Rising Above Israel’s Secular-Religious Divide

How political turmoil forced secular and religious Israelis to take one another seriously.

An article by HKI Middle-East Director Ofer Zalzberg and David Barak-Gorodetsky, director of the Ruderman Program for American-Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa.

The article examines the contestation between the Israeli government and the protest movement, and the way it feeds polarization across the secular-religious divide, by exploring a paradox: while polarization between a “secular camp” and a “religious camp” makes pursuit of a new social contract more difficult, it also increases the sense of a greater need for such a contract as Israelis grapple with growing risks. Indeed, the political turmoil leads many secular and religious Israelis to take one another seriously.

The article also explores the tension between the risks of polarization and the opportunities it presents for mutual learning; underlines the importance of a third camp which secular-religious polarization conceals; points out the ways in which Israeli society already produced significant components of possible remedies; and suggests what a new, constructive conversation about Israel’s future might look like.