Cite: Yadgar, Jewish Secularism and Ethno-National Identity

Yadgar, Yaacov. “Jewish Secularism and Ethno-National Identity in Israel: The Traditionist Critique.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26.3 (2011): 467-481.




This article examines traditionist (masorti) Israeli Jews’ critique of the dominant secular Israeli culture and identity. Based upon 102 in-depth personal interviews with Jewish Israelis who identify as traditionists, the article suggests that the traditionist ability to transcend the ‘secular vs. religious’ dichotomy offers an alternative view of the complex relationship between modernity, religion, ethnicity, and national identity. Crucially, the traditionist critique of secular Israeli culture and identity offers a unique perspective—intimately familiar yet resolutely critical—which portrays secularity as appealingly liberated yet significantly lacking in some vital aspects of ethno-national Jewish identity. This critique highlights secular Israelis’ dependence on the State for the maintenance and preservation of their Jewish identity. Further, the traditionist perspective suggests that the secular malady is closely related to the supposed ‘ethnic neutrality’ or ‘whiteness’ of Israeli secularism.

Cite: Evans, The Media’s Role in Israel’s Religious-Secular Conflict

Evans, Matt. “Exacerbating Social Cleavages: The Media’s Role in Israel’s Religious-Secular Conflict.” Middle East Journal 65.2 (2011): 234-250.





This article challenges the traditional model of the media as a positive agent for political socialization. The increasing variety of news sources has reversed the role of the media, contributing to growing cultural fragmentation, rather than the unification of nations. One of the most volatile cultural cleavages in countries around the world is the clash between fundamentalist and secular members of the same religion. This work explores the role of the media in societal rifts through a study of the secular and religious press in Israel. The potentially divisive impact of the media has implications for other countries in the Middle East that are also characterized by religious-secular tensions.

Cite: Hakak, Preventing Defection in the Haredi Community

Hakak, Yohai. “Egalitarian Fundamentalism: Preventing Defection in the Israeli Haredi Community.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26.2 (2011): 291–310.



Fundamentalist religious communities are usually portrayed as patriarchal in relation to women and authoritative towards children and young people. This article explores three cases in which a fundamentalist group, the Jewish Israeli Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) community uses egalitarian discourses and practices. My claim is that egalitarianism is a tool which the community uses to prevent members from defecting or to bring back members who have defected. Egalitarianism or equality between members can be increased or reduced, according to changing needs. While egalitarianism is emphasised among members, condescension is emphasised in relation to the ‘outside’, often portrayed as unequal and abusive. As part of these attempts, Western psychological, feminist, and democratic discourses, usually considered to be alien to the community, are incorporated.

Cite: Werczberger, Memory, Land, and Identity

Werczberger, Rachel. “Memory, Land, and Identity: Visions of the Past and the Land in the Jewish Spiritual Renewal in Israel.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26.2 (2011): 269–289.



This study focuses on the creative reconstruction of Jewish history via a spiritual New Age perspective. Using the case of the Jewish Spiritual Renewal (JSR) narrative of the past and the land, this article aims to shed light on some of the cultural transformations which are taking place in contemporary Israeli public discourse, especially the reconfiguration of the association between Jewish history, contemporary spirituality, and the land. The JSR narrative recovers, reinterprets and remolds Jewish history in order to legitimize the claim for a spiritual renewal of the present. By offering new perspectives on the Jewish past and history, the JSR attempts to validate its post-modern and spiritual version of Judaism as an original, uncorrupted form of Jewish thought and practice. The comparison of the JSR narrative with the classical Zionist and Canaanite narrative reveals that the JSR spiritual narrative replaces particularistic and nationalistic values regarding the land with universal and global values concerning nature and the environment, in order to create a universal Jewish spirituality that caters to the identity needs of contemporary non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis.

ToC: Israel Affairs 17,2 (2011)

Israel Affairs: Volume 17 Issue 2 is now available online at informaworldTM.
This new issue contains the following articles:

Original Articles

Israel’s prime ministers and the Arabs: Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin

Pages 177 – 193

Author: Yossi Goldstein

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547273

Transjordan’s attack on the Etzion Bloc during the 1948 war

Pages 194 – 207

Author: Ronen Yitzhak

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547274

The dynamics of state-religion issues on the agenda in Israel: the case of the right to die with dignity (passive euthanasia)

Pages 208 – 223

Author: Michal Neubauer-Shani

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547275

How many Palestinian Arab refugees were there?

Pages 224 – 246

Author: Efraim Karsh

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547276

Is there a Palestinian civil war? The concept and the impact

Pages 247 – 258

Author: Hussein Sirriyeh

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547277

The use of parliamentary questions in the Israeli parliament, 1992-96

Pages 259 – 277

Author: Osnat Akirav

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547278

Discrimination vs. permissible preferential treatment regarding University of Haifa dormitories: or when Cicero met Adalah in the cafeteria

Pages 278 – 295

Author: Nahshon Perez

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547279

Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Pages 296 – 312

Author: David Rodman

DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2011.547280

Cite: Yadgar, Religious Practice and Jewish Identity among Israeli Traditionists

Yadgar, Yaacov. "Maintaining Ambivalence: Religious Practice and Jewish Identity among Israeli Traditionists—A Post-Secular Perspective." Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 9.3 (2010): 397-419.





Based on personal interviews with 102 Israeli Jews who identify themselves as “traditionists” (I shall argue below on the merits of this neologism as the proper translation of the Hebrew noun masorti), the paper studies the meanings traditionists associate with their Jewish practice, and endeavours to decipher and reconstruct the unwritten (and often unformulated) code guiding traditionist practice. This code, the paper argues, revolves around the preservation of a valid, “thick” sense of modern, ethnonational Jewish identity. The first part of the paper examines the tendency to present traditionism as lacking a consistent guiding logic, and addresses the question of whether it should be dismissed as the simple preference of “comfortableness” and easiness over the demanding observance of strict Orthodoxy. The second part enquires into the issue of the guilt arising from the supposed inconsistency between traditionists’ ideas of the role of religious practice and their “selective” attitude towards it. The paper thus argues against the (mis-) understanding of traditionism as deficient religiosity. Arguing that such dismissal is nurtured on the dichotomous world view propagated by the secularization thesis, the paper suggests that a post-secular epistemology is better suited for the interpretive understanding of this phenomenon.

New Publication: Oron, Israeli Identities

Oron, Yair. Israeli Identities. Jews and Arabs Facing the Mirror and Each Other. Fetish. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2010 [in Hebrew].



זהויות ישראליות
יהודים וערבים מול המראה והאחר

מאת: יאיר אורון


הספר זהויות ישראליות הוא מחקר אמפירי ראשון מסוגו והיקפו אשר עוסק בשאלת הזהויות הישראליות – אחת הבעיות המרכזיות והאקטואליות של החברה הישראלית בימינו. המחקר מקיף ארבעה דגמים של תת-זהויות יהודיות-ישראליות: הלא-דתית (החילונית); המסורתית; הדתית-לאומית והדתית-חרדית. לצדן ולעומתן מוצגת במחקר הזהות הערבית (הפלסטינית) הישראלית, אשר גם היא אינה מקשה אחת. 
הספר מנתח שני מחקרי זהות שנערכו בשנים 1990 ו-2008, בקרב סטודנטים יהודים-ישראלים וערבים (פלסטינים)-ישראלים. נידונים בו המרכיבים הבאים: "העם ואני", "השואה ואני", "הנכבה ואני", "האני והאחר" (עמדות הדדיות של יהודים כלפי ערבים ולהפך), "המדינה ואני", "הדת ואני". בעוד שהשואה מהווה נדבך מרכזי בזהות היהודית-ישראלית, הנכבה מהווה גורם מרכזי בזהות הערבית (הפלסטינית) הישראלית. לכל הישראלים, הן היהודים והן הערבים, משותפת הזהות הקורבנית, אך, כמובן, זהויות הקורבן הן שונות, לעתים גם קוטביות. 
באמצעות מחקר זה מתריע המחבר על כך שכישלון בחינוך לדמוקרטיה, לפלורליזם ולדו-קיום עלול להחריף ולהסלים את מערכת היחסים השברירית בלאו הכי בין הקבוצות השונות בחברה הישראלית. עלינו לעסוק באינטנסיביות בחינוך משמעותי נגד גזענות, להודות שהיא מצויה בקרבנו ולהכיר בכך שאנו-עצמנו איננו רק מושא לגזענות, אלא גם נשאיה של גזענות. 

פרופ’ יאיר אורון הוא חוקר ומרצה באוניברסיטה הפתוחה ובמכללת סמינר הקיבוצים. עוסק בחקר הג’נוסייד ובהוראתו, ביחסה של מדינת ישראל לג’נוסייד של עמים אחרים, וביהדות בת-זמננו. פרסם מאמרים וספרים רבים בנושאים אלה בארץ ובעולם. עומד בראש פרויקט להוראת תופעת הג’נוסייד, במסגרתו ראתה אור סדרת ספרי הקורס "ג’נוסייד" באוניברסיטה הפתוחה.

Cite: Shelef, Politicized Secularism in Israel

Shelef, Nadav. "Politicized Secularism in Israel: Secularists as a Party to Communal Conflict." Contemporary Jewry 2010 (18 pp.)


Most of the attention paid to the religious–secular conflict in Israel has been devoted to the religious side. As a result, secular Israelis remain conceptualized as a residual category, as atomized individuals who share little but a lack of religiosity, and thus as passive subjects in the conflict. Drawing on lessons from identity politics, this article argues that secular fear of the religious, especially the ultra-orthodox, has led segments of the secular Israeli public increasingly to think of themselves as secularists, making their shared ‘non-religious’ identity politically relevant. To the extent that secularist social and political entrepreneurs succeed in bringing this about, the relationship between religious and secular is likely to resemble inter-communal conflict rather than tension between interest groups within a single community.


Keywords: Secular – Religious–secular conflict – Identity politics – Israel – נדב שלף – Israel: Religion, Religious-Secular Divide, Ultra-Orthodox / Haredi, Israel: Society

Conference: Israel as a Jewish State

Israel as a Jewish State

The Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, University of Maryland

March 7-8, 2010

URL for Registraton:

Ever since Theodore Herzl’s time, argument has raged over the meaning of the “Jewish State”. Much of it has focused on the appropriate role of religion in the state’s laws and practices.

With the growth of religiosity in the state and the sharp increase in the number of religious citizens – neither development foreseen by Israel’s founders – the arguments have become fiercer. Different streams of Jewish practice – Haredi, Modern Orthodox, conservative, Reform, and “secular” compete either for recognition or to delegitimize their rivals.

Meanwhile, many citizens define themselves as simply “Israeli” rather than “Jewish”.

This conference will address the provocative themes of the nature and role of democracy, identity and Jewish religion in the Israeli context. How can Israel balance the competing claims of its Jewish self-definition with a commitment to democratic pluralism? Moreover, how can it best choose among frequently contradictory religious and social values, a path that all its citizens can live with?


Sunday March 7

Tyser Auditorium,
Van Munching Hall (Smith School of Business),
University of Maryland, College Park.

Breakfast (coffee and pastries) and registration

Welcome and opening

Session 1:

Is Israel “ the Jewish State”?

How the avowed Jewish character of Israel influences – or should influence – the politics and government of the State

  • Professor Shlomo Fischer,
    Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem
  • Professor Shlomo Hasson,
    The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • Dr. Bernard Avishai,
    The Hebrew University, Author, Jerusalem
  • Profesor Amiel Ungar,
    Journalist, Tekoa, West Bank


Keynote address

  • Professor Yuli Tamir,
    Member of Knesset and former Minister of Education
    Tel Aviv


Session 2:

Do Jews in Israel Have Religious Freedom?
The Issue of Pluralism

The competing goals and values of semi-official religious Orthodoxy and those of secular and non-orthodox religious groups and interests

  • Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum,
    Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, Jerusalem
  • Rabbi Avi Shafran,
    Agudath Israel, New York
  • Professor Bernard Cooperman,
    University of Maryland
  • Chair: Professor Eric Zakim,
    University of Maryland


Session 3:

Religion and Democracy in Israel:
Are Judaism and Democratic Values Compatible?

Are citizens’ rights unacceptably diminished by Israel’s Jewish character?

  • Dr. Aviad Hacohen,
    Van Leer Institute and The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • Professor Yoram Peri,
    Gildenhorn Institute, University of Maryland
  • Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt,
    Israel Advocacy Office of the Rabbinical Assembly, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Phyllis Chesler
    Psychologist and Author. New York



Annual Elizabeth and Richard Dubin Lecture
and Ambassador’s Reception

  • His Excellency Michael Oren,
    Ambassador of Israel to the United States


Monday March 8

Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars,
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.

Noon – 2:30pm
Session 4:

Religion and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Religious values and ideologies – Jewish, Muslim, Christian – and their consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

  • Professor Yuli Tamir,
    Member of Knesset and former Israeli Minister of Education, Tel Aviv
  • Professor Shibley Telhami,
    Anwar Sadat Chair, University of Maryland
  • Professor Edward Luttwak,
    Center for Strategic and International Studies,
    Washington, D.C.
  • Chair: Professor Yoram Peri,
    Gildenhorn Institute, University of Maryland


New Publication: Sheffer and Barak, Militarism and Israeli Society

Sheffer, Gabriel and Oren Barak, eds. Militarism and Israeli Society. An Israel Studies Book. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2010.


URL: ttp://


Table of Contents:

1. The Study of Civil—Military Relations in Israel: A New Perspective / Oren Barak and Gabriel Sheffer
2. Military Knowledge and Weak Civilian Control in the Reality of Low Intensity Conflict—The Israeli Case / Kobi Michael
3. Civil Society, the Military, and National Security: The Case of Israel’s Security Zone in South Lebanon / Avraham Sela
4. Intractable Conflict and the Media / Yoram Peri
5. Tensions between Military Service and Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel: Implications Imagined and Real / Stuart A. Cohen
6. From "Obligatory Militarism" to "Contractual Militarism"—Competing Models of Citizenship / Yagil Levy, Edna Lomsky-Feder, and Noa Harel
7. Shadow Lands: The Use of Land Resources for Security Needs in Israel / Amiram Oren
8. "The Battle over Our Homes": Reconstructing/Deconstructing Sovereign Practices around Israel’s Separation Barrier on the West Bank / Yuval Feinstein and Uri Ben-Eliezer
9. The Debate over the Defense Budget in Israel / Zalman F. Shiffer
10. Civilian Control over the Army in Israel and France / Samy Cohen
11. The Making of Israel’s Political—Security Culture / Amir Bar-Or
12. The Discourses of "Psychology" and the "Normalization" of War in Contemporary Israel / Edna Lomsky-Feder and Eyal Ben-Ari
13. Visual Representations of IDF Women Soldiers and "Civil-Militarism" in Israel / Chava Brownfield-Stein
14. Contradictory Representation of the IDF in Cultural Texts of the 1980s / Yuval Benziman
15. Military and Society since 9/11: Retrospect and Prospect / Christopher Dandeker


Keywords: Israel: Politics, Military, Lebanon, Israel: Society, Gender, Israel: Culture, Israel: Economy, West Bank, Partition / Separation, Wall / Separation Barrier, Israel: Religion, Religious-Secular Dividem גבי שפר, אורן ברק

Cite: Radzyner, A Constitution for Israel


Radzyner, Amihai. "A Constitution for Israel: The Design of the Leo Kohn Proposal, 1948." Israel Studies 15,1 (2010): 1-24.



UN General Assembly Resolution 181 declared that the states which will be established in the Land of Israel should accept a constitution. Dr. Leo Kohn was chosen to write the constitution proposal for the Jewish State. The article describes his constitutional project, which was carried out in three stages between the end of 1947 and October 1948. It identifies the sources of his influence in his proposals, names the figures that assisted in writing the proposals, and tries to understand the reasons for the changes made in the three versions of his proposal. It considers the claim that essential changes were due to the fundamental debate concerning the nature of the constitution of the Jewish State: Should it be similar to the constitutions of modern democratic states, or should it express the Jewish tradition and protect the special Jewish character of the state?




Keywords: Israel: Law, Constitution, Democracy, Jewish Identity, Israel: Religion, Religious-Secular Divide, Zionism: State establishment, עמיחי רדזינר

Cite: Deutsch, Haredi Encounters with Technology


Deutsch, Nathaniel. "The Forbidden Fork, the Cell Phone Holocaust, and Other Haredi Encounters with Technology." Contemporary Jewry 29,1 (2009): 3-19.


Abstract:  Haredi Jews valorize tradition and explicitly reject the idea of progress on ideological grounds. Concomitantly, they are opposed to many innovations and are highly critical of the destructive potential of modern communication technologies such as cell phones with Internet capability that serve as pocket-sized portals between their insular communities and the wider world. In response to this perceived threat, Haredi authorities have issued bans on the use of certain technologies and have endorsed the development of acceptable alternatives, such as the so-called kosher cell phone. And yet, many Haredim, both in the United States and Israel, are highly sophisticated users and purveyors of these same technologies. This tension indicates that Haredim have a much more complicated relationship to technology and to modernity, itself, than their “official” stance would suggest.




Keywords:  Haredim – Ultra-Orthodox Jews – Hasidim – Internet – Cell phone – Technology – Israel – Holocaust – Modernity, Ultra-Orthodox / Haredi, Israel: Religion, Religious-Secular Divide

ToC: Israel Affairs 16, 1 (2010)

[Items will be posted separated, time permitting)

Israel Affairs: Volume 16 Issue 1 is now available online at informaworldTM.

Special Issue: Israel’s 2009 Election

Original Articles

The 2009 Knesset elections: a foreign affairs perspective
Pages 1 – 13

Authors: Shmuel Sandler; Hillel Frisch

The run-up to the elections: a political history of the 2009 campaign
Pages 14 – 30

Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld

Kadima goes back: the limited power of vagueness
Pages 31 – 50

Author: Giora Goldberg

The Likud: the struggle for the centre
Pages 51 – 68

Author: Abraham Diskin

The decline of the Labour party
Pages 69 – 81

Author: Efraim Inbar

Stability in the Haredi camp and upheavals in nationalist Zionism: an analysis of the religious parties in the 2009 elections
Pages 82 – 104

Authors: Asher Cohen; Bernard Susser

The Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party between the mainstream and ‘Russian’ community politics
Pages 105 – 123

Author: Vladimir (Ze’ev) Khanin

Arab Israeli citizens in the 2009 elections: between Israeli citizenship and Palestinian Arab identity
Pages 124 – 141

Author: David Koren



Peace and security in the 2009 election
Pages 142 – 164

Author: Jonathan Rynhold

Corruption again, and again not decisive
Pages 165 – 178

Author: Ira Sharkansky

Israel’s religious vote in comparative perspective: an Africanist analysis
Pages 179 – 200

Author: William F. S. Miles


Keywords: Israel: Political System, Israel: Politics, Elections, Elections 2009, Peace: Israeli Peace Movements, Religious-Secular Divide, Israel: Religion, Israeli Palestinians, Ultra-Orthodox / Haredi, Zionism, Russian Immigrants, Labour Party, Likkud Party, Kadima Party, Ehud Barak, Binyamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman

Reviews: Patricia Woods, Judicial Power and National Politics

Patricia Woods. Judicial Power and National Politics: Courts and Gender in the Religious–Secular Conflict in Israel. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2008.


Judicial Power and National Politics


Reviews: Eva Bellin. International Journal of Middle East Studies 42,1 (2010):158-160.


Keywords: Law, Supreme Court, Gender, Israeli Society, Israeli Politics, Religious-Secular Divide,  legal system, Patricia Woods, SUNY Press

Lecture: Raz-Krakotzkin, The Religious/Secular Divide in Israel Today


Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin (Ben-Gurion University)

Reconsidering the Religious/Secular Divide in Israel Today

Tuesday, January 19, 7:00 p.m., Congregation Rodeph Shalom

Sponsored by The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The 2010 Penn Lectures in Judaic studies: "The Secular and the Sacred in the Modern Jewish World"


All lectures are free and open to the public. To RSVP and for more information, please contact Etty Lassman 215-238-1290 ext. 406,


Keywords: Religious/Secular Divide, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, אמנון רז-קרקוצקין

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