Media Events, Jewish Religious Holydays, and the Israeli Press

Media Events, Jewish Religious Holydays, and the Israeli Press

Yoel Cohen (Ariel University, Israel)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9967-0.ch009
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Abstract

Religious holydays are a key element in the Jewish religious experience. While the synagogue fulfils an important role for the Jewish religious communities the majority of the Israeli population comprise either traditional (35%) or secular (30%) Jews who draw their religious identity from the wider environment like media. The media fulfil a role in the contemporary world of generating religious identity when formal frameworks like synagogue attendance are declining. One under researched question of importance is the role of the media in religious holydays. It is argued that religious holyday editorial matter contributes to religious identity in the contemporary era. This chapter focuses upon editorial content and religious holydays. The research discovered differences in editorial patterns between the different religious holydays, and between the secular and religious media. There was no major difference in the share of religious holyday advertising between the religious press and the secular press. The wide gap between the Jewish festival annual lifecycle as reflected in editorial patterns contrasts with the traditional status which the respective holyday holds in Jewish religious culture.
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Media Ritual And Religious Holyday Ritual

Religious ritual is a fundamental feature of Jewish religious identity. Religious holydays fulfil an important place in contemporary Jewish identity in Israel as well as in the Jewish diaspora. Surveys of religious identity in Israel over the years, undertaken by bodies like the government's Central of Statistics (CBS) are divided between basic questions of belief, such as `Does God exist?' and religious observance such as `Do you fast on Yom Kippur', or `Do you participate in the Passover Seder?'. The surveys show that religious holydays are key facts in religious identity. For the religious these are seen as law abiding, for the traditional or non-strictly religious, identity still centres in part around the holydays.

Media coverage of religious holydays in the Israeli media give expression to Jewish culture, and generate Jewish religious identity particularly for the non-strictly orthodox population. The photo on Hanuka of the lit menora in the newspaper reminds the reader that Hanuka has come, picture of the Sukka that the festival of Sukkot has arrived, and pictures of children in fancy dress add to the enjoyable atmosphere of the Purim holyday, the blowing of the shophar reminds the reader and viewer of penitence, and a photo of Tisha B'Av at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the site of the ancient Jewish Temples.

True, religious people do not draw their fundamental religious identity from the mass media but from within such formal frameworks as religious schools, and higher academic religious education like the yeshiva for men or ulpana for women, as well as the synagogue itself. But the media serves as a secondary factor or religious experience even for these. To be true, in addition to being an agent of religious identity, media on religious shrines are also informative, providing information like new products for the Passover holyday or travel arrangements to religious sites a result not only in religious identity for those not doing the rituals but even contribute to the doing of the deed. According to Hoover (2006) the secular media is an important agent of religious identity, since non-strictly religious people draw more of their religious identity from the broader media environment than from formal frameworks like houses of worship.

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