The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Rothberg International School

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Spring Semester 2019



48203: Issues in Israeli Society


Dr. David Mendelsson and Dr. Jonathan Kaplan




Course Syllabus


Description:    This course examines historical, social and political aspects of contemporary Israeli society. After analyzing the ideologies and groups  that played a major role in the formation of Israeli society, class discussion will focus on social and political issues which are at the center of current debate in the country.


Times:             Sundays and Tuesdays       18:30-20:15


Office Hours:  By appointment- room 511.


Requirements: 1. Current preparation of bibliography and participation in class.

2. Term Paper (1/3 of final mark) to be submitted by April 7, 2019.

                          3. Final Exam (2/3 of final mark).


Books:            These books will be used extensively during the course:

Asher Arian, Politics in Israel: The Second Republic, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: 2005) Overseas Library E329 A696

Alan Dowty, ed., Critical Issues in Israeli Society (Westport, Connecticut: 2004) Overseas Library E320.9 D752;  EBOOK

Itamar Rabinovich and Jehuda Reinharz, eds., Israel in the Middle East: Documents and Readings on Society, Politics and Foreign Relations, Pre-1948 to the Present (Hanover and London: 2008) Overseas Library E990(029) R116

Reading List


Course Outline

Required readings are marked with an asterisk.


1.      The Origins of Israeli Society: Formative Ideologies

*Gideon Shimoni, “Ideological Perspectives” in Moshe Davis, ed. Zionism in Transition (New York: 1980): pp. 3-42. Overseas Library 933.632 D263;  ERESERVE


2.      The Origins of Israeli Society: Waves of Immigration

*Arian, “ People of Israel” in Politics in Israel, pp. 19-47. Overseas Library E329 A696; ERESERVE



3.-4.     The Origins of Israeli Society: The Creation of a Political Entity

*Peter Medding, “Founding an Independent State”, “Founding Democratic Political Structures” in The Founding of Israeli Democracy, 1948-1967 (New York: 1990): pp. 8-42. Overseas Library E320.9 M488; E-BOOK

*Rabinovich and Reinharz, “The Proclamation of the State of Israel” pp. 12-15. “First Knesset – The Law of Return” p.  40. “First Knesset - The Debate on a Constitution” pp. 41-47 in Israel in the Middle East.  Overseas Library E990(029) R116; ERESERVE


5. -6.    Ethnicity and the Socio-Economic Gap in Israel

*Sammy Smooha, “The Mass Immigrations to Israel: a Comparison of the Failure of the Mizrahi Immigrants of the 1950s with the Success of the Russian Immigrants of the 1990s,” Journal of Israeli History 27:1 (2008): pp.1-27. E-JOURNAL


7.-8.      Arab Citizens in a Jewish State

*Majid Al-Haj, “The Status of the Palestinians in Israel: A Double Periphery in an Ethno-National State,” in Alan Dowty, ed., Critical Issues in Israeli Society, pp. 109-126. Overseas Library E320.9 D752; E-BOOK                         


9. -10.  The Territories

*Don Peretz, The West Bank: History, Politics, Society and Economy (Boulder and London: 1986): pp. 45-108. Overseas Library E323.1(A) P438

*Don Peretz, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising (Boulder: 1990): pp. 119-162.

Overseas Library E322.42 P438; ERESERVE


11.              The Peace Process I

*Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities, 2nd ed., (Bloomington: 2010): pp. 36-162. Overseas Library E327.172 E36; E-BOOK

*UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) Free access via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

*Camp David Frameworks for Peace (1978) Free access via MFA

*Rabinovich and Reinharz, “Gush Emunim Opinion Paper” pp. 267-270, “Peace Now Platform” pp. 274-276 in Israe in the Middle East.  Overseas Library E990(029) R116; ERESERVE


12.        The Peace Process II

*Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities, 2nd ed., (Bloomington: 2010): pp. 165-252. Overseas Library E327.172 E36; E-BOOK

*Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles (1993) Free access via MFA

*Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1995) Free access via MFA  

*Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2003) ) Free access via MFA  


13.              Recent Immigration

*Zvi Gitelman, “The ‘Russian Revolution’ in Israel,” in Alan Dowty, ed., Critical Issues in Israeli Society, pp. 95-108. Overseas Library E320.9 D752; E-BOOK


14-15.      Religion and State: Politics and Legislation

*“The ‘Status Quo’ Letter by David Ben Gurion” in Daniel Shimshoni, Israeli Democracy: The Middle of the Journey (New York and London: 1982): p. 478. Overseas Library E321.8 S556; ERESERVE

*Asher Cohen, “Changes in the Orthodox Camp and Their Influence on the Deepening Religious-Secular Schism at the Outset of the Twenty-First Century,” in Alan Dowty, ed., Critical Issues in Israeli Society, pp. 71-94. Overseas Library E320.9 D752;               E-BOOK


16.              The Ultra-Orthodox in Israel

*Nurit Stadler, Edna Lomsky-Feder and Eyal Ben-Ari, “Fundamentalism’s Encounters with Citizenship: The Haredim in Israel,” Citizenship Studies 12:3 (2008): pp. 215-231.  E-JOURNAL

Students are to bring an ultra-orthodox newspaper.


17.-18.  Women in Israel

*Yael Azmon and Dafna Izraeli, “Women in Israel – A Sociological Overview,” in Yael Azmon and Dafna Izraeli, eds., Women in Israel (New Brunswick: 1993): pp. 1-21. Overseas Library E301.412 A995; ERESERVE

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Women in Israel: A State of their Own (Philadelphia: 2004): pp. 136-172. Overseas Library E301.412 H195; ERESERVE


19.              The Role of the Military in Israel

*Stuart Cohen, “Israel and her Army 1948 – 1998: From Convergence to Confusion,” in Stuart A. Cohen and Milton Shain, eds., Israel: Culture, Religion and Society (Capetown: 2000): pp. 75-87. Overseas Library E9 C678; ERESERVE

*Oren Barak and Gabriel Sheffer, “The Study of Civil-Military Relations in Israel: A New Perspective,” Israeli Studies 12:1 (2007): pp. 1-27. E-JOURNAL


20-21.  Political System

*Arian,Political parties”, “Party Organization”, “The Electoral System”, Electoral Behavior”, The Government, The Knesset, and The Judiciary” in Politics in Israel, pp. 117-312. Overseas Library E329 A696 (multiple copies in library); ERESERVE  (p. 263-312)


22.       Israel’s Search for Identity

*“A Symposium” in At the Crossroads: World Jewry Faces its Future (special English edition of Gesher: Journal of Jewish Affairs) (January 1996): Shlomo Aronson pp. 11-12.  Yigal Elam pp 17-18. Daniel J. Elazzar pp. 19-20. Ilan Pappe pp. 29-30. Uri Ram pp. 31-32.  ERESERVE

Laurence J. Silberstein, “Postzionism: The Academic Debated” in The Postzionism Debates: Knowledge and Power in Israeli Culture (New York and London: 1999): pp. 89-126. Overseas Library 933.601 S582; ERESERVE

Yoram Hazony, “The Culture Makers Renounce the Idea of the Jewish State” in The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul (New York: 2000): 3-38. Overseas Library E320.5 H431; ERESERVE




Term Paper

Students are required to write a ten page paper on one of the following themes or on a topic of their own choice provided it is approved by the lecturer in advance. Accepted forms of notation and bibliography are to be followed. Papers are to be to be printed on one side of the page using size 12 Times New Roman with 1.5 line spacing. The paper must be handed in by April 7, 2019 at the beginning of class.


1.      Asylum Seekers in Israel

2.      Election of the Prime Minister in Israel – direct vs. indirect systems

3.      The position of a particular political party on a specific issue

4.      Violence against women in Israeli society

5.      Social inequality in Israel

6.      Conversion to Judaism in Israel

7.      The rise of “The Islamic Movement” in Israel

8.      The integration of immigrants from the CIS

9.      The role of the Supreme Court in Israel

10.  The security fence, effectiveness and morality

11.  Start-up culture in Israel

12. Desalination in Israel