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


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    A member of the Faculty of Law of the Peres Academic Center, Dr. Shuki Friedman served as secretary of the Locker Committee for Examining the Defense Budget, chairman of the government committee on the sanctions against Iran, and head of 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

    Research Director

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    Professor Yedidia Z. Stern is a full professor and former dean of the law faculty of Bar-Ilan University.

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    Prof. Hanoch Dagan

    Academic Co-Director, Human Rights and Judaism Program

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    Professor Hanoch Dagan has published more than 70 articles and six books on private law and legal theory, some of which have been published by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

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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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    Co-author of the Master Plan for Ultra-Orthodox Employment. 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.


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    Mr. Yair Sheleg

    Director, Religion and State Program

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    A researcher, journalist, author, and publicist, Yair Sheleg has been an astute observer of the religious-Zionist world for many years.

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. 

Shared responsibility, which is engraved in Jewish tradition, is one of the secrets of the State of Israel's success.

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.


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. 

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

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

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.


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
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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
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  • 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.

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  • 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.


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

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  • Open to the public