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Gideon Sapir and Daniel Statman

Jan 11, 2022

State and Religion in Israel

A Philosophical-Legal Inquiry

Cambridge University Press 2019

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either.”

The relationship between religion and state presents complex challenges to liberal democracies around the world. In this work, Gideon Sapir and David Statman

    • Propose a comprehensive theory about state and religion relations, providing tools to think systematically about questions in this field
    • Use a clear philosophical underpinning for its analysis
    • Offer a detailed case study of the arrangements in Israel which encourages sensitivity to the unique circumstances of different countries

State and Religion in Israel: A Philosophical-Legal Inquiry (Cambridge UP, 2019) begins with a philosophical analysis of the two main questions regarding the role of religion in liberal states: should such states institute a 'Wall of Separation' between state and religion? Should they offer religious practices and religious communities special protection?

Sapir and Statman argue that liberalism in not committed to Separation, but is committed to granting religion a unique protection, albeit a narrower one than often assumed. They then use Israel as a case study for their conclusions.

Although Israel is defined as a Jewish state, its Jewish identity need not be interpreted religiously, requiring that it subjects itself to the dictates of Jewish law (Halakha). The authors test this view by critically examining important topics relevant to state and religion in Israel, such as marriage and divorce, the drafting of yeshiva students into the army, and the character of the Sabbath.

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at reneeg@vanleer.org.il

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Renee Garfinkel

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at reneeg@vanleer.org.il

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