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

Ira Sharkansky
ISBN: 978-1-55587-678-4
1996/172 pages/LC: 96-36342


An assassination, the election of a new prime minister, and a fresh round of Palestinian unrest have highlighted the ongoing tensions between religious and secular Israeli Jews. Among the latter, the events have introduced fear about the onset of a new religious war and a dramatic shift in public policy. However, Ira Sharkansky notes that, while religious interests in Israel have been powerful enough to keep their issues on the political agenda, they have, to date, been unable to influence the overall direction of either domestic or foreign policy.

Ira Sharkansky demonstrates 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 government should address other matters important in Judaism, including Sabbath observance, kosher food, secular marriage, divorce, burial, various 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 offers a comparative perspective 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, complete victory for either party is rare; policy tends to favor neither religious nor anti-religious extremes.


Ira Sharkansky is professor of political science and public administration at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His other books include Jerusalem: Again on the World’s Agenda, Israel and Its Bible: A Political Analysis, Modern Israel: An Exploration of Political Parallels, and The Political Economy of Israel.


  • The Power and Limits of Religion.
  • The End of Religion?
  • Judaism(s).
  • Israeli Politics.
  • The Intensity of Religious Politics.
  • Religion and Public Policy.