Unbundling Property inWelfare

Yael Cohen-Rimer, Shai Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In mostWestern jurisdictions, welfare law utilises means testing to determine whether individuals are eligible for welfare allowances, often using property ownership as one of the eligibility criteria. Crucially, the prevailing conception of property ownership is premised on the notion that property rights are applied equally to all owners in matters relating to the control and management of that property. When this assumption proves not to reflect reality, it can have devastating consequences for those most in need of the support ostensibly provided by welfare law.The present qualitative empirical study examines two cases in which such adverse consequences are felt: in the two largest minority communities in Israel—the Palestinians and the Ultraorthodox Jews (Charedi).The findings show that property ownership in these communities is realised hierarchically, along patriarchal lines, and that family members occupy and manage property in accordance with community customs and traditional norms, often far removed from state laws. Beyond theoretical debates or ethnographic observations, the discrepancies between the state’s ideas of ownership and those recognised by members of the Palestinian and Charedi communities in Israel often result in the denial of financial aid to those who need it most.This article will identify such differences in conception and will describe how they provide an additional explanation for the high levels of poverty in minority communities. Finally, it will examine two private law doctrines that can be used as inspiration to better interpret welfare law and make it more nuanced and culturally sensitive, especially when it encounters people in poverty and marginalised groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-597
Number of pages24
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Bar-Ilan University, Professor of Law. Email: [email protected]. The authors would like to thank Lua Kamál Yuille and Joseph Singer for reading and commenting on earlier versions of this article; Eden Levi, Oded Israeli, Eliezer Shofet, Miriam Rashed, Shani Raich and Gili Bartura for their invaluable research assistance to this project; the OJLS editors and reviewers who have contributed their helpful input to the article; and our interviewees, who shall remain anonymous, but whose voice we hope to carry through this article adequately and honourably. This research was funded by a research grant from the Israeli Insurance Institute.

FundersFunder number
Israeli Insurance Institute


    • Israel
    • cultural property
    • gendered property
    • property
    • qualitative empirics


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