Religion in the Jewish State:

Course Description

Religion in the Jewish State: Varieties of contemporary Judaism with Implications on Israeli Politics and Middle Eastern Conflict

Our point of departure is the issue of the ambivalent and tense yet potent and creative relationship between traditional Jewish religion and present-day Israeli reality represented by territorial sovereign statist nationalism, on the one hand, and apparently modern, secular, liberal-pluralistic-democratic, technologically advanced Western society, on the other hand, an issue of paradoxical and explosive nature.

Israeli Jewish religion is to a large extent a novel and singular phenomenon, different from both historic Jewish religiosity and American Jewish religiosity. In order to better understand it we must acquaint ourselves with lessons from the social-scientific study of religion and comparative religion, and gain some elementary knowledge of Judaism and Israeli history, society and politics. We shall explore the origins of current Jewish religion, its dynamics and variations, and its far-reaching implications on Israel’s public sphere as well as Israel’s international and regional positions. Hence the controversiality of our subject matter. Jewish religion is closely related to fundamental issues of the collective identity, on the one hand, and issues of peace and war, on the other hand, at the focus of Israeli life. Ever since the establishment of the state, this topic has been at the epicenter of public debate, which on some occasions has caused critical oppositions leading to internal and external hostilities.

The vibrant myriad of Israeli Jewish religiosity will be described and analyzed in the context of protracted collective identity crisis; bitter ideological rifts; multi-cleavage ridden society; Globalism; and 100 year-long bloody confrontation with neighboring Arab nations.