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en Arab Nationalism and Zionism: The Jews of Arab Lands


Admission requirements

Previous knowledge about Jewish history, the Middle East, or Islam is helpful, but not required. Sufficient background will be given on the first week, and throughout the course, in the weekly readings and during lectures.


Aiming to survey the history of Middle Eastern Jews in the modern period, this course will begin with a brief discussion of the formative Middle Ages, which in many ways defined and shaped Jewish practices and customs for centuries to come. We will move on to the Ottoman period and the transformation of the eastern Mediterranean Jewish world into a Sephardi dominated one, in language and practices. Then we will discuss the changes Jewish communities in Arab countries experienced with colonialism, the rise of Arab Nationalism, the emergence of Zionism and the immigration to the State of Israel. We will devote the last sessions of the course to the experiences of Mizrahi Jews (those from Arab lands) in Israel. Topics covered will include the absorption of Middle Eastern Jews in Israel; the socioeconomic status of Jews from Arab lands in Israel and how it changed over the years; their involvement in Israeli politics and how it affected the immigrants as well as the Israeli political game; and the culture Jews from Arab lands brought with them, such as music and popular customs, and how the impact these have had upon Israeli society.

Reading assignments will combine academic work and translations of primary source material

Course objectives

Students should have a general understanding of the modern history of Jews from Arab Lands and in particular understanding of Zionist and Arab Nationalist ideologies from the perspectives of Arab from Arab Lands. By working with primary source material students will gain a better understanding of how to use and interpret historic documents and integrate them into their written assignments.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load

  • Lectures: 13 x 2 = 26 hours

  • Practical work (Oral presentation): 15

  • Study of compulsory literature: 13 X 3 = 39

  • Assignment (Book review ): 26

  • Preparation for final exam: 28

  • Exam(s): 6

Assessment method

  • Attendance and class participation 10%

  • Oral presentation 15%

  • Book review 25%

  • Final take home examination (essay questions) 50%

(The exam will be administered in a take home essay format. Five essays questions will be given. You must answer three questions. The exam will be sent to you via Blackboard and you will resubmit the exam via blackboard. Your will have 48 hours to complete the assignment. You may use any materials you would like to help answer the essay questions, although the course readings will be more than sufficient. All material used must be appropriately cited.)

Attendance is mandatory to pass this course. Should you miss a class for any reason you must notify the instructor via email in advance. A make-up assignment, usually consisting of summarizing the assigned reading, will be required for all missed classes.


If either the book review or take home exam is insufficient, students students are allowed to submit one revised version. In the case of the book review student will have two weeks to resubmit their revised version after having received their grade. In the case of the take home exam a mutually acceptable date for the resit will be found. The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission is 6.0.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • To communicate course information.

  • To submit written assignments

Reading list

The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times by Norman Stillman, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1991).

You must purchase a copy of The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times for tis course. Other readings will be assigned throught out the course. These readings will either be distributed in class or accessible in digital form.

Below is a list of suggested books for the book review. They are all available for a reasonable price on websites such as and, some of these books are available in the University Library. You are welcome to choose an alternative but please confirm your choice with me in advance. Should you wish to read a book in another language besides English that is fine as well, I can provide suggestions in French, Arabic and Hebrew.

Baghdad, Yesterday: The Making of an Arab Jew by Sasson Somekh

The Last Jews in Baghdad: Remembering a Lost Homeland by Nissim Rejwan

Last Days in Babylon: The History of a Family, the Story of a Nation by Marina Benjamin

Farewell, Babylon by Naïm Kattan

Iraq: My Testimony by Esther Mercado

Memories of Eden: A Journey through Jewish Baghdad by Violette Shamash

My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Family’s Past by Ariel Sabar

Out of Egypt: A Memoir by André Aciman

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch


Mw S.R. Goldstein