New Developments in the Accommodation of Religious Law in Modern States: Critical and Comparative Perspectives

23rd-24th August 2022



The international conference, entitled New Developments in the Accommodation of Religious Law in Modern States: Critical and Comparative Perspectives, will be held on the 23rd-24th of August 2022 at the University of Haifa in Israel.

This two-day international conference aims to bring together leading scholars studying the implications of religion on family law in various contexts and in various legal systems and to promote a comparative discourse about different institutional arrangements for the accommodation of religious family law in modern states.  By embracing a comprehensive and interdisciplinary comparative approach, the conference seeks to shed light on similarities and differences in the manner in which various legal systems respond to the challenge of accommodating human rights principles with religious normativities and to explore the forms, institutional dynamics, and normative outputs of the possible range of accommodationist models.

The first day of the conference is unique in its compound and complementary focus on a broad range of areas and subject matters: on East and West, on North and South, on religious and secular family law, on the Jewish, Islamic, Christian, and Druze legal traditions, and on global and local perspectives.

The second day of the conference is dedicated to a visit to the Rabbinical, Shariʿa, and Ecclesiastical Courts and to a special tour of some of Haifa and Acre’s historical religious sites. Located across from each other on Haifa Bay, the cities of Acre and Haifa are home to no fewer than 6 major religions including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bahai, Druze and Ahmadiyya. This cultural mosaic of ethnicities, religions, and traditions coexisting side by side is unique for Israel if not the entire Middle East. On this tour, we will visit Baha’i, Jewish and Muslim sites to explore the ways in which the Haifa Bay region became a hotbed of diversity and haven for coexistence.

Conference Plan

Plan in PDF Format

Program in PDF
Program in PDF

The Humanities and Social Sciences Fund Conference on New Developments in the Accommodation of Religious Law in Modern States:  Critical and Comparative Perspectives


Rabin Observatory, 8th floor of Rabin Building, University of Haifa

Organizers: Karin Carmit Yefet, Ido Shahar, and Muhammad Al-Atawneh

Day One

8:30-9:00 Reception  

9:00-9:15 Greetings

Professor Oren Gazal-Ayal, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Haifa

Dr. Uriel Simonsohn, Head of the Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies

Mr. Edgar Khayat, Member of the Public Committee of the Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies

9:15-9:30 Opening Remarks

Dr. Ido Shahar, University of Haifa

9:30-11:15 Panel 1: Religious Family Law and the State: An Israeli Perspective

Moderator and Respondent: Professor Moussa Abu-Ramadan, Université de Strasbourg

Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Bar Ilan University:

Non-State Marriages in Israel within the Context of the Global Marriage Debate

Dr. Ram Rivlin, Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

What Makes Religious Tribunals “Religious?” A Lesson from Israeli Rabbinical Courts

The Hon. Judge Wejdan Hleihel, Dr. Karin Carmit Yefet, and Dr. Ido Shahar, University of Haifa:

The Muslim Wife Between the Israeli Shari’a Court and the Civil Family Court: A Conservative Revolution in Liberal Clothing

Professor Pamela Laufer-Ukeles, The Academic College of Law and Science:

Looking Beyond Binary and Exclusive Parenthood: Multiple and Functional Parenthood in Jewish and Israeli Law

11:15-11:30: Coffee break

11:30-13:30 Panel 2: Religious Family Law and the State: Middle Eastern Perspectives

Moderator and Respondent:  Professor Ron Shaham, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Professor Baudouin Dupret, Directeur de recherche au CNRS

Establishing Filiation Relationships in Islamicate contexts: A Comparative Perspective on the Practice of Islamic Positive Law

Professor Jocelyne Cesari, University of Birmingham and Georgetown University: Shari’a was never God’s Law: A Genealogy of the Modern Understanding of Islamic Law in Syria and Turkey

Professor Irene Schneider, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Regulating Sharia in Palestine: Some Interesting Legal and Political Developments

Dr. Dörthe Engelcke, Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, Hamburg:

Inheritance Creates a Grudge:’ Towards a New Inheritance Law for Christian Communities in Middle Eastern Countries

13:30-15:00 Lunch Break

15:00-16:45 Panel 3: Religious Family Law and the State: Western Perspectives

Moderator and Respondent: Professor Noya Rimalt, University of Haifa

Professor Michael Broyde, Emory University:

Secular Regulation of Religious Marriage and Divorce in America

Professor Brian Bix, University of Minnesota:

Religious Family Agreements:  Recent U.S. Cases

Professor Radhika Rao, UC Hastings College of the Law: 

America’s Abortion Theocracy

Professor June Carbone, University of Minnesota, and Professor Naomi Cahn, University of Virginia:

Sex and Punishment in American Jurisprudence

16:45-17:00 Coffee Break

17:00-17:45 Closing Session: Concluding Remarks

Moderator: Professor Muhammad Al-Atawneh, Ben Gurion University

Professor Yüksel Sezgin, Syracuse University:

Global and Historical Trends in Muslim Family Law Reform: Muslim-Majority vs. Muslim-Minority States 

Professor Shahar Lifshitz, Bar Ilan University:

The Accommodation of Religious Marriage in Modern States: A Liberal Perspective  

18:45 Dinner for conference participants at the Kosher Druze restaurant Nora’s Kitchen accompanied by a lecture about the Druze religious tradition

Day two

9:00-12:00 Encounters with Judges in Religious courts:

The Appellate Melkite-Catholic Ecclesiastical Court, speaker: Chief Justice Dr. Elias Dao

The Haifa Shari’a Court, speaker: Dr. Iyad Zahalka, Director of Israeli Shari’a Courts and qadi in the Shari’a Court of Appeals

The Haifa Rabbinical Court, speakers:  

12:00-18:00 The Cultural Mosaic of Haifa Bay: A Guided Tour


Visit to the Baha’i World Center, the Shrine of the Báb, the Baha’i Gardens, and the Universal House of Justice. Specifically, we will discuss the origins of this faith in Persia and how it came to be established as a world religion, as well as the relationship between Haifa, the rise of modernity, and religious pluralism.

Acre (Akko):

Visit to the spectacular “Or Torah” or Tunisian Synagogue, which is covered from floor to ceiling in mosaic scenes from the Bible and Jewish history and also contains over 140 stained glass windows.

Visit to the Al Jazar Pasha Mosque, the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem. We will explore the history of the site, which was once a madrasah as well as a mosque, as well as Islam’s place in Israel’s cultural mosaic.