Israel is experiencing a new phase in the development of the field of Israel Studies.

It is a democratic nation-state whose society is characterized by an increasingly wide range of cultures. Israel often confuses its new observers, as it seems to embody an unusual blend of contradictions: it is an ancient country, and yet a very young state and society; it is modern and progressive, a leader in technology and entrepreneurship, while at the same time traditional, conservative and protective of customs and rituals. In Israel, western and eastern cultures intertwine and merge to the point where it is difficult to make a distinction between local mores and state policy. In Israel’s political arena, social relations and the cultural scene are constantly in an almost frantic state of change. Moreover, any current affair is almost immediately referred to as a past experience and historical events construct the center stage of public discourse.

Why Study Israel Studies at Ben-Gurion University?

  • As the home of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel – which includes the archives of David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel – BGU is uniquely suited to the study of Israel in all its complexities. Students enjoy the advanced research infrastructure offered by the Institute and receive the opportunity to be engaged in research and internship programs in a world-renowned archive combined with participation in present day field research.
  • Our Israel Studies courses are aimed to go beyond disciplinary contours and delve into the themes it examines: a state, a society, its cultures, beliefs, political structures and critical historical events though a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Through its location in the peripheral Negev region, Ben-Gurion University represents and expresses this combination of the history, culture, and traditions of different groups in Israeli society thereby perfect representation of Israeli pluralism and therefore the ideal location for the study of Israel.


  • To familiarize students with a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of Israel
  • To equip students with the analytical tools to comprehend the social forces that shape Israeli society
  • To allow students the chance to work in world-renowned archives while also participating in present day field research
  • To acquaint students with people and places that convey the actual story of Israeli society

Examples of Previous Courses:

  • The Israeli Mosaic: An Introduction to Israeli History, Politics, Society and Culture:  [individual research project – optional]
    The aim of this course is to provide basic knowledge about Israel’s history, politics, society and culture, utilizing correspondence, memoranda, and other archives. This methodology doesn’t simply provide a narrative but rather offers a joint reconstruction of historical narratives. Please note that this course is taught at BGU’s Sde Boker campus, approximately 30 minutes from Beer-Sheva.
  • Sites and Rites of Memory in Israel: Holocaust, Independence, Heritage
    The course will explore the dynamic relations between space and memory in commemorative sites and rituals in Israel. We will investigate how memorial practices reflect various historical narratives and social identities, and how commemorative praxis endows sites monuments and ceremonies, archaeological and heritage sites, military cemeteries and monuments, knowledge of the land hikes, roots tours and more.
  • The Cultural Survival of Indigenous Peoples: The Case of the Negev Bedouin Arabs in Israel
    The course will focus on the history and experience of the Bedouin Arab community in southern Israel. Under Israeli rule, their traditional lifestyle of land-based semi-nomadic pastoralism is being replaced by landless, labor-force government-planned urbanization. Issues of key importance in that process will be explored, including the historical political context, cultural survival, educational and social transformations, and the settler-colonial vision inherent in the conceptualization and implementation of the urban models.
  • Dilemmas and Critical Decisions of the State of Israel
    During a critical debate a member of Knesset told Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that his “conscience was clean” which Ben-Gurion retorted, “Yes; your conscience is clean because you have never had to use it!” This foundation course is a most helpful introduction a broad perspective to students who will be presented with dilemmas, critical decisions and complex issues that Israel has confronted during its nascent and ensuing years and at present.
  • Left, Right and the End of Ideology in Israel: Understanding Israeli Politics, 1960s – 1980s
    This course will explain the development of Israeli politics in this context, through the decades of the 1960s and ‘70s, up to the First Lebanon War in 1982. The aim is to provide basic – yet encompassing – knowledge on Israel’s political history and an understanding of its political and government structures. The participants will be exposed to a broad range of primary sources: documents, posters and music, as well as to scholarly work.
  • Politics, Ideology and the Shaping of a Jewish National Identity
    The Zionist movement, as a Jewish national movement, based itself from its onset on the written word. Although it espoused action, ideological and cultural texts served as the solid foundation for the creation of the Zionist movement and paved its methods of operation. Some of those main texts and ideas, as well as the people and politics behind them, will be taught in this course while contextualizing them locally and universally.

Click here to view current course offerings and their syllabi. Note that the course selection may change in future terms.