By: Sruli Friedman  | 

Bar Ilan University Professor Jonathan Rynhold Presents Lecture on Israeli Government

The Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies and the Center for Israel Studies hosted a lecture by Professor Jonathan Rynhold, head of Bar Ilan University’s Department of Political Studies, on Jan. 3.

The lecture, entitled “More Talmud, Less Democracy? What to Expect from Israel’s New Government,” was sparsely attended in person by students due to ongoing final examinations, but drew nearly 50 attendees over Zoom.

In his lecture, Rynhold discussed the many challenges he sees facing Israel under the new coalition, ranging from Jewish-Arab relations and religious tensions to Haredi education and shifting attitudes towards Israel in the United States among both Jews and non-Jews.

Rynhold also expressed concern about ongoing efforts to reform the Israeli Supreme Court and told The Commentator after the lecture that he is “deeply concerned” about proposed changes. 

“I am deeply concerned about [Israel’s] political direction, particularly the attempts to institutionalize measures that would undermine the independence of our judiciary, and therefore make much easier both political and financial corruption,” Rynhold told The Commentator. 

Israel’s new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn in for the sixth time on Dec. 29, has pledged to pass reforms to restrict the powers of the nation’s Supreme Court. The proposed changes would include changing the method by which justices are appointed and allowing the Knesset to override any decision of the court by a majority vote. The proposals have led to significant debate in Israel and sparked large protests against them in the past weeks.

However, despite all of the dangers that he sees in Israel’s political situation, Rynhold still remained hopeful about the future of Israel’s character and culture.

“I am very optimistic about Israel’s creativity, its dynamism as a society, as an economy [and] as a place for creative Jewish culture,” he told The Commentator.

Rynhold received his PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 1998 and began teaching at Bar Ilan University in 1999 as a lecturer. He has directed the Tel Aviv-based Department of Political Studies since 2021 and has written numerous publications relating to Israeli, American and Middle Eastern politics.

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Photo Caption: Supreme Court of Israel

Photo Credit: Chris Hoare / Wikimedia Commons