Cohen, Yoel. God, Jews, and the Media: Religion and Israel's Media

Article excerpt

Cohen, Yoel. God, Jews, and the Media: Religion and Israel's Media. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. xiv, 258. ISBN 978-0-415-47503-7 (cloth) $140.00; 978-0-203-12334-8 (e-Book) $135.00.

Along with so many other reasons, Israel stands distinct among nations for its close association between government and religion, an association that overflows into the media. The role of religious parties in parliament accounts for some of this, but the general role of religion in society plays a role as well. The fact that religious Israelis fall into two main groups--the modern orthodox and the ultra-orthodox (and their subgroupings)--adds to the complexity. Not surprisingly, these divisions of society appear in the media practices of the people and the state. News, for example, comes from both a religious press and a less religious one; rabbinical authorities counsel or command people regarding their Internet use and, for the more conservative, offer binding opinions regarding how Sabbath observance affects their television use. Even advertising observes religious boundaries.

Yoel Cohen offers a carefully researched and well thought out guide to media in Israel. He combines treatments of the various media with descriptions of Israeli life and explanations of the continuum of religious practice. The situation can become complex indeed, as when the Haredim (the most conservative religious group), having achieved a victory in censoring bus advertising, sought to prevent a political party from promoting a female candidate by placing her picture on bus posters (p. 159), a move eventually blocked by the courts.

Cohen introduces the reader to the complexities of the situation with two chapters of overview: the first, "Media, Judaism, and Culture," places the study within general media and religion studies; the second, "The Jewish Theory of Communication," offers a religious background on the roles that language, speech, and communication play in Judaism and how these biblically-derived ideas have grown into a communication theory that governs everything from modesty to reputation to e-commerce. …