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Elective: Modernity, Zionism, and Jewish Radicalism


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


This course will focus religious and secular movements in Judaism and their relationship to the State of Israel. We will study the justifications - including those based on traditional texts - for pro- or anti-Zionist positions, the relationship between Messianism and pro-activeness or even violence including West Bank settlement policy. We will also consider historic and contemporary divides between secular and religious Jewish groups.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

  • The student will understand the origins of modern Zionism.

  • The student will become familiar with various branches of Orthodox Judaism.

  • The student will understand how traditional texts may be used to defend wholly opposite positions.

  • The student will learn why the various factions are important for the forming of government coalitions in Israel.

  • The student will learn how the various factions influence the Israeli government’s position on the settlements and their return.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience;
  3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:

  1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
  2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
  3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

  1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
  2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
  3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
  4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
  5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. This course includes supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), this equals 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours

  • Studying the compulsory literature: 96 hours

  • Completing other (short) assignments: 26 hours

  • Researching and writing the final research essay: 134 hours

Assessment method

Assessment & Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
In-class participation 10%
In-class presentation 10%
Bi-weekly assignments (x5) 25%
Research proposal & outline 5%
Final Research Essay (5,000 words, excluding tables and bibliography) 50%

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted the final paper on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the final paper.
In case of resubmission of the final essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the final essay.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2017 – 2018.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard for this course, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

  • Aviezer Ravitzky, Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism (University of Chicago Press 1996)

  • S.N. Eisenstadt, ‘Multiple Modernities’ in Daedalus vol. 129 No. (Winter 2000) 1-29

  • Shlomo Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism (Basic Books 1981)

  • Assaf Gavron, The Hilltop. A Novel, trans. S. Cohen (Scribner 2014)

  • Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman, Rebbe. The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schnerson (Princeton University Press 2010)

  • Samuel Heilman, Defenders of the Faith. Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry (University of California Press 1992)

  • Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (Pluto Press 2004)

  • Ian Lustik, For the Land and for the Lord. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (The Council on Foreign Relations 1988, available online at

  • Ehud Sprinzak, The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right (Oxford University Press 1991)

  • Ehud Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother. Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination (The Free Press 1999)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis can be found here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Drs. S.R. Goldstein-Sabbah (Sasha)

When contacting the lecturer, please include your full name, student number and tutorial group number.


The deadline for submission of the final essay is 15 June 2018.