Holy Rebellion

Religious Feminism and the Transformation of Judaism and Women's Rights in Israel

Ronit Irshai and Tanya Zion-Waldoks

In Holy Rebellion, Ronit Irshai and Tanya Zion-Waldoks examine social change in Israel through a rigorous analysis of the shifting entanglements of religion, gender, and law in times of cultural transformation. They explore theological, halakhic, political, and sociological processes and show how they interact with one another in ways that advance women’s rights, as well as how they are met with a conservative backlash in the discourses and actions of the rabbinic establishment. Irshai and Zion-Waldoks build on legal philosopher Robert Cover’s 1982 paper “Nomos and Narrative,” which explained how cultural narratives and legal norms are reciprocally enforced or transformed. Expanding on this notion, Irshai and Zion-Waldoks propose a “narrative ripeness test,” an analytic tool that evaluates the relationship between culture and law to assess how and when change within a minority cultural community may be accelerated or hindered by state intervention.

Religious feminisms are emerging around the world, not solely in Israel, and this book helps elucidate how they create enduring and radical change. Many liberal states are also confronting an illiberal backlash and question the multicultural framework’s ability to serve the needs of minorities within minorities. Therefore, the theoretical framework offered by Irshai and Zion-Waldoks is applicable beyond the Israeli case, even as it offers deeper insights into an Israeli society in turmoil.

Cover Image of Holy Rebellion: Religious Feminism and the Transformation of Judaism and Women's Rights in Israel
Paper: $40 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $39.95
ISBN-13: 9781684582099
Date Published: June 5, 2024


  • Holy Rebellion is a must-read for anyone seeking the most comprehensive account of the development of religious feminism in Israel to date. The unique combination of theoretical and sociological analysis employed by the authors leads them to incisive analysis of some of the broader cultural, legal, social, and political implications of this phenomenon, thereby rendering their account an invaluable case study of possible modes of interaction between conservativism and radical change at large.

    Tamar Ross
    Author of Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism
  • "Holy Rebellion" combines a compelling narrative with methodological rigor in this fascinating account of the impact of feminism on Israeli Orthodoxy.

    Rabbi Rachel Adler
    Professor Emerita of Modern Jewish Thought, Hebrew Union College-JIR
  • "Holy Rebellion" will become a classic in the field of religious feminist literature. This highly readable volume is the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis imaginable, from private observance of niddah to public rabbinic ordination of women, to the implications the backlash holds for the very future of religion in Israel.

    Blu Greenberg
    Author of "On Women and Judaism: A View From Tradition"

About the Author

Ronit Irshai is an associate professor and the head of the Gender Studies Program at Bar Ilan University, and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

Tanya Zion-Waldoks is an assistant professor in the Seymour Fox School of Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Table Of Contents