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The Dynamic Interplay Between Religion, State, and National Identity in Israel
Thursday, August 24, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Over the past three decades, Israel has experienced significant changes in its religious landscape, with shifts in secular and religious Zionism, as well as challenges faced by the Ultra-Orthodox community. This series will explore the emergence of diverse Jewish voices in Israel today and analyze the impact of these changes on the nation’s identity and democratic ideals.
Tuesday August 3, 2023
Session 1: ISRAEL AT 75: Jewish Identity – Tensions and Trends
Over the last thirty years major changes have transformed the Jewish religious field in Israel. Secular Zionism, which held undisputed hegemony, has crumbled. Religious Zionism, at first evincing a triumphant Settler movement, has lost its thrust, and the Ultra-Orthodox are in a crisis of leadership. We shall analyze and understand the many and varied Jewish voices emerging today in Israel.
Tuesday August 10, 2023
Session 2: Is There Such a Thing as an Israeli?
Jews always had a complicated relationship with nationality. Within the budding nation states in Europe they struggled for equal rights while suspected of being “a nation within a nation” and founding the state of Israel put the shoe on the other foot: now they had to accomodate a large minority into their democracy. If that’s not enough, the very structure of Judaism seems to challenge the simple logic of Liberal Democracy, at least as it plays out in the United States. We shall examine why that is, and try to assess the integrity and equity of modern Jewish nationalism, fluctuating as it does between the modern abstract individual and the specific Jew.
Tuesday August 17, 2023
Session 3: Religion and State in Israel: The End of the Status Quo
Religion and State relations were never simple in Israel, yet over the last three decades they’ve entered a dramatic overhaul. The famous “Status” agreed between Ben-Gurion and the Ultra-Orthodox in 1947, is today a dead letter, highlighting the growing gap between public opinion in Israel and the formal word of the law. The Chief Rabbinate has lost public legitimacy, and diverse “Judaisms” challenge the traditional divisions in Israeli society. We shall examine the social conditions for these developments, as well as their political ramifications, such as were witnessed in the Israeli October 2019 elections.
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Session 4: Jewish Nationalism and the Temple Mount: The End-Point of Zionism
While historical Secular Zionism wanted little to do with the Temple Mount, and Haredi and Religious Zionism shied away from the site for Halakhic reasons, the last decade witnessed a dramatic change in the attitude of secular and religious Zionism toward the Temple Mount, as for many, including high-ranking Israeli politicians, it now functions as a national symbol of sovereignty, while for fundamentalist Jewish groups it has become the object of messianic yearnings. It’s interesting to analyze past and present dispositions, ask why now, and of course to notice the dangers it carries.
Dr. Tomer Persico is a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Rubinstein Fellow at Reichman University and a a Senior Research Scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Between 2018 and 2021 he was the Koret Visiting Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. His fields of expertise include contemporary spirituality, Jewish modern identity, Jewish renewal, and forms of secularization and religiosity in Israel. His first book, The Jewish Meditative Tradition (Hebrew) was published by Tel Aviv University Press, and his second book, In God’s Image: the Making of the Modern West (Hebrew) was published by Yedioth.