17.565 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Israel: History, Politics, Culture, Identity


Course Meeting Times 

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

The object of this course is to provide a basic understanding of modern Israeli politics, culture, and identity through lectures, discussions and projects. Among the topics to be explored are: Israel’s political system and society; Jewish-ethnic relations in Israel; the Arab minorities in the Jewish state; Israeli technology; Israeli occupation and settlement projects; the struggle for Israel’s identity. A broad array of genres and modes of expression—not only academic writings, but also literature, popular music, film, documentaries, and art—will be incorporated into our discussion.

Learning Goals

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Define and describe major events in the history of modern Israel
  • Define and describe Israel’s political regime (political parties, municipal and regional administration, etc.)
  • Define, describe, and appraise the major analytical terms used in our course
  • Integrate course data into a coherent narrative(s) of current Israeli identity(ies)

Grading and Assignments

Readings’ assignments (4) 40%
Class participation (including the staged Israeli-Arab-Palestinian peace conference) 15% 
Classroom presentation  15% (bonus)
Final paper 45% (or 30% if the presentation was good)

Attendance is mandatory. For more detail, see the Assignments section.


General background books

Shapira, Anita. Israel: A History. Brandeis University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781611686180. [Preview with Google Books]

Bunton, Martin. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780199603930. [Preview with Google Books]

Dowty, Alan. Israel / Palestine. 4th ed. Polity Press, 2017. ISBN: 9781509520787. [Preview with Google Books]

Kimmerling, Baruch, and Joel S. Migdal. The Palestinian People: A History. Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780674011298. [Preview with Google Books]

For additional readings, see the Readings section.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019