Clashing Over Conversion: "Who is a Jew" and Media Representations of an Israeli Supreme Court Decision

Bryna Bogoch, Yifat Holzman-Gazit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Religion-state issues are particularly contentious in the Israeli context and they are often resolved by litigation before the Supreme Court in its capacity as the High Court of Justice. A recent controversy that reached Israel's High Court of Justice in 2005 involved a petition to recognize the validity of non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism. This paper examines the role of the press in constructing the controversy and the image of the High Court of Justice by analyzing all the reports and editorials in both an elite and in a popular newspaper, published from a week before the decision was issued until to 1 month afterwards. It looks at the visual, inter-textual and linguistic features of the articles and analyzes the frames used in representing the Court, the petitioners, and the controversy. We found that two distinct frames were used by the papers to convey the essence of the controversy in the Tushbeim case. While the organizing idea in Haaretz, the elite newspaper, was one of Israel as a civic state, Yediot, the popular newspaper, emphasized the religious dimension of Israeli nationhood. Moreover, contrary to widespread perceptions of the popular press, it presented a wider range of views than did the elite newspaper, which tended to praise the Court and to support the decision. However, both papers avoided challenges to the basic issue of whether religious authorities should control the definition of the character of Israel as a Jewish State. Thus, the media in effect defined the terms of the struggle over the Jewish identity of the state within consensual boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-445
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We would like to thank the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science Studies of Bar Ilan University, and the School of Law of the College of Management for their support of this project. We would also like to thank Sharon Avital for her efficient assistance in locating and collecting the articles.


  • High Court of Justice
  • Israel
  • Law and media
  • Law and popular culture
  • Law and religion
  • Popular press
  • Religion and state
  • Supreme Court
  • Textual analysis


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