Israel the Unremarkable: Religious Freedom Through a Comparative Lens

Jonathan Fox, Ron E. Hassner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article seeks to correct for the exceptionalist tendency among scholars of Israeli politics and religion by offering quantitative and qualitative analyses of religious discrimination, regulation of religion and support of religion in Israel compared to other countries. We find that Israel's religious policies are unremarkable. In some areas, Israel's policies parallel those of other democracies. In other areas, they exceed or fall short of comparable democracies. Our quantitative analysis draws on the Religion and State (RAS) Dataset. Israel exhibits far less discrimination against minority religions than many non-democratic countries, but scores average among democracies. Israel engages in a moderate amount of regulation and support of its majority religion compared to other countries. It engages in more regulation and support of its majority religion than most democracies. We conclude with a case study contrasting Israel's religious policies as manifested in the IDF with British religious politics towards its armed forces. The purpose of this comparison is to move discussions of religion, state, and society in Israel away from normative judgments and towards a dispassionate analysis of discernible cross-case similarities and differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • British Armed Forces
  • IDF
  • Religious discrimination
  • Religious freedom
  • Religious freedom in Israel
  • Religious regulation
  • Support of religion


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