Ritual of Conflict: Religion, Politics and Public Policy in Israel

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The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a religious Jew has led some Israelis to fear that violence will characterise the already tense relationship between religious and secular Jews. Yet what appeared to be an onset of another religious war may have little long-term impact in a setting where, despite much intense political and social conflict, religious interests have been unable to determine major issues of public policy. Ira Sharkansky demonstrates that religious Jews have been powerful enough to keep issues on the political agenda of the Israeli government, but not strong enough to determine their outcomes. He shows that, within the communities of both religious and secular Jews there is division about conceding parts of biblical Israel for the sake of peace - and neither group is unified about how and if government should address other matters important in Judaism, including Sabbath observance, kosher food, secular marriage, divorce, burial, abortion and other medical procedures, the definition of who is a Jew, and the rights of non-Orthodox congregations and their rabbis. In this timely and insightful work, Sharkansky makes important comparisons about religion and politics in other Western democracies, where some activists warn of the catastrophes that occur in secular, godless societies, while others see intolerant coalitions of believers. Sharkansky notes that, even where religious disputes thrive most intensely, victories for either party are rare; government policy tends to favour neither religious nor anti-religious extremes.