Center for Religion, Nation and State

The Center for Religion, Nation and State seeks to address the unique challenges arising from Israel's dual identity as a Jewish nation-state and a liberal democracy. The center's principal mission is to construct a framework for the relationship between Judaism and democracy as the twin components of Israeli identity. 

Among other initiatives, the center works to promote the compatibility of human rights and the Jewish tradition; attenuate the tensions between religion and state in Israel; promote Jewish pluralism; renew the intellectual foundations of Zionism for the twentieth century; defend Israel's legitimacy as a nation-state; and develop ways to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into Israeli society and the economy.

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    Dr. Shuki Friedman

    Director

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    Dr. Shuki Friedman is the Director of the Center for Religion, Nation and State. He is a member of the Faculty of Law at the Peres Academic Center and formerly served as secretary of the Locker Committee for Examining the Defense Budget. He was also chairman of the government committee on the sanctions against Iran, and headed the international and foreign law department for the legal division of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

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    Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern

    Senior Fellow

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    Professor Yedidia Z. Stern is a Senior Fellow, Center for Religion Nation and State; Academic Director, Human Rights and Judaism Program.

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    Prof. Talia Fisher

    Senior Fellow

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    Talia Fisher is a professor and has served as Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on the theory of evidence. In addition, it deals with the question of the limits of the market, with an emphasis on the private supply of legal institutions. Talia was a research fellow at the Harvard Law School and a researcher at Harvard University's Edmond Safra Center for Ethics.

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    Prof. Shahar Lifshitz

    Human Rights and Judaism Program

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    Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, is considered a leading scholar of family law and responsible for shaping civil law theory in that field.

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    Dr. Gilad Malach

    Director, Ultra-Orthodox in Israel Program

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    Dr. Gilad Malach is the Director of IDI's Ultra-Orthodox in Israel program. He co-authored the Master Plan for Ultra-Orthodox Employment (along with Doron Cohen and Haim Zicherman) and was editor of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel (in copperation with Dr. Lee Cahaner and Dr. Maya Choshen). He was director of implementation of the Gabison-Meidan Covenant Project at the Avi Chai Foundation and content manager of the Committee on Sharing the Security Burden in the Eighteenth Knesset.

     

Profit remains the ultimate objective, but the focus should be on profit for all those with a stake in a company, and not just its shareholders

As a rule, it is not just their extremist ideology that has sent them to camp on the hilltops, but also the alternative they have chosen to replace the staid, bourgeois life they left behind.

The tension between the "military service for all" and "exemption for all" represents the tradeoff between the quest for equality and the existing political-social reality.

The results speak for themselves. Shas, headed by Arye Deri, registered a resounding success with traditional voters. But is this a long term victory?

All of us face the dread of the unknown future and the fate it holds for us.

Despite all the fears, voter turnout was quite respectable (the third-highest rate in the seven elections this century).

Recent elections have brought to fore the struggle between religion and state - the balance between the constitutional elecemtns and the place of religion. In this tug-of-war, a compromise can be the only victory.

Jewish solidarity is an existential imperative. As we mark the solemn day of Tisha B'Av, Dr. Friedman reflects on the importance of strengthening the common denominator among all Jewish communities. 

 

Strengthening the norms that are founded on our shared national traditions can help fortify our shared national identity - but any attempt to impose religious norms on a public when the majority does not identify with them will only lead to division and hate, says Yair Sheleg as we mark the mourning day of Tisha BÁv.

An unflattering US report on freedom of religion would have us believe that Israel is being run by an ayatollah-like regime. While some limits to freedom of religion exist, Israel is a free country

Calls for applying "Torah Law"in Israel lay bare the the much larger problem posed by the substantial clash of the world of Halacha with two fundamental principles of the modern liberal world: individual freedom and equal rights

Many Israeli policies only influence Israeli citizens. But when it comes to questions of Jewish identity, every decision and every statement made reverberates throughout the Jewish world.

Will religion & state be at the center of the election campaign in Israel? Who benefits from putting this topic at the top of the agenda? And are we on the brink of a cultural war in Israel? TIP drills down with Prof. Yedidia Stern.

In today’s world of big data, it is easy to imagine what the impact would be of a single database containing information about their Jewishness—of Israelis and Jews around the world.

How do young ultra-Orthodox couples cope with the housing crisis? The most recent figures on home-buying point to a change of the trend in the ultra-Orthodox internal migration. This change poses a challenge, but also an opportunity. How should the state respond?

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Israel’s housing crisis is affecting the ultra-Orthodox community as well. Housing costs in these communities are skyrocketing and young families are moving to the country’s periphery. What kind of apartments are they buying? What does their financing look like? 

The rigid halakhic position might make conversion irrelevant as the integration of “non-Jewish Jews” into Israeli society will soon legitimize the sociological path to becoming a Jew, outside the bounds of religion, and make conversion superfluous.

Conversion is a central theme of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot when the biblical story of Ruth the Moabite – widely considered the first convert to Judaism – is traditionally read. In the spirit of the holiday, we decided to examine what types of relationships Jewish Israelis are ready to have with non-Jews. We also looked into what Jewish Israeli think about the topic of conversions in general and the conversion process in Israel in particular.

Is it conceivable, for example, that a legislative body would enact a tax that would never apply, to its own members?

What is Wrong with the National Civic Service program for the Ultra-Orthodox and How to Reform It?

Change will come only by engaging in an extended struggle over values, and by offering a true Jewish-democratic alternative in which both components are strong and complement one another

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The proposed draft law perpetuates inequality  and is dangerous to Israel’s long term security. If drastic changes are not made to encourage the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the military, it may increase inequality among young people in Israel threaten the IDF as the people's army, in which the burden to serve in the military is shared

Among the many surprises of last week’s election was the impressive performance by the ultra-Orthodox parties – how can we explain this dizzying success?

Religious Zionism does not want to isolate itself, but rather to integrate.

The best estimate is that the religious and ultra-Orthodox will account for nearly a third (!) of the next Knesset. Should we be concerned that the Knesset is getting more religious?

The current Knesset undermined policies that promote the integration that is key to ultra-Orthodox well-being; the next Knesset has the capacity to reverse the trend

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For many years the ultra-Orthodox were perceived as “captive voters” who would always comply with their rabbis’ instructions to cast their ballot for ultra-Orthodox parties. In today’s new reality such directives are no longer enough

Gilad Malach of the Israel Democracy Institute gives the latest electoral trends among Israel’s insular ultra-orthodox Jewish community. Why is a small community so divided, and why are growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox voters leaving the Haredi parties altogether?

In a conversation with Fathom Deputy Editor Calev Ben-Dor, Malach discusses the recent changes that have taken place in ultra-Orthodox society, voting trends within the ‘sector’, and how the onset of technology is affecting voting patterns

The merger between the Jewish Home party and Otzma LeYisrael marks the end of an era. Since the founding of the State of Israel, the prominent Religious-Zionist parties have played a central role – yet they have now joined forces with the dangerous fringes on the extreme right

The third out of six chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

The fourth out of six chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

The fifth out of six chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

Israel has had 12 prime ministers in its 70 years, but none provoked such fierce emotional debates as Netanyahu.

“The great task before all — right and left, religious and secular, Jew and Arab — is to break down the veto power that the extremists among us wield over the center on various fronts”

What is the secret behind the power of the ultra-Orthodox political parties in Israel and how has it changed over the years? The article presents an overview of the development of the ultra-Orthodox political parties in Israel from the establishment of the State as well as insights as to future developments.

As election season heats up, Tipping Point host Dr. Gilad Malach of the Israel Democracy Institute and Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer to understand how Haredi parties became kingmakers in Israeli politics, why recent polls show a decline in their power and whether there is a chance that Shas and United Torah Judaism will join forces in the current campaign.

Even though military service seems to be one of the most blatant threats to the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, it has become a rather attractive channel for broad segments of the community.

Israeli society—its marketplace of ideas, its democratic institutions, the rule of law, the components of national identity—is caught in the turbulent vortex of a kulturkampf—a “culture war”.

"If indeed a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee was swayed by bribes, this constitutes the deepest possible subversion of the system and its legitimacy".

More and more ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Israelis are enlisting in the IDF, driven by personal, financial, and professional motives, with military service seen as an “entrance ticket” to Israeli society and to the labor market. But military service also introduces them to the shared components of identity and citizenship linking them to the state and its values, and enabling them to identify with others, from outside their community.

Full separation of religion and state isn't possible, but why is the Chief Rabbinate in the kashrut business?

Dr. Gilad Malach, head of the ultra-Orthodox research program at the Israel Democracy Institute, discusses the findings of the 2018 statistical report on the ultra-Orthodox society in Israel

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IDI’s 2018 report on ultra-Orthodox society is out - shedding light on changing trends in population, education, employment, and leisure in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

Israeli society is becoming increasingly polarized with each group holding a very different view of democracy and the State of Israel

How can we reverse the growing rift between Israel and diaspora Jewry? Both sides have their work cut out.

The truth is that the bill was designed to castrate expression and creativity, and induce self-censorship by artists and cultural institutions.

How despicable is a mob that calls for non-partisanship but is unwilling to listen to a voice that speaks for a majority of Israelis today?

In an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Shuki Friedman, Head of IDI's Center for Religion, Nation and State, explains how local government plays a critical role in balancing religion and state in day-to-day life in Israel.

A recent law stripped local authorities of the power to decide on allowing commercial activity on Shabbat and handed it over to the Minister of the Interior, a development which was met with public uproar. Would it not be better to leave these powers in the hands of the municipalities, which act according to the profile of their resident population? Dr. Shuki Friedman makes the case for leaving these decisions in the hands of the local authority.

 

Guaranteeing an independent Supreme Court. Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into the IDF. Boosting participation of Arab women in the workforce. Improving the ease of doing business in Israel. These are some of the challenges facing IDI’s new cadre of program and center directors.

Tomorrow's elections will determine the local government in 251 cities, towns and municipalities. Of all the political parties represented at a national level in Israel, the ultra-Orthodox parties are the most successful in local government. What are the reasons behind this interesting trend? Read Dr. Gilad Malach's fascinating findings.

This article presents the main milestones in the recurring attempts to put a satisfactory arrangement for the deferment of military service for yeshiva students in place. In doing so, it surfaces the changes that have occurred over time in the constitutional, legal, and public responses and attitudes on this issue.

Shared responsibility, engraved in Jewish tradition, is one of the secrets of the State of Israel's success and the use of the plural form in confession reflects this perception.

We should simultaneously define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and at the same time---the state and home of all its citizens.

Do we really believe that our fate for the coming year is determined on this day?

A collective Israeli repentance will enable us all to pray together for our common good, even if the content of our prayers is a matter of fierce disagreement.

The Jewish calendar should guide our lives not only as individuals and a community, but also as a society and a state. If we want to preserve our identity as a distinct cultural and national group, we must make the effort to shape the cycle of time in our own way. 

 

Now is the time to rise above petty politics and pass a draft law that will uphold the principle of civic equality in Israel.

 

In the bill’s final wording, the state only commits itself to act within the Diaspora to strengthen the ties of Jewish peoplehood – as if actions taken inside the Jewish state, like the reneged-upon Western Wall compromise, have no bearing on the rest of the Jewish world.

Israel's secular elite has lost its enthusiasm for combat service and now targets intelligence units, such as Unit 8200.

 Yedidia Stern, speaks to hosts Dahlia Scheindlin and Gilad Halpern about the fundamental nature of Israeli society – and how it is changing. He expresses his fears about disturbing the balance of a Jewish and democratic state, as the nation-state law threatens to do. He believes that Israel must be a Jewish state, but without a legal anchor for equality, society is in trouble. He reflects on how religious life is being dominated by the ultra-orthodox; and diaspora Jews, especially Americans, should have a say in public life but not too much.

What message of Tisha B’Av is relevant for life in a sovereign state like Israel? Does the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel make the day of mourning for “the city that is in mourning, laid waste, despised and desolate” an anachronism?

Israel has evolved into an economic and military superpower; what must we mourn?

The Israel Democracy Institute issued a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the Nation State Billl, asserting that if the value of equality is not anchored in the legislation alongside the other enumerated national characteristics of the state, the law may eventually erode Israel's democratic character

IDI puts forth analysis of why the proposed conscription plan for the ultra-Orthodox is problematic and offers an alternative approach

Leading public figures avoid dealing with issues that are of national importance when it entails confronting the ultra-Orthodox community.

Yohanan Plesner discusses with Tipping Point the "People's Army". Can a compromise be reached and is "sharing the burden" of military service a realistic goal? 

Though many ultra-Orthodox politicians expressed outrage at the original publishing of this new bill, some view the proposal as a double achievement.

Step by step, the Chief Rabbinate is turning itself into the central source of halakhic legitimacy not just within Israel’s borders but beyond them, and becoming a global force through securing its power all over the Jewish world.

More than 25 years ago, the “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty” affirmed that Israel is a “Jewish” and “democratic” state but did not define either of these terms in the Israeli context. Now is the time for us to turn to the Jewish identity that has been adopted by a large portion of Israel’s Jews and allow it to shape the country’s Jewish character.

The Minister of Finance has invested tremendous resources in meeting the needs of the Israeli middle class. However, even with these efforts, the minister has failed to address the ultra-Orthodox’s needs — a mistake that has contributed to an acute housing crisis for this sector of Israeli society.

On the practical side, religious conversion hasn’t ‘delivered the goods’ so far. Although it has been officially declared a national mission, less than 10 percent of non-Jewish immigrants and their offspring have completed the process. As a result, one in 20 non-Arab Israelis isn’t recognized as a Jew, despite having made aliyah under the Law of Return.

Prof. Yedidia Stern, Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institution said that the proposed conversion law is an important step. The state must take responsibility and resolve the issues that affect so many lives

The government’s conduct and the public’s indifference have far-reaching implications – and not only from a utilitarian perspective. Diaspora Jewry’s economic, political and cultural contributions to the State of Israel are no longer guaranteed, but above all, the unity of the Jewish people around the globe as one nation is under threat

A new book from the Israel Democracy Institute
exposes the failures of the State conversion system over three decades

 The proposed amendment which will strip the Supreme Court of the power to invalidate legislation (“the British model”), or alternatively, would allow the Knesset, by a vote of 61 of its members to reinstate a law that the court has struck down (“the override clause”) pose a grave threat to every single Israeli citizen. 

The fifth out of five chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

Israel is a success story on many levels — social, economic, scientific, and in terms of protecting its security. Nevertheless, many of its citizens see the country as treading water. What is the source of this dissonance?

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The Democracy Pavilion, a unique multi-media experience, in full 360 degree technology, showcasing the values embedded in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is open to the public.

No matter when they take place, the upcoming elections will have a decisive impact on the identity of the state if decision-makers and the general public continue to follow the ultra-Orthodox lead

Rabbis outside the Reform and Conservative movements rarely deal with Jewish-values issues such as the asylum seekers and treatment of the Palestinians

Thought leaders recommend an ‘all in the family’ perspective when it comes to challenges between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

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The nation state law is the "identity law" of the state, and this will have a revolutionary significance, since democracy is not mentioned in it.

“The campaign to remake the Supreme Court has been completed” said Justice Minister Shaked - so now with its new and more conservative profile, there is no longer any justification for the delegitimization of the Supreme Court.

The first out of five chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

The second out of five chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

The third out of five chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

Powerful forces are pushing against the rule of law, attempting to derail it. From the perspective of those who wish to preserve the rule of law, we are living in a Greek tragedy whose dreadful outcome is foreknown. 

Ultra-Orthodox society is moving toward a more Israeli, more modern future, while also maintaining its unique characteristics. 

For the first time since 2013- a decline in the number of ultra-Orthodox men in the workforce

For decades, religious and ultra-Orthodox members of Knesset, backed and encouraged by their rabbis, have worked to inject the secular state with as much Judaism as possible. Over the course of 70 years, the results of this ongoing effort have been minimal, but the price paid by Judaism has been great.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Dickens’s words seem a highly apt way of describing the current state of the Jewish people, and the relationship between the two largest Jewish communities in the world – those in Israel and the United States.

Prof. Yedidia Stern: "These rabbis, who loudly extol the virtues of Jewish statehood, do not hesitate to drag the people’s army into the arena of conflict with their irresponsible statements."

Stereotypes—both positive and negative—are an obstacle to the development of a genuine partnership between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society. The Haredim are Israel's biggest sociological mystery. We must learn the facts rather than engaging in speculation. 

Are women leading the change in ultra-Orthodox society or are they preserving their unique way of life? Learn more about the tension between the possibilities that the modern world offers ultra-Orthodox women and the many complex challenges facing them. 

Israel Democracy Institute and the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research published today the 2017 Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel. The report presents trends in population, education, employment, and leisure in the ultra-Orthodox sector in Israel.

The general picture produced by the Democracy Index is of a manic-depressive society – is this the beginning of a transition from a turbulent and confused adolescence into a quiet and steady adulthood?

At approximately eight million people, diaspora Jewry comprises the fifth tribe of Israel. The Knesset is currently debating a proposal, which among other things addresses the connection with Diaspora Jewry entitled “Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People”.

On the link between ‘who’ and ‘what’ in Judicial rulings

For many American Jews, identification with the State of Israel is a significant component of their Jewish identity.

 

A state that is proud of its identity has nothing to fear from granting all its citizens equality.

Israelis must unite around a balanced arrangement that asserts that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people that guarantees equality for all its citizens.

How both faiths can use their common threads and customs as a means to connect, dialogue and cooperate.

With 50% of young Haredi men expected to enter the labor market actually those with poorer skills and abilities, there is an urgent need for an in-depth rethinking about Haredi education. 

Is our country and society doomed to continually follow the same path of repeated crisis, or has the time finally come for us to plot a new course?

A country that comes to a standstill for one whole day and doesn’t derive anything significant from it is missing the point.

To encourage enlistment, Israel should adopt a conscription model that is cognizant of the ultra-Orthodox fear of erosion of their identity and employs both positive and negative economic incentives.

The implications of the Supreme Court's ruling go far beyond the Kashrut market.

IDI responds to high court ruling: “The time has come for our politicians to demonstrate leadership and work to enact a more equitable and effective arrangement.”

Army service is an extremely powerful “employment engine” for most ultra-Orthodox men whose religious education does not provide them with the general background or professional training necessary for joining the work force outside the ultra-Orthodox sector.

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The State of Israel needs to come up with appropriate living solutions for the ultra-Orthodox, whose numbers are expected to increase significantly.  

The whole world must be the arena of the war against antisemitism and the Jewish nation-state must serve as the supreme commander in this universal conflict.

Instead of Judaism being what unites Jews in Israel with Jews around the world, our religion has become the main source of conflict.

In an op-ed first published by The Forward, IDI's president calls on Israeli leaders to empower Diaspora Jews in the crucial debate on identity and faith.

The recent challenges at the Kotel are but a symptom of an ever-increasing problem.

Prof. Yedidia Stern argues that our Jewish identity and culture depend on how we understand and internalize the past.

In 2017, we have to ask: Who is ultra-Orthodox? What are the boundaries of ultra-Orthodox society? What are the boundaries of ultra-Orthodox identity within the Israeli sphere?

Israel's very legitimacy as a Jewish state is under attack.

Ahead of Israel Independence Day: If we are willing to turn down the volume of the extreme voices and listen instead to the mainstream representatives in each of Israel's sectors, we will find cause for optimism about the shared Israeli future.

As a second generation Holocaust survivor, Dr. Shuki Friedman says that, "beyond the responsibility of building our own lives and the state, there is also a personal responsibility not only to remember, but to pass on remembrance to the next generation."

 

The truly great task is to push ourselves to be accountable, personally and nationally, to the question of purpose.

The Exodus from Egypt is what brought Israelites their freedom and made them into a nation.

Leaving issues of religion and state to an ultra-Orthodox monopoly is leading to estrangement between Israel and the Diaspora. New arrangements must be reached.

Haredim and Arabs must be integrated into society and economy to take the start-up nation to the next level.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that a company is permitted to terminate its worker for wearing religious dress is a sad demonstration of the words of Ecclesiastes: “And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.”

It is almost certain that readers of this article will not recognize the name of this man, the terrorist who caused more damage to Israel’s security than any other attacker in recent years. His name is Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, from Hebron.

New statistics shed light on a population that was once hidden behind "walls of holiness." Today, those walls are beginning to break.

The four new Judicial Appointments Committee selections to the Supreme Court last month have led to the usual partisan responses, breaking down along the lines of “winners” and “losers.” Despondent claims of an “anti-constitutional revolution” are being made simultaneously with celebratory assertions of “making history.” The facts, however, are quite different.

Yedidia Stern examines the tension between religion and state in Israel by exploring several key areas of dispute in Jewish Israeli society and politics. This paper was first published by Brookings.

Yair Ettinger discerns between different streams of Religious-Zionist Jews in Israeli society, and analyzes how these schisms play out in the socio-political arena. This piece was originally published by Brookings.

 

Religious Zionism is based on a nationalistic, even hawkish, position on foreign affairs. Such an ethos, especially in the Middle East, thus demands a great willingness to sacrifice. However, this desire to serve the greater good can only be maintained over time if a sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility unites the members of Israeli society.

Judaism is no longer intimately and inexorably linked to religious observance. 

The fourth out of five chapters of the Statistical Report on Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel

While Europeans are trying to maintain their sense of ownership over the public sphere, restrictions on religious expression in the public domain strike at Muslims’ most basic of rights: to continue living their lives as guided by the dictates of their own conscience. Will there be a religious-based civil war? This article was first published by the Independent Journal Review.

The upcoming High Holidays are an opportunity to expand our perception beyond our selves and communities. This article was first published by the New York Jewish Week.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is an opportunity to stop and ponder how much we love to forget or forget to love. This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal

It is time for all of us to rethink the desired character of the Israeli Shabbat. This article was originally published by Times of Israel.

Although one need not agree with the positions held by Israel’s Arab citizens, it can’t be denied that they constitute an independent, moderate voice – and a promising political middle ground on the Palestine- Israeli conflict. This article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

The expected election of Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States will affect Israel in a great number of ways, but one of them is rather different and unexpected: Her election will certainly influence the question of religion and state. This op-ed was first published by Haaretz.

IDI's Shuki Friedman laments the existence of separate education systems for each sector of Israel's population, which reinforce, rather than bridge societal divides. This op-ed first appeared on Times of Israel.

The Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, as tradition has it, because of groundless hatred between Jews. IDI's Yedidia Stern takes this opportunity on Tisha B'Av to reflect on the current culture war in Israel, and urge citizens to focus on the covenant of destiny that binds us, rather than the divisions between us.

Israel needs to abandon the vindictive approach of trying to reform ultra-Orthodox society through force and budget cuts, and rather start investing heavily in education and job creation in the ultra-Orthodox sector. This op-ed was first published in the New York Jewish Week.

The inflammatory statements made about Reform Judaism at the recent First Zion and Jerusalem Conference are not merely old rhetoric, but rather a national ultra-Orthodox (Hardal) declaration of a holy war against the spread of pluralistic Judaism in Israel.

The relationship between religion and state in Israel is stormy. Lately, it seems the ultra-Orthodox have launched a new offensive on several fronts. This op-ed was originally published by JNS.org.

No aspect of the current Western Wall plaza arrangement, in which the Orthodox maintain a monopoly, will change if other denominations are allowed to pray at the foot of the Temple Mount in a new plaza. This article was first published by The Jerusalem Post.

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. These two characteristics are critical to the country’s existence. This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

What does Shabbat and its observance look like in the State of Israel? Can every individual enjoy this day of rest in the way he/she chooses? Are there actually individuals who are forced to give up Shabbat as a result of a lack of choice or economic coercion? IDI scholar Dr. Shuki Friedman explains in this article which originally appeared on eJewish Philanthropy.

What do the two candidates for the American presidency — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — have in common? Almost nothing at all — except that their children are married to Jews. This op-ed by Yedidia Stern originally appeared in the Jewish Journal. 

The Jewish people have been debating questions of Jewish identity and the definition of "who is a Jew" for thousands of years. While this debate has worn different faces and taken on different shapes at different times, it is a debate that has weighed on all sects and sectors of Jewish society. However, with the formation of the State of Israel, and especially over recent years, there is a palpable feeling that there are two nations caring out separate and different discussions. One lives and operates out of Israel; the other is overseas. This op-ed originally appeared in the Jewish Week.

The transition between Passover and Israel’s Independence Day is a symbolic transition from a holiday that centers on Godly miracles to a holiday that centers on human actions. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize conversions performed by private Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel is nothing less than a historic drama. The immediate significance is the loss of the Chief Rabbinate’s Orthodox monopoly over conversions, but it’s also a milestone in the privatization of religious services on the road to the Chief Rabbinate’s loss of relevance. Originally published by Haaretz.

There is a necessary condition that must be fulfilled for the existence of our nation-state to be justified: there must be an unconditional guarantee of civic equality for our national minorities. In this area, there is still much to be done.

In an op-ed first published by The Jerusalem Report, Prof. Yedidia Stern says this intifada of knives has left Israel in a twilight zone. It is not a time of war, in which the army is permitted to use arms more freely. But nor is it a time of peace in which any use of arms is seen as most irregular. Sharp differences of opinion between the public and the army could lead to a crisis in public confidence in the military high command. There is a crying need for responsible leadership.

Earlier this month, change snuck in through the back door of Israel's court system when Israel’s first ultra-Orthodox judge was appointed. This article was first published by the Jewish Press.

IDI Vice President Yedidia Stern says, "There is no way to justify this ultra-Orthodox sectarianism, as it prevents others from having the freedom to exercise their religion at public facilities. Allowing ritual baths to be monopolized by the Rabbinate would cause grave harm without any commensurate benefit."

This article was first published by Times of Israel.

The desired result could have been achieved quietly and efficiently had the Knesset adopted a rational arrangement that would encourage military service through positive and negative economic incentives. (This article was originally published in the Jewish Journal of LA.)

According to Dr. Shuki Friedman, the rabbinate's failure to provide adequate religious services caused the current trend towards privatization of religious services, which is creating a de-facto separation between religion and the state.

Professor Yedidia Stern argues that the question of how we should relate to the Temple Mount is more complex than any other issue on the public agenda in Israel. This question must be discussed in three parallel dimensions—religious, national, and liberal. This poses a serious challenge, which must be approached with the utmost sensitivity.

To what extent should the Rabbinate interfere in a citizen's plate? Dr. Shuki Friedman, argues that kosher supervision should be based on trust not coercion, and warns that the attempt to preserve the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on the kosher laws is a symptom of a larger problem.

Ten years after the disengagement from Gaza, Yair Sheleg, head of IDI's Religion and State program, explores the impact of the withdrawal from Gush Katif under the leadership of Ariel Sharon on the Religious Zionist community in Israel. 

Dr. Gilad Malach, who heads IDI's research program on the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, discusses the barriers that weigh down attempts to increase the employment rate in the Haredi community and suggests possible solutions.

 

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The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) is launching the publication of the book “From the Margins to the Fore: Religious Zionism and Israeli Society”, edited by Yair Sheleg

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  • Open to the public
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Book launch: Conversion in Israel: Vision | Edited by: Yedidia Stern and Netanel Fisher

  • Open to the public
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  • Open to the public
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Featuring two book launches: “Haredim A Guide to their Beliefs and Sectors” and “A Flock with No Shepherd: Shas Leadership the Day after Rabbi Ovadia Yosef”

  • Open to the public
  • Live
  • Hebrew

This conference will examine the Israeli public intellectual’s place in public discourse, from a historical and contemporary perspective as well as various ways of cultivating public intellectuals.

  • Open to the public
  • Hebrew

A conference on the Jewish nation-state, specifically focused on a central current issue: the relationship between the Jewish nation-state and Diaspora Jewry.

  • Open to the public
  • Live
  • Hebrew

In light of the proposed amendment to the law on the Council for Higher Education

  • Open to the public

Considering the Western Wall egalitarian prayer space crisis and the recent cementing of the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversions, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) will host a special conference on the erosion of the status quo, which was an attempt to shape a simultaneously Jewish and Israeli society, based on common denominators. Does the status quo still work? Is it possible to reach a consensus on legislation pertaining to issues of religion and state? How can religious services in Israel be improved?

  • Open to the public
  • Live
  • Hebrew

What is the relationship between Israel’s Arab minority and the state? What is their position as individuals and as a national group? Arab political leadership has an effect on the answers to these questions. This Israel Democracy Institute Nation-State Program, together with the Injaz Center for Professional Arab Local Governance, invites you to a roundtable discussion to analyze these issues. Discussion will center on the role of Arab leaders in Israel, their complicated relationship with their Arab constituency and the state.

  • Hebrew
  • Open to the public

Celebration of the launch of the Israel Democracy Institute's master plan for Ultra-Orthodox employment. This event (Hebrew) was live streamed.

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A conference organized by Dr. Lee Cahaner and Mrs. Racheli Ibenboim

  • Live
  • Open to the public