The Israeli kulturkampf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The sociologist Charles Liebman suggested several years ago that the cultural rift within Israel had to be remapped. He argued that it had become commonplace to divide Israeli culture into two dominant types, one secular and the other religious. Instead of the two he identified three cultures operating within Israel, which, he argued, together function as the foundation for three distinct social groupings. One consists of the various types of religious Jews; the second can be called 'secular Judaism'; and the third group is based on what Liebman called 'post-Zionist secularism'. This article examines the relationship between the two secular cultures identified above. Its central argument is that these two secular cultures rest on two distinct philosophical and ideological bases. The kinds of thought and analysis favoured by proponents of Jewish secularism are hermeneutic in character, which leads them to devote their principal efforts to trying to understand the significance of Judaism for the secular individual. The methods preferred by post-Zionist secularism, and by the related viewpoints to be discussed below, are political in nature. That is to say, adherents of Israel's two respective secular cultures use conceptual systems which are mutually exclusive. This then makes it easy for them to ignore each other. And so advocates of Jewish secularism leave discussion about the political status of Jewish culture to those who actually aspire to remove any semblance of that culture from Israeli life. But, more significantly, and fundamentally, the interaction that does take place between these cultures never focuses on the truly important dilemmas to be found at the heart of the Israeli culture wars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-254
Number of pages18
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'The Israeli kulturkampf'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this