Fighting from the Pulpit: Religious Leaders and Violent Conflict in Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Religious leaders greatly influence their constituents’ political behavior. Yet, it is unclear what events trigger nationalist attitudes among religious leaders and why this effect occurs more among some religious leaders rather than others. In this article, I examine the content of Israeli Rabbinic rhetoric during different military and political conflicts. Drawing on an original collection of Sabbath pamphlets distributed to Synagogues, I demonstrate that religious rhetoric is highly responsive to levels of violence for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I find that religious rhetoric and tone are more nationalist during conflict with the Palestinians and that this effect is mediated by religious ideologies toward the state. In contrast, religious rhetoric does not respond to military conflict in Lebanon or other internal Israeli political conflicts. These findings highlight under what conditions religious leaders infuse conflict with a religious tone, arguably making it harder to gain support for political compromise among the religious public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2262-2288
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Fotini Christia, Rich Nielsen, and Guy Grossman for their valuable guidance and comments on this article. I also received valuable comments from Nadav Shelef, David Singer, In Song Kim, Elizabeth Dekeyser, Reid Pauly, Weihuang Wong, and Yair Fogel-Dror. I also benefited from feedback received during the 2015 Ronald Coase Workshop and the MPSA 2016 conference. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded by the Israel Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Israeli–Palestinian conflict
  • conflict
  • domestic politics
  • legitimacy
  • religious leaders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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