One of the most important recent debates in Israeli political and academic circles is the question of whether Israel can be a state that is both Jewish and democratic. In the main, this debate has focused on Jewishness as a form of ethno-national identity, yet the relationship between the Jewish religion and the state in Israel has also triggered a controversy framed in terms of the state’s Jewish and democratic identity. This latter issue is relevant to the larger question of what role religion can and should play in democracies in general. This paper uses the Religion and State (RAS) dataset, which includes detailed information on government involvement in religion (GIR). A comparison of Israel to other democracies shows that all types of GIR which exist in Israel also exist in other democracies. This implies that the extent of GIR in Israel does not undermine its democratic character. The results also show that, while democracies tend to have lower levels of GIR than non-democracies, the relationship between GIR and regime is nonlinear.

Jonathan Rynhold and Jonathan Fox (2008) 'A Jewish and Democratic State? Comparing Government Involvement in Religion in Israel with other Democracies' Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 9:4, 507-531

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The Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish people studies the entire range of topics relevant to the identity of Israel as a Jewish state and to expressions of that identity. Within that framework, the Center focuses on two major clusters of interest.

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The Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, Department of Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900 Israel