nl en

Introduction to Israel Studies: Politics, History and Society


Admission requirements

This class is intended (in order of preference) for

  • (1) students of the BA Middle Eastern Studies/Israelstudies who have successfully completed: Grammatica modern Hebreeuws 3, Conversatie modern Hebreeuws 1 and Teksten modern Hebreeuws 1.

  • (2) premaster students for the MA Middle Eastern Studies;

  • (3) students from other relevant bachelors programmes (e.g. Religiewetenschappen, International Studies, Political Science, History). Please contact the coordinator of studies, Eli van Duijnen, to find out whether you can be admitted to this class.


This course will introduce students to the history, politics, and society of Israel through different perspectives and periods. By examining key historiographical debates, the course will explore a number of important milestones in Israel's history, politics, and society from 1948 to the present. The course is structured into two parts. The first part examines Israel's central schisms: Israeli Jews vs. Israeli Palestinians, religious vs. secular, Ashkenazim vs. Mizrahim, military vs. civil society and Doves v.s the Hawks. In the second part, we will use the knowledge of Israel's central schisms to assess select case studies: the two narratives of the 1948 War, the 1967 War, the question of the occupied territories, the dynamics in Israeli society and politics surrounding the memory and commemoration of the Holocaust as 'unique', and the 1993 Oslo accord.

Course objectives

  • To familiarize students with Israel's central schisms.

  • The students will explore key historiographical debates and develop understanding of basic trends in these debates.

  • The students will be introduced to the complex Israeli politics of identity and culture.

  • The students will gain understanding of Israel’s role in the Middle East and its cooperation and conflicts with its neighbours.

  • In addition, students of the Israel studies track will apply their knowledge of Modern Hebrew and learn how to analyse academic publications on selected topics in this course. Elective (non-Israel studies) students will be able to actively participate in a professional discussion at the end of the course and will have acquired basic research skills: the collection, analysis and quality evaluation of scientific literature and the clear presentation of research results.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hrs
Participating in seminars (2 hrs/week x 12 weeks) 26
Preparing for seminars (4 hrs/week x 12 weeks) 48
Preparing and writing the Mid-term assignment (Book review 800 words including notes and appendixes, excluding bibliography) 21
Writing Final Paper assignment (2,000 -word paper, including notes and appendixes, excluding bibliography) 45

Assessment method

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance and active participation in seminar discussions 25%
Mid-term assignment: Book review (800 words including notes and appendixes, excluding bibliography) 25%
Final assignment (2,000-word Final Paper, including notes and appendixes, excluding bibliography) 50%
  • The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their final Paper assignment. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

  • The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

  • Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the written assignment as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the written assignment.


Rewrites of the paper are to be submitted within 2 weeks after receiving a failing grade. A resit for the written examination is possible.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Anita Shapira, Israel: A History (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2012).

  • Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Julius H. Schoeps, Yitzhak Sternberg and Olaf Glöckner eds,. Handbook of Israel: Major Debates (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016).

  • Other selected readings will be made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website


E. Ben Aharon


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the above-mentioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic intregity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).

It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for, on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimize overlap between prior and new work.