways. “Glimpsing” into the world of those dealing with UFOs and extraterrestrials reveals not only this unique and intriguing subculture, but also very sheds light on the local and global culture of which we are all apart. The employment of extraterrestrial otherness reflects in this book the culture at large, including the changes and transformations that have taken place in Israeli society, alongside an observation of existential issues and concepts related to time, space, body and human existence. This gripping journey into the intricacies of the other and the marginal demonstrates that the preoccupation with the other, the cosmic, and the alien enables the strengthening of the relationship to the present and the local. In addition, the book discusses major cultural issues such as religion, politics, internal and external divides and conflicts, and pseudo-science.

To Their Eyes Only is based on anthropological research conducted within the framework of a doctoral thesis written by Techia Eshet. The study, which lasted several years, included Participant observations in conferences of “the Israeli Center for UFO Research” and in clinics offering treatment through extraterrestrials, along with interviews with practitioners in the field, and analysis of reports on evidence about seeing a UFO sightings or extraterrestrial encounters.

Techia (Thea) Eshet is a doctor of anthropology; Lecturer at the University of Haifa.
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New Article: Kaplan & Werczberger, Jewish New Age and the Middle Class

Kaplan, Dana, and Rachel Werczberger. “Jewish New Age and the Middle Class: Jewish Identity Politics in Israel under Neoliberalism.” Sociology (early view; online first).

 

URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038515595953

 

Abstract
This article asks why middle-class Israeli seculars have recently begun to engage with Jewish religiosity. We use the case of the Jewish New Age (JNA) as an example of the middle class’s turn from a nationalised to a spiritualised version of Judaism. We show, by bringing together the sociology of religion’s interest in emerging spiritualities and cultural sociology’s interest in social class, how after Judaism was deemed socially significant in identity-based struggles for recognition, Israeli New Agers started culturalising and individualising Jewish religiosity by constructing it in a spiritual, eclectic, emotional and experiential manner. We thus propose that what may be seen as cultural and religious pluralism is, in fact, part of a broader system of class reproduction.

 

 

New Article: Ben Arye et al, Perspectives of Arab Patients in Palestine and Israel on the Role of Complementary Medicine

Ben-Arye, Eran, Amneh M.A. Hamadeh, Elad Schiff, Rana M. Jamous, Jamal Dagash, Rania M. Jamous, Abed Agbarya, Gil Bar-Sela, Eyas Massalha, Michael Silbermann, and Mohammed Saleem Ali-Shtayeh. “Compared Perspectives of Arab Patients in Palestine and Israel on the Role of Complementary Medicine in Cancer Care.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 49.5 (2015): 878-84.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2014.10.006

 

Abstract

Context

Complementary medicine (CM) is extensively used by patients with cancer across the Middle East.

Objectives

We aimed to compare the perspectives of two Arab populations residing in diverse socioeconomic-cultural settings in Palestine and Israel regarding the role of CM in supportive cancer care.

Methods

A 27-item questionnaire was constructed and administered to a convenience sample of Arab patients receiving cancer care in four oncology centers in northern Israel and Palestine.

Results

Each of the two groups had 324 respondents and was equally distributed by age and marital status. Compared with the Israeli-Arab group, Palestinian participants reported significantly higher CM use for cancer-related outcomes (63.5% vs. 39.6%, P < 0.001), which included more herbal use (97.6% vs. 87.9%, P = 0.001) and significantly lower use of dietary supplements, acupuncture, mind-body and manual therapies, and homeopathy. Most respondents in both groups stated that they would consult CM providers if CM was integrated in oncology departments. Related to this theoretical integrative scenario, Palestinian respondents expressed fewer expectations from their oncologists to actively participate in building their CM treatment plan. Treatment expectations in both groups focused on improving quality of life (QOL), whereas Palestinian respondents had fewer expectations for CM to improve fatigue, emotional concerns, sleep, and daily functioning.

Conclusion

Arab patients with cancer from Palestine and Israel highly support CM integration within their oncology institutions aiming to improve QOL. Nevertheless, respondents differed in their perceived model of CM integration, its treatment objectives, and their oncologists’ role in CM integration.

New Article: Simchai and Keshet, New Age in Israel

Simchai, Dalit and Yael Keshet. “New Age in Israel: Formative ethos, identity blindness, and implications for healthcare.” Health (early view; online first).

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1363459315595848

 

Abstract

This article presents a critical analysis of New Age culture. We draw on two empirical studies conducted in Israel and show that the lofty notions about freedom from the shackles of socially structured identities and the unifying potential this holds, as well as the claim regarding the basic equality of human beings, are utopian. Blindness toward ethno-national identity reinforces identification with a self-evident hegemonic perception, thereby leading to the exclusion of peripheral groups such as indigenous populations. This exclusion is manifested in the discourse symbolically as well as in the praxis of complementary and alternative medicine, which is one of the main fields in which New Age culture is involved. Thus, the unifying ethos in the New Age culture becomes an illusionary paradise. This article contributes to the study of power relationships between New Age culture in diverse Western countries and the native and peripheral populations of these countries, and to the sociological study of complementary and alternative medicine incorporated into health organizations.

 
 
 
 

New Article: Stolovy et al, Experience of Israeli Women Who Practice Channeling

Stolovy, Tali, Rachel Lev-Wiesel, and Zvi Eisikovits. “Dissociation and the Experience of Channeling: Narratives of Israeli Women Who Practice Channeling.” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 63.3 (2015): 346-64.

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207144.2015.1031555

Abstract
“Channeling” is a phenomenon in which people describe themselves as receiving messages from another personality or dimension of reality. Channeling is often regarded as dissociation, which is a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception. This study explored the interface between channeling and dissociation through a phenomenological analysis. Qualitative data were obtained through interviews with 20 Israeli women who practice channeling. The analysis revealed 3 themes: dissociation, absorption, and control. The channelers’ descriptions correspond with what is coined as “dissociative states” and enable an emic view of the etic definition of dissociation.

New Article: Klin-Oron, How I Learned to Channel

Klin-Oron, Adam. “How I Learned to Channel: Epistemology, Phenomenology, and Practice in a New Age Course.” American Ethnologist 41.4 (2014): 635-47.

 

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12102/abstract

 

Abstract

New Age channeling aims at intimate and daily contact with benevolent incorporeal entities. In an Israeli channeling course, students learn to interpret external events in a new light and to monitor internal mental, physical, and emotional processes in new ways, culminating in an ability to achieve “controlled flow,” a state of consciousness in which self-attention is heightened but a sense of volition diminishes. Through the braiding of epistemology, practice, and phenomenology, they engage in a new mode of being-in-the-world and inhabit a new lifeworld where they become conduits to external forces. Anthropological fieldwork also aims at understanding epistemological systems through active participation, but by examining my own experience in the channeling course I demonstrate how temporary suspension of disbelief differs from permanent adoption of a new system of belief

ToC: Israel Studies Review 29.2 (2014): New Age Culture in Israel

Guest Editors’ Introduction: New Age Culture in Israel
pp. 1-16
Authors: Werczberger, Rachel; Huss, Boaz

Articles

This article focuses on the concept of identity by juxtaposing New Age philosophy and nationalism in the Israeli context. Based on my qualitative research, I deconstruct the Israeli New Age discourse on ethno-national identity and expose two approaches within this discourse. The more common one is the belief held by most Israelis, according to which ethno-national identity is a fundamental component of one’s self. A second and much less prevalent view resembles New Age ideology outside Israel and conceives of ethno-national identities as a false social concept that separate people rather than unite them. My findings highlight the limits of New Age ideology as an alternative to the hegemonic culture in Israel. The difficulty that Israeli New Agers find in divorcing hegemonic conceptualizations demonstrates the centrality and power of ethno-national identity in Israel.
In this article I examine eschatological beliefs and practices among channels in Israel and abroad, and show that they demonstrate an avoidance of traditional, group-oriented political action, and an embrace of alternative, spiritual action performed individually. This is linked to Israel’s shift to a neo-liberal economy and culture in the last few decades, where self-accountability has become the norm. Channeling teaches an extreme version of self-divinity, claiming that a person creates all aspects of his or her life and objecting to outside authority and regulation. It believes in a coming of a New Age of light and that the means to achieve it are personal quests for individual empowerment, which are anticipated to affect the whole world via the “virtual aggregate group,” an energetic reservoir that replaces the traditional group. Channels are engaged in alternative political action, attempting to change the world by virtually pooling spiritual resources.
This article charts the recent development of Modern Paganism in Israel (1999–2012) and analyzes the discourse maintained by Israeli modern-day Pagans when discussing questions of organization and of religious-political rights. As such it deals with the complexities of identifying oneself as a (Jewish-born) Pagan in Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. I argue that although Israeli Pagans may employ a community-building discourse, they constantly fear the perceived negative consequences of public exposure. They see the bond between (Jewish) religion and the state in Israel as a main factor in the intolerance and even persecution that they expect from the government and from Haredim (“ultra-Orthodox” Jews). The result of this discourse during the first ten years or so of the presence of Modern Paganism in Israel can be seen through the metaphor of a dance, in which participants advance two steps, only to retreat one.
The notion of consciousness change as a political concept has re-emerged as a central issue in recent Israeli political discourse in diverse and seemingly remote groups. The following is a study of some of the contexts and implications of according primacy to consciousness change in political thought, through the tensions between the highly individualistic character of this discourse and its collective language and aims. I focus on one study case, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a key figure in both extreme settler groups and current New Age Hasidic revival. Analyzing his political writings, I explore his notion of consciousness as the true place of politics. Finally, I return to the question of the context in which Rabbi Ginsburgh’s binding of the political to consciousness should be read, and propose liberal individualism, and the direct line it draws between the individual’s consciousness and that of the state, as an alternative hermeneutical perspective.
The quest for personal and inner spiritual transformation and development is prevalent among spiritual seekers today and constitutes a major characteristic of contemporary spirituality and the New Age phenomenon. Religious leaders of the Bratslav community endeavor to satisfy this need by presenting adjusted versions of hitbodedut meditation, a practice that emphasizes solitary and personal connection with the divine. As is shown by two typical examples, popular Bratslav teachers today take full advantage of the opportunity to infuse the hitbodedut with elements not found in Rabbi Nachman’s teachings and to dispense with some elements that were. The article addresses the socio-political rationale at the root of these teachers’ novel interpretation of Bratslav hitbodedut and the ways they attempt to deal with the complications that arise out of their work.
This article describes the new “field” of Sufi ideas and practices in Israeli Jewish society and analyzes the mutual relations between new Western Sufi influences and traditional Sufi orders of the Middle East. It focuses on the role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this evolving field. While the current rise of interest in spirituality is often described as emphasizing an apolitical approach, the evolving Sufi field in Israel is an example of a field that cannot detach itself from the overarching conflict. Moreover, efforts are made by some of the actors in this field to present Sufism as representing a different Islam and, hence, as a potential bridge between the rival parties. These approaches, as this article shows, have their own complexities and influences on the emerging Sufi field in Israel.
Review Essay

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
pp. 153-170

Daniel Bar-Tal and Izhak Schnell, eds., The Impacts of Lasting Occupation: Lessons from Israeli Society

Review by Ned Lazarus

Alan Craig, International Legitimacy and the Politics of Security: The Strategic Deployment of Lawyers in the Israeli Military

Review by Ariel L. Bendor

Joel S. Migdal, Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East

Review by Aharon Klieman

Miriam Fendius Elman, Oded Haklai, and Hendrik Spruyt, eds., Democracy and Conflict Resolution: The Dilemmas of Israel’s Peacemaking

Review by Jay Rothman

Eyal Levin, Ethos Clash in Israeli Society

Review by Gabriel Ben-Dor

Danielle Gurevitch, Elana Gomel, and Rani Graff, eds., With Both Feet on the Clouds: Fantasy in Israeli Literature

Review by Ari Ofengenden

Cite: Ruah-Midbar & Zaidman, New Age Values in Israeli Advertising

Ruah-Midbar, Marianna & Nurit Zaidman. “‘Everything starts within’: New Age Values, Images, and Language in Israeli Advertising.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 28.3 (2013): 421-36.

 

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13537903.2013.831652

Abstract

This article focuses on the appropriation of New Age values, images, and language by different sectors of the mainstream in a Western society—in Israel. The findings support earlier research about the shift in values in the mainstream of Western societies. Specifically, this is a shift towards the admiration of nature, Far Eastern lore, a search for a ‘balanced’ way of life, and so on, in accordance with New Age values. This article analyzes how, and for what purpose, mainstream advertisements appropriate New Age elements. The analysis of about 100 advertisements from the last decade leads to the conclusion that all mainstream sectors, including relatively conservative ones (such as academic institutions), borrow elements from New Age, but differ in the intensity and form of appropriation: some are interested in simply attracting attention, while others directly appropriate New Age values. This article discusses the differentiation between the receptivity of specific sectors to New Age and explores possible motivations for the use of New Age elements, such as the more conservative sectors’ use of esoteric elements of New Age.