Listen to a recent conversation with Guy Ben-Porat, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His most recent publication is Between State and Synagogue: The Secularization  of Contemporary Israel. A thriving, yet small, liberal component in Israeli society has frequently taken issue with the constraints imposed by religious orthodoxy, largely with limited success. However, Guy Ben-Porat suggests, in recent years, in part because of demographic changes and in part because of the influence of an increasingly consumer-oriented society, dramatic changes have occurred in secularization of significant parts of public and private lives. Even though these fissures often have more to do with lifestyle choices and economics than with political or religious ideology, the demands and choices of a secular public and a burgeoning religious presence in the government are becoming ever more difficult to reconcile. The evidence, which the author has accrued from numerous interviews and a detailed survey, is nowhere more telling than in areas that demand religious sanction such as marriage, burial, the sale of pork, and the operation of businesses on the Sabbath. The conclusion of this research lay beyond the Israeli case study and suggest that secularization, defined as the decline of religious authority, can evolve independently from secularism, a world view, and a liberal ideology. Consequently, while secularization can be observed in Israel, its political implications regarding liberalism, freedom and equality are by no means certain.

Co-Sponsored by The Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life