324881 – Topics in the History of the Jewish People

Topics in the History of the Jewish People


Instructor – Yisrael Ne’eman


This course is a survey of the history of the Jewish People with an emphasis on the modern period and the development of the State of Israel.  There are 11 classes, one field study to Israel’s northern border (Lebanon and the Golan) and a final exam with multiple choice questions.


  1. Introduction to the National Memory – The Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures or “Old Testament”) – A discussion of the Israelite Covenant with God, Exodus from Egypt and development of the tribal federation under Kings David and Solomon. Construction of the First Temple.


Biblical Texts:


Exodus, Chapters 19 and 20




Deuteronomy, Chapters 28 – 30





  1. First Temple Period – Judea and Israel split, the Assyrian invasion and the Ten Lost Tribes.  Babylonian Exile and Return.  The establishment of the Diaspora and ramifications for Jewish existence.


Jewish Virtual Library – History of Kingdoms http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Kingdoms1.html


Wikipedia – History of Ancient Israel and Judah



  1. Second Temple Period – The challenge of the Greco-Roman World and the rise of militant Judean nationalism. The “Jewish War”, the destruction of Jerusalem and the loss of the physical centrality of the Land of Israel.  The later Bar Kokhva Rebellion also fails.  The development of the Talmud ensures Jewish continuity in the Diaspora through legal statutes and custom.  Return to the homeland is delayed but the hope is never diminished.  The Messianic idea is contained in Diaspora beliefs.


Wikipedia – The First Jewish – Roman War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_War


Jewish Virtual Library – The Great Revolt http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/revolt.html


My Jewish Learning – Jewish Messianism http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Theology/Afterlife_and_Messiah/Messianism.shtml


  1. Jewish Existence in the Byzantine and Islamic Worlds – Judaism survives the challenge of survival under that Christian Byzantines and then once again under Islam. The rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula can be attributed to Jewish influences yet the two religions find themselves in an adversarial relationship.  Similar to the Byzantines, Jewish life is permitted, yet restricted under the Charter of Omar statutes.   Jews (like Christians) under Sharia Law are considered “dhimmis” or a protected second class community over the ages.


Jewish Virtual Library – Byzantine Empire



Jewish Virtual Library – The Treatment of Jews in Arab/Islamic Countries http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Jews_in_Arab_lands_(gen).html


Wikipedia – History of the Jews Under Muslim Rule http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_under_Muslim_rule


  1. The European Middle Ages – The Crusades (1096) brought catastrophe to the Jews of central Europe while Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages and early Modern Period both flourished and was repressed during the great clashes between Islam and Christendom.  The Inquisition (1391) and Expulsion (1492) put an end to centuries of Jewish existence.

With the rise of Emancipation – The “Age of Reason” (anthropocentrism) challenges the world of religion (diocentrism).  A brief review of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) thinkers Spinoza and Mendelsohn.  The socio-political ramifications of Napoleon’s “12 Questions” and offers of full equality to the French Jewish community.


Wikipedia – History of the Jews in Spain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Spain


Jewish Encyclopedia – The Crusades



Jewish Virtual Library – The Haskalah



Johnson, Paul, A History of the Jews, Part 5, “Emancipation.” (On Moodle)


The Assembly of Jewish Notables:  Answers to Napoleon



  1. Russian Jewry – A review of the Jewish predicament under the Czars. Antisemitism, persecution and the eventual revolt against the Rabbis lead the Jewish community towards messianism, emigration, revolution and Zionism by the late nineteenth century.

The Marxist revolution appears as the answer and Trotsky as an example to be followed.  A look at the Jewish condition in the Soviet Union and the failure of the “promise” to end antisemitism and guarantee equality.

Wikipedia – History of the Jews in Russia



Biography.com – Leon Trotsky Biography



Sachar, Howard, Diaspora, Chapters 14 and 15 “Frankenstein Utopia: The Soviet Union” and “The Jews of Protest.” (On Moodle)


  1. The American Experience – The New World offers an open, liberal and democratic society for Diaspora Jewry to flourish anew. Antisemitism is not truly an issue and the socio-economic battles may be won, but what of assimilation and the American Jewish or Jewish American identity?

Religious and Zionist solutions are offered in the great American compromise to ensure a Jewish identity alongside one’s Jewish being.  Are Jews just a “religious community” or are they a people outside their homeland?  What is American Zionism?


Wikipedia – American Jews



Wikipedia – History of the Jews in the United States



  1. Antisemitism Culmination in the Holocaust – A survey of the never ending bane of Jewish existence. Why are the Jews so often seen as an “out group”?  An examination of anti-Jewish stereotypes and prejudice from Pharoah, through Greece/Rome and the Middle Ages until the racial theories of the 19th-20th centuries Enlightenment Age.  Does antisemitism still exist today?


Encyclopedia Britannica – Anti-Semitism



  1. Herzl and Zionism (Jewish National Liberation) – Political Diplomatic Zionism makes the Jewish People a player on the world scene, not just scattered communities. Is this the answer to the “Jewish Question”?  A review of Labor, Revisionist (Likud) and National Religious ideologies.


Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Herzl and Zionism



  1. From WWII and Independence (1948) to Peace with Egypt (1979) –Israel overcomes its opponents in three major wars and begins a process of reconciliation with secular Arab nationalism. On the other hand the Palestine national movement poses the greatest challenge to Jewish national acceptance in the Middle East.  Domestically, Labor leads and over a million immigrants are absorbed.


Israel in Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel

Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel



  1. Field Study Friday January 12 – This is a mandatory trip to Israel’s north including the Galilee and Golan. Weather permitting we will travel to Israel’s borders. This is a “hands on” study of development and security.

***We will be departing the Technion at 7AM. Exact itinerary will be decided in conjunction with the expected weather.


  1. From the 1980s to the Present – Labor is replaced by the Likud and national religious ideology catalyzes the settler movement. The Oslo Process begins but is never completed.  Domestically the class gap widens with Israel’s capital incentive society.  The Middle East is disintegrating with the Khomeinists Hezbollah and Islamic State types on Israel’s northern border and Hamas in Gaza. Where to Israel?


  1. Choice Final Exam: 50 – 60 Names and terms will be given out earlier in the semester.  25 will be chosen for the final.

Date TBA – Most likely during the second half of January or first week of February.