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Semester 1


​Seminar 1


1 – Setting the scene – the "Fertile Crescent" – land scape & key players. Canaan in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the lives of the Patriarchs and their interaction with the locals. The social structure, the clan, shepherding and their "religious" life.

2 – Canaan during the Israelite bondage in Egypt – the land that Jacob & his clan departed from was very different than the land Joshua will conquer. What were the events in Canaan during the years of the bondage in Egypt? A new world order - the collapse of the Egyptian and the Hittite empires. The rise of the "Sea people".

3 – From nomads to conquerors – the days of Joshua – the conquest of Canaan. Fighting the nations of the land. The partial success in the days of Joshua. The land that was left for later conquest. The division of parts of Canaan to the tribes. The local political system and the preparations made by the Canaanite city states to confront the tribes of Israel.

4 – First years in the land – the challenges of the nomads to be accustomed to a rural way of life. What was the interaction between the locals and how they have influenced the Israelites? What was the form of worship in Israel? The centrality of Shiloh – the place for religious gathering. The tabernacle and its wonderings around the land.

5 – The days of the judges – politics and religion among the Israelites. Who were the Judges and what was their role in society? What was the interaction between the judges and priesthood (the high priest)? Samson and his unique story. The departure of the Danites to a new location.

6 – The transition from tribes under Judges to a monarchy. What were the reasons to form a monarchy? How was the monarchy in Israel modeled? What will be the nature of the king of Israel? Unique aspects in Israel's monarchy comparing other kingdoms in the region.

​Seminar 2

1. The Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. The 19th century was the turning point of the region's history. The intensified European involvement in the Ottoman Empire led to big change in every aspect of life. From Napoleon's invasion to the Crimean war and the opening of the Suez Canal, the Ottoman Empire demonstrated great weakness and dependence in the European powers.

2. The Zionist movement and its integration in local events. First years of pioneering in Palestine. Jewish emigrants land on the shores of Palestine and settle on property that was purchased by Jewish money. The first intermingling in the land. Christian groups from around the world that also show interest in Palestine found colonies in the country. WWI and collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

3. The aftermath of WWI. The implementation of the British policy in Palestine. The birth of the "Supreme Muslim Council". The overall organization that was founded by the British to represent the Arabs in the land. The formation of a local identity for the local Arabs that saw themselves as part of "Greater Syria". First conflicts in the land between Jewish pioneers and the locals.

4. The British mandate over Palestine. The British role in increasing the tension in Palestine. Changes in British policy and the several solutions proposed by Britain. The Jewish population and its division to political parties. Efforts to buy more land and bring over more Jews from Europe. Riots in Palestine when an instigated Arab mob attacks Jewish community in Hebron, Jerusalem etc.

5. The eve of WWII. The "White Paper"- a British statement of policy. The British refusal to carry out the letter of the mandate. A new policy, overwhelmingly proArab is adopted by the British. The Jewish "Yishuv" is recruited to assist the British war against Nazi Germany. The Arabs in Palestine support the Germans.

6. Moving toward statehood. The aftermath of the WWII. The British decision to withdraw from Palestine. The U.N. effort to find a peaceful solution between the Jews and the Arabs after the termination of the mandate. Preparing for war – the Jewish side. Preparing for war – the Arab side. The proclamation of the state of Israel.

​Seminar 3

1. Alexander the "Great" – expanding the Greek culture around the Greek conquered territories. The challenge of the Jews. The aftermath of Alexander's death and the wars of his successors. Israel, the main battle field between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. The eve of the Hasmonean revolt.

2. The Hasmonean kingdom. The uprising lasted about 25 years until the kingdom was standing on its feet. The religious crisis around the Temple. The conquests and the defeats of the Hasmonaean kings. The Roman legions approach Judaea. The demise of the Hasmonean kingdom.

3. Years of strife and resistance. The Hasmonean's supporters rise up against Rome. Herod is made king by the Roman Empire over Judaea. The reign of "Herod the Great".

4. Herod & his Jewish subjects. A love – hate story. The Temple and its centrality to the Jewish world. Detailed description of the Temple and Temple practices.

5. The Jewish society – main groups in society and their philosophies – Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, the Sicarii's, Dead Sea sects, Samaritans, Greeks. The main institutions in the Jewish world – Synagogue, rabbi, Sanhedrin, etc.

6. The aftermath of Herod's reign. The partition of the kingdom. Judaea proclaimed a province. The governors of Judaea. The reign of Agrippa I. The mounting tension in Judaea. The Jewish revolt, first steps. Josephus Flavius. Zoom broadcast – October 30th – 6 pm pacific time. 9 pm standard eastern time. Sessions 5 – 6 focus on the region in the days of Jesus. These chapters will go in details to explain the society that Jesus was part of. Understanding the Jewish society will illuminate daily life, mind sets and religious sentiments among the masses that Jesus was ministering to.

​Seminar 4

1. The geography of the Bible - Geography and history are tightly connected. This lecture focuses on the water sources, trade routes and other geographical features in the region. Zooming in to the Bible land topography, will demonstrate how closely Biblical history is linked to the country's geography. Through knowing the land, we can also know the people and their daily struggles and challenges.

2. The sources of knowledge – How do we know about our past? The Bible is of course a main source but not the only one. The lecture covers our main sources of information. Ancient writings, inscriptions on temples walls and monuments from Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia etc. The lecture focuses on archeological excavations and covers the most important sources we have today to come as close as we can to our routes and our history.

3. Israel in the days of Jesus – Soon after the Roman occupation of Judea, five major revolts broke up led by the remnants of the Hasmonean family. All five were crushed by Rome causing severe damage to the Jewish society, especially the upper classes. There was an anticipation for a super-natural divine intervention to end Rome's dominion over Judaea. The lecture focuses on the Jewish society, its main institutions and the way the locals interacted with the Roman authorities (Governors) and the local Greeks. Judaea, under king Herod was able to establish itself as a close ally of the Roman empire. The lecture paints a picture of the land and the people during the days of Jesus.

4. Herod's Temple – The Temple was the focal point of the entire Jewish experience. It was a religious but also a national center. Herod's Temple stood on the largest man-made platform that was ever built and exists until this very day. The lecture describes the construction of the Temple mount and the Temple building and the methods used by the engineers that carried out the project. Also, we touch on the controversy around the Temple and its status in light of the corruption of the High Priesthood.

5. Judaism – the Jewish world & the Jewish people – The Jewish story is a unique one. The lecture is not focusing on theology as this is not the objective of "Israel seminars". The focus is on the history of the Jewish faith – when was it founded? What were the changes and adjustments that took place after the disasters of losing the Temple? We touch on Biblical Judaism verses rabbinical Judaism. Also, the main crises in the Jewish world are examined – the Hasidic crisis, the Zionist movement etc. The lecture gives basically an overview of Judaism in a changing world from its birth to the modern era.

6. Jerusalem, "The city of the great king" – There is no other city in the world that attracts as much attention as Jerusalem. In the lecture we can only touch on a selection of key events that had shaped and formed the history of the city. The Jewish story is interwoven with the Christian & Muslim narratives about the centrality of Jerusalem in their faiths. The city was conquered more than twenty-five times in battle. Many civilizations had left their mark behind and that amazing mix tells the story of the city. The city is above all, the capital of the state of Israel. More than 4.5 billion people in the world consider Jerusalem a holy city and that adds to the tension and controversy around it.

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