This paper examines the phenomenon of religiously oriented institutions of higher education in Israel. The paper examines the difficulty in defining a university as a “religious institution”, from religious, scientific and legal perspectives. It argues that a religious university is problematic from a religious perspective, by putting its emphasis on general, or "secular", studies, and by having to face Biblical criticism, which often contradicts religious beliefs and precepts. A religious university is problematic scientifically as well, to the extent that study and research may be subjected to religious restrictions. Finally, the university being "religious", affects the social fabric of the university and the character of its teachers and students. Moreover, restrictions of admittance on religious grounds constitute discrimination, which may bring the institute into conflict with state law, which prohibits discrimination. The article tests these assumptions by examining the history and internal conflicts at Bar-Ilan University, the only religious university in Israel. It tells the story of the university against the background of the changes in religious Zionism in Israel. It traces the murder of Prime Minister Rabin by a former student of Bar-Ilan as an event that shattered the university and brought about soul searching on the part of the religious Zionist movement as a whole. In addition to Bar-Ilan University, the paper examines all other religious institutions of higher education, at the university level, both Jewish and Arab. The paper examines "non-recognized" religious institutions of higher education. Some of these institutions, though not recognized by the Council of Higher Education, confer academic degrees that are recognized by various Arab universities. Finally, the paper examines problem of accrediting studies at yeshivot (religious academies for Judaic studies) for academic purposes. It notes that various American universities confer academic credits for such studies and mentions the failed attempt to recognize rabbinical ordination as equivalent to an academic degree.
Education Law | Religion Law
Date of this Version
Asher Maoz, "Religiously Oriented Universities in Israel" (September 2007). Tel Aviv University Law Faculty Papers. Working Paper 46.