Yaacov Yadgar

PhD Political Studies Bar-Ilan University, 2000

Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and DPIR
Fellow, St Anne’s
Government and Politics Network
Political Theory Network
St Anne's College
Office address
11 Bevington Rd, Oxford OX2 6LH.

Yaacov Yadgar’s research revolves around issues of political theology, nationalism, secularism, and tradition. His empirical work centres around Zionist ideology and Israeli theopolitics. His scholarship is multidisciplinary, encompassing, Jewish, political, cultural, religious, and media studies.

Professional Responsibilities

  • Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies
  • OSGA Director of Research
  • Director of OSGA's Middle East Studies unit.


Previous Posts

Before joining Oxford in 2017, Yaacov Yadgar taught at the Bar-Ilan University.


Professor Yadgar’s current research interests deal with what is commonly known as “religion and politics” in Israel. His work challenges a misconceived epistemological framework in which these topics are commonly discussed, and analyses the ways in which the theopolitics of the Israeli nation-state negotiates with Jewish traditions that preceded Political-Zionism and the state. He also studies the ways in which this issue shapes the broader politics of the Middle East.

Professor Yadgar’s two most recent books, Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Sovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism, and Judaism (SUNY Press, 2017), revolve around a basic question of the Israel polity: What is the meaning of Jewish sovereignty in Israel? This fundamental question, which ultimately revolves around Zionism’s charged relation with its own Jewish roots and Israel’s subsequent unresolved claim to a non-religious Jewish identity stands at the core of Israeli socio-politics and shapes the politics of the Middle-East at large.

In Sovereign Jews, Yadgar argues that a central key to understanding the alleged convoluted relationship between “religion and politics” in Israel is the State of Israel’s interest in maintaining its sovereignty as the nation-state of Jews. This creates a need to mark a majority of its population as Jews and to distinguish them from non-Jews. This leads the sovereign, supposedly secular state, to apply a narrow and problematic interpretation of Jewish “religion” as a central political tool for maintaining a Jewish majority and its sovereignty. The book argues that the Israeli nation-state’s unresolved relationship with its own claim to a non-religious Jewish identity is a key to comprehending not only the intricacies of intra-Jewish socio-politics, but also Israel’s positions and actions in international affairs.

In Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis, Yadgar studies the implication of Zionism’s and Israel’s charged attempts to understand their claim to Jewish identity. Yadgar argues that both Zionist ideology and Israel’s policies have largely failed to construct, as allegedly was their want, a viable national identity that is independent of what they themselves viewed as “Jewish religion.” Instead, the State’s definition of Jewish politics tends to revolve primarily around a “biological,” quasi-racial logic of majority and minority. This logic in effect conditions the viability of “Jewish politics” on the existence of a majority of Jews, whose (Jewish) identity is defined and understood primarily as a matter of their “natural” origin. The book offers a novel analysis of the interplay between Israeli nationalism and Jewish tradition, arriving at a fresh understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its focus on internal questions about Israeli identity.

Professor Yadgar’s earlier books, Secularism and Religion in Jewish Israeli Politics: Traditionists and Modernity (Routledge, 2011; a revised and updated version of a Hebrew book titled Masortim in Israel: Modernity without Secularization (Hartman Institute and Bar-Ilan University Press, 2010)) and Beyond Secularism: Traditionism and the Critique of Israeli Secularism (Van-Leer, 2012), as well as various additional articles, revisit issues of secularisation, tradition, modernity, ethnicity, and nationalism in a Jewish-Israeli context. These studies do so through an investigation and reformulation of what he terms “a traditionist stance” (a neologism offered as a translation of the Hebrew masortiyut), that should be distinguished from both secularity and conservative orthodoxy. In the Israeli context, the traditionist stance nourishes on Mizrahi and Sephardic constructions of modernity that, critically, are not seen by its practicing agents as essentially conflicted with tradition. Yadgar argues that a traditionist stance offers an epistemology that transcends the binary and dichotomous conceptions put forward by the discourse of secularisation and modernisation. A traditionist epistemology provides a unique perspective on issues of religion, tradition, secularism and modernity in Israel and beyond.

Professor Yadgar’s previous research focused on issues of identity, nationalism, culture and media, viewed mostly from the Jewish-Israeli case study. His book, Our Story: National Narratives in the Hebrew Press (Haifa University Press, 2004, in Hebrew) offered an interpretive study of the development of Jewish Israeli national identity, as reflected in the Hebrew press’ narration and construction of political reality. His other publications offer analyses of Israeli identity and cultural structures, through the examinations of predominant symbols, major political issues, and critical events in Israeli history.


Main Themes in Israeli Society and Politics (PGT option)

DPhil Students

Jamie Stern Weiner (OSGA), Alicia Vergara Murillo (AMES), Eirik Kvindesland (History), Ali Al Youha (DPIR), Alyssa Symon (Sociology), Teal Mindgledorf (OSGA), Alban Dafa (OSGA)

Yaacov Yadgar



Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

Sovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism, and Judaism (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2017).

Beyond Secularism: Traditionism and the Critique of Israeli Secularism (Jerusalem: The Van-Leer Institute, Hakibutz Hameuhad, 2012. Hebrew).

Secularism and Religion in Jewish-Israeli Politics: Traditionists and Modernity (London: Routledge, 2011).

Masortim in Israel: Modernity without Secularization (Jerusalem: Israeli Judaism Series – Hartman Institute/Law Faculty, Bar-Ilan University/Keter Publishing, 2010. Hebrew)

Our Story: National Narratives in the Israeli Press. (Haifa University Press, 2004. Hebrew).


Peer-reviewed articles

With Yakov Rabkin, “On Political Tradition and Ideology: Russian Dimensions of Practical Zionism and Israeli Politics’. Nationalities Papers, Online First, November 2023.

  “Nostalgia and Political Analysis – A Perspective from the Israeli Case”, Politics, Online first, May 2022.

  “‘The great sin of today is the “politicization” of our Judaism, the great need, the “Judaization” of our politics’: Leon Roth and the possibilities of a Jewish critique of Zionist politics.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 22(4), 2023, 412-437.

 With Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, “Al-e Ahmad, Guardianship, and the Critique of Colonial Sovereignty”. Constellations, 29(1), 2022, 19-33.

 With Noam Hadad, “Nation-Statist Soteriology and Traditions of Defeat: Religious-Zionism, the Ninth of Av, and Jerusalem Day”. Politics and Religion, 15(3), 2002, 506-25.

“Statist Jews: Zionist Theology and Jewish Sovereignty”, Kriot Yisraeliyot, 1, 2022: 104-131. (Hebrew)

With Noam Hadad. “A Post-Secular Interpretation of Religious Nationalism: The Case of Religious-Zionism.” Journal of Political Ideologies, Online first, July 2021: 1–18.

“’Jewish’ Politics or the Politics of ‘Jews’?: On Israeli Nation-Statehood”. ReOrient, 6(1), 2020, 20-46.

With Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, “Jalal’s Angels of Deliverance and Destruction: Genealogies of Theo-politics, Sovereignty and Coloniality in Iran and Israel,” Modern Intellectual History, 2019, 18(1), 223-247.

“Traditionism.” Cogent Social Sciences 1:1061734, 2015.

“Overcoming the ‘Religion and Politics’ Discourse: A New Interpretation of the Israeli Case”. Journal of Religion and Society 16, 2014.

“Tradition”. Human Studies 36(4), 2013, pp. 451-470.

With Ruth-Halperin-Kaddari, “Nationalisme, religion et (in)égalité de sexe en Israël au prisme du droit de la famille”, Cahiers du  Genre, 2012 (3), pp. 119-138.

“Masortiyut”, Mafte’ach: Lexical Review of Political Thought 5, 2012, pp. 143-164. (Hebrew)

“The Need for an Epistemological Turn”, Israel Studies Review 27(1), 2012, pp. 27-30.

“A Post-Secular Look at Tradition: Towards A Definition of ‘Traditionism’”. Telos 156, 2011, pp. 79-88.

“Jewish Secularism and Ethno-National Identity in Israel: The Traditionist Critique.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26(3), 2011, pp. 465-479.

“An Israeli Peace: Myth, Utopia and Politics”. Medina VeHevrah, 7(1), 2011, 105-140. (Hebrew)

“Maintaining Ambivalence: Religious Practice and Jewish Identity Among Israeli Traditionists – A Post-Secular Perspective”. Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 9(3), 2010, pp. 397-420.

“From Within and from Without: National Identity in Israel and Its Reflection in the Changing Images of the National Other.” Democratic Culture: In Israel and in the World 12, 2011, pp. 197-234.

With Ruth Halperin-Kaddari , “Between Universal Feminism and Particular Nationalism: politics, religion and gender (in)equality in Israel”, Third World Quarterly, 31(6), 2010, pp. 905-920.

“A Myth of Peace: 'The Vision of the New Middle East' and its Transformations in the Israeli Political and Public Spheres”, Journal of Peace Research 43(3), 2006, pp. 297-312.

“Gender, Religion and Feminism: The Case of Jewish Israeli Traditionalists”, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 45(3), 2006, pp. 353-370.

“From ‘True Peace’ to ‘The Vision of the New Middle East’: Rival Images of Peace in Israel”. Journal of Peace Research 40(2), 2003, pp. 177-193.

“The Media and the Public Sphere: Reflections in the Wake of the Rabin Assassination”. Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 1(2), 2002, pp. 150-166.
** A Hebrew version of this Article appeared as: “Democracy in Crisis: The media, The Public Sphere, and the Rabin Assassination”, Democratic Culture (7), 2003, pp. 105-129.

“A Disintegrating Ritual: The Reading of the Deri Verdict as a Media Event of Degradation”. Critical Studies in Media Communication 20(2), 2003, pp. 204-223. 
** A Hebrew version of this article appeared under the same name in Din Udvarim (1), 2004, pp. 299-325.

“Jewish Traditionalism and Popular Culture in Israel”, Iyunim B’tkumat Yisrael 13, 2004 pp. 163-180. With Charles (Yeshayahu) Liebman. (Hebrew)

“SHAS as a Struggle to Create a New Field: A Bourdieuan Perspective of an Israeli Phenomenon”. Sociology of Religion 64(2), pp. 223-246, 2003.

“Between ‘the Arab’ and ‘the Religious Rightist’: ‘Significant Others’ in the Construction of Jewish-Israeli National Identity”. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 9(1), pp. 52-74, 2003.

“Intellectuals and Tradition: The Case of Journalists and National Tradition in Israel, Kesher, pp. 27e-36e, 2002 [Bilingual edition of the Journal].

“From the Particularistic to the Universalistic: National Narratives in Israel’s Mainstream Press, 1967-1997”, Nations and Nationalism 8(1), pp. 55-72, 2002.

“The Rabin Myth: Zionist Nationalism in the 1990’s”. Democratic Culture (1), 1999, pp. 23-36. (Hebrew)


For a full list of publication (and links to full texts) go to:

View a list of publications (and links to full texts) on the Academia website 

View a list of publications (and links to full texts) on the ResearchGate website