In This Article Religion and State in Israel

  • Introduction
  • The Status Quo
  • Marriage and Divorce
  • Religious Institutions and Provision of Services for Religious Needs
  • Religious Education
  • Jewish Calendar and Symbols
  • Military Service
  • Jewish Minority Religious Streams
  • Minority Religions
  • The Right of Return, Citizenship, and Registration
  • Holy Places
  • Religion and Medical Procedures
  • Religious Political Parties

Jewish Studies Religion and State in Israel
by
Gideon Sapir
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0096

Introduction

At the time of its establishment and during the first years of statehood, Israel consolidated various religion-state arrangements and absorbed them into its legal codex. The arrangements originated from three sources: Legal arrangements that had prevailed in pre-state Palestine under Ottoman rule and under the British mandate; a series of resolutions that were implemented prior to the establishment of the state by the Zionist institutions; and agreements that were reached during the first years of statehood. These arrangements have been traditionally referred to as the status quo. Until quite recently, government policy regarding religion and state has been based on the preservation of the status quo. In the past two decades the status quo has been gradually undermined. As a result, many longstanding latent disagreements over matters of religion and state have become a major source of political and cultural tension, and new arrangements are being formulated.

The Status Quo

It is difficult to clearly describe the contents of the status quo for several reasons: it does not contain a set of principles, but rather a collection of incoherent arrangements; there was never an official agreement regarding its scope; many of its arrangements were informal; and it has undergone significant subtle changes over the years. Yet, Liebman and Don-Yehiya 1984 provides a general description of the contents of the status quo. Sapir 1999 provides explanation for its emergence. Don-Yehiya 1999 and Don-Yehiya 2000 depict the status quo as a paradigmatic representative of a model of “consociational democracy.” In the past two decades the status quo has been gradually undermined. Several factors have contributed to its declining power. The most important of these is the fact that the relationship between the political branches and the judicial branch has undergone a process of change, with the result that the courts have developed a much greater tendency to actively intervene in arrangements which were reached through the political process. Hazan 2000 describes the demise of the consociational model. Cohen and Susser 2000 and Ben-Porat 2013 examine various explanations for this demise. Fox and Rynhold 2008 examines the Israeli case in comparative perspective. Barak-Erez 2009 and Cohen and Rynhold 2005 propose new models for regulating religion and state in Israel.

  • Barak-Erez, Daphne. “Law and Religion Under the Status Quo Model: Between Past Compromises and Constant Change.” Cardozo Law Review 30 (2009): 2495–2508.

    E-mail Citation »

    Examines the development and formulation of the status quo in the State of Israel and the changes that it has undergone, and proposes a model for regulating the relationship between religion and the state.

  • Ben-Porat, Guy. Between State and Synagogue: The Secularization of Contemporary Israel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the role of the economy and the consumer culture in the erosion of the status quo.

  • Cohen, Asher, and Bernard Susser. Israel and the Politics of Jewish Identity: The Secular-Religious Impasse. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    A description of the increasing tension between the religious and secular sectors in the State of Israel since the 1980s.

  • Cohen, Asher, and Jonathan Rynhold. “Social Covenants: The Solution to the Crisis of Religion and State in Israel.” Journal of Church and State 47 (2005): 725–745.

    DOI: 10.1093/jcs/47.4.725E-mail Citation »

    A proposal that in view of the increasing tension between the religious and secular sectors in the State of Israel since the early 1990s, the consociationally based status quo arrangement should be rejected and instead a consent based model grounded in Israeli law should be put into effect.

  • Don-Yehiya, Eliezer. Religion and Political Accommodation in Israel. Jerusalem: Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    The status quo arrangement––representative outline of a model of “consociational democracy.”

  • Don-Yehiya, Eliezer. “Conflict Management of Religious Issues: The Israeli Case in a Comparative Perspective.” In Parties, Elections and Cleavages: Israel in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective. Edited by Reuven Y. Hazan and Moshe Maor, 85–108. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Examines how the State of Israel contends with religious conflicts as compared to the way in which other Western countries contend with the issue.

  • Fox, Jonathan, and Jonathan Rynhold. “A Jewish and Democratic State? Comparing Government Involvement in Religion in Israel with other Democracies.” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 9 (2008): 507–531.

    E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the degree of government involvement in religion in Israel does not differ from that of other democratic governments.

  • Hazan, Reuven Y. “Religion and Politics in Israel: The Rise and Fall of the Consociational Model.” In Parties, Elections and Cleavages: Israel in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective. Edited by Reuven Y. Hazan and Moshe Maor, 109–140. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Describes and analyzes the demise of the consociational model.

  • Liebman, Charles S., and Eliezer Don-Yehiya. Religion and Politics in Israel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    A general description of the status quo and its political history. See chapter 3.

  • Sapir, Gideon. “Religion and State in Israel: The Case for Reevaluation and Constitutional Entrenchment.” Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 22 (1999): 617–666.

    E-mail Citation »

    A description of the status quo, the circumstances surrounding its creation and its collapse, and a proposal for a mechanism for the future arrangement of the state-religion relationship.

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