Sexuality and the Body in New Religious Zionist Discourse

Sexuality and the Body in New Religious Zionist Discourse


Avi Sagi & Yakir Englander

Series: Israel: Society, Culture and History
ISBN: 9781618114525 (hardcover)
Pages: 300 pp.
Publication Date: August 2015

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Religious-Zionism developed in Israel as an attempt to combine halakhic commitment with the values of modernity, two networks of meaning not easily reconciled. This book presents a study of the discourse on the body and sexuality within religious-Zionism as it has developed in recent decades, including in cyberspace, and considers such issues as homosexuality, lesbianism, masturbation, and the relationships between the sexes. It also analyzes the shift to a pastoral discourse and alternative religious perspectives dealing with this discourse together with its far wider social and cultural implications, offering a new paradigm for reading religious cultures.


Avi Sagi is Professor of Philosophy and founder of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies at Bar-Ilan University as well as a faculty member at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He has written and edited many books and articles in philosophy and Jewish thought, among them Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the AbsurdJewish Religion after Theology, and Tradition vs. Traditionalism.


Yakir Englander is a visiting scholar at the Divinity School at Harvard University. His book The Perception of the Male Body in Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox Society During the Last Sixty Years (in Hebrew) is forthcoming.


The questions raised by the volume are important. … Yakir Englander and Avi Sagi have made a substantive contribution to what is now unabashedly called ‘Israel studies,’ an area of study bounded not only by geography but also by mindset.
— Sander L. Gilman, Emory University, Studies in Contemporary Jewry Vol. 30
Numerous studies have shown how secular Zionism undertook a revolution with respect to sexuality and the body. But until now, no systematic work has examined religious-Zionism on these questions. Sagi and Englander’s book not only reveals the dynamic way that religious-Zionism has created its own bodily revolution, but also how much contemporary religious discourse around sexuality owes to “virtual Halakhah” on the Internet. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the world of Orthodox Judaism today.
— David Biale, Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History, University of California, Davis
In this exciting new book Yakir Englander and Avi Sagi break new ground in treating contemporary religious-Zionism in Israel as a community with particular religious and spiritual inclinations and a complex relationship to modernity. Focusing on religious and halakhic questions around the body and in particular sexual ethics, and including an important discussion of how the Internet has changed halakhic adjudication, Englander and Sagi argue that this community has integrated a personalistic dimension to sexual practices and approaches to the body.
— Shaul Magid, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Chair in Jewish Studies, Indiana University