Within the space of less than a century, the Zionist enterprise achieved its ultimate goal of an independent Jewish country, the modern State of Israel. This class examines the important developments of this process, from the initial seeds of Zionism in Nineteenth-Century Europe to the painful birth pangs of the Jewish state amidst the challenges and dangers of the 1948 War, known to Israelis as the ‘War of Independence’. As this course focuses on the rebirth of Israel as a modern reincarnation of an ancient Jewish polity, we will avoid placing excessive attention on the Arab-Israeli conflict, although we will examine the Palestinian-Arab dimension as it relates to the emergence of the Israeli polity. Instead, we will study more carefully historical, political, economic, and social trends within the Zionist community both in the geographic land of Palestine and abroad. We will also touch upon the roots of several contemporary tensions, as well as the creation of the diverse and complex mosaïc of Israel society. By avoiding the ‘conflict prism’, we hope to arrive at a clearer perspective on the origins of the State of Israel, a better appreciation of the events and movements leading up to its establishment, and some ideas regarding Israel, its citizens, and its neighbours today.
This course represents a combination of a lecture and seminar approaches and individual participation in class dialogues is critical. Most classes include a discussion period for conversation about required reading. Each student will have the opportunity to present a brief review of a text, after which he/she will lead a discussion. At the end of this course, it is hoped that students will have not only a better understanding of the development of Zionism and the genesis of the Israeli polity, but have developed better research skills, practiced critical thinking and reading, and gained experience collecting and presenting information clearly.
Course grades will be assigned on the basis of several elements:
Extra credit films will be screened periodically throughout the semester. Students are not obligated to attend the five film showings, but if you attend and write a 1-page reaction paper (‘what you thought about the film’), you will earn extra credit that will be applied to your grade for the course. The following films will be shown:
Sachar, Howard Morley. A History of Israel: From the rise of Zionism to our time. 3rd revised and updated ed. New York City: Alfred A Knopf, 2007.
Troen, S Ilan. Imagining Zion: Dreams, designs, and realities in a century of Jewish settlement. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2011.
Rabinovich, Itamar and Jehuda Reinharz, eds. Israel in the Middle East: Documents and readings on society, politics, and foreign relations, pre-1948 to the present. 2nd ed. Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2007.
Readings from required and recommended books appear in small caps. All other readings include full bibliographical citations and are available electronically on the class website. It is highly recommended that you prepare your readings in advance by downloading and/or printing all of them at the beginning of the course, so that you can concentrate your efforts on reading them during the remainder of the semester. Recall that ‘recommended readings’ are not obligatory, but may be useful when preparing research papers. (Recommended readings with an asterisk (*) are highly encouraged.)