Theocracy and Pedagogy: Public Education in a “Postsecular” Israel


Source: Comparative Education Review vol. 61, no. 3.


The return of religion and religiosity, on almost all social, cultural, and political fronts, has informed the academic agenda of the last decade. It is marked by a growing scholarly use of the concept of the “postsecular.” Against this background, this article brings the concept of the postsecular to bear on the transformation of contemporary Jewish national education in Israel. Its main argument is that the arrangements currently on display between secular and sacral notions in national Jewish education illustrate the rise of a new theocratic vision for Israel. This neoreligious thrust challenges the former interplay between secular and religious notions, which has served as the basis for Jewish national (i.e., Zionist) education. The article also places the notion of a postsecular emergent society within a particular social and political context, pointing to a broader and much richer phenomenon than hitherto suggested.

To advance a case for the presence of neoreligiosity in Israel, the article presents, albeit briefly, a historical overview of the relations between religion and education in a wider European context, followed by a discussion of public education in Israel. The article then discusses selected examples of contemporary educational policy and practice that relate to the place of religion in Israeli public schools today. It concludes with an examination of the implication of these examples in relation to current neoreligious transformations.

Updated: Jun. 28, 2017