“I don’t think Israeli secularism is under threat,” says Prof. Aviad Kleinberg, head of the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University. My assumption is – Kleinberg says – that Israel is gradually moving toward a separation of religion and state.
About half of all Israeli Jews self-identify as secular according to findings of surveys conducted by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI). But this, according to Prof. Kleinberg, does not necessitate a detachment from Judaism. Even most atheists among them still circumcise their sons, even when this could seem an “irrational” thing to do, as Kleinberg describes it.
So, what is Jewish Israeli secularism? JPPI studies show that there are two main secular groups in Israel, the “totally secular” and the “somewhat traditional secular.” They also show that almost all secular Israelis practice Judaism in some way.
The dialogue with Kleinberg is the third in a series of conversations conducted with Israeli intellectuals to discuss the findings and analysis presented in a new book: #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution. This book is based on the work of JPPI, and was coauthored by Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow at JPPI and Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The English version was published recently and provides us with an opportunity to both present the unique nature of Israeli Judaism to the broader world, and to discuss its future and the implications for world Jewry.
The discussion with Kleinberg focuses on secular Israelis and their unique way of practice.