Skip to main content

This course focuses on the ways religion and religious practices are represented in Israeli literature and media. The first few weeks of the semester will provide the context for the class discussions. The greater part of the semester will explore the variety of religious traditions in Israel within the framework of Zionist thought, gender and sexuality issues, and ethnic differences. In the last few weeks of the semester the class will engage in particular themes such as the literary and cinematic representation of the biblical story of the ‘akeda (the sacrifice of Isaac), faith-motivated terrorism, and mysticism and spirituality. Although the class concentrates mostly on Jewish traditions and practices, Christian and Muslim traditions will also be examined in the context of the Palestinian population of Israel and in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Among the dilemmas and themes this course addresses are the dynamics of change and continuity and the power struggle between the religious hegemony (patriarchy, Zionism, Jewish Orthodoxy, heteronormativity) and the defiant voices. Within the Jewish faith, image (and for the purpose of this class, film and TV images) is traditionally associated with the religious prohibition to create figurative illustrations of humans as they are created in the image of God. Thereby, the course also explores the prevalent tensions between text (as given by God) and image.

Students are expected to engage in guided and independent research for the class presentation and the term paper. Research includes the selection of a relevant and manageable topic, identifying and using academic sources and related works of literature and films, and a bibliography.

Class Topics

  • Zionism and religion
  • Text and image: the legacy of Jewish thought and practice
  • Ashkenazi and Sephardi/Mizrahi religious traditions
  • Women, gender, and sexuality
  • Romance, marriage, and divorce
  • Blasphemous writing
  • The sacrifice of Isaac
  • Terrorism (Jewish and Muslim) in the name of God
  • Mysticism, spirituality, and non-institutionalized faith

Learning outcomes

By the end of the semester students in this class should be able to:

      • Recognize the main religious traditions in Israel.
      • Understand the special relations between religion and Zionism.
      • Understand the main tropes and trends in the representation of religious traditions in Israeli cinema, TV, and literature.
      • Demonstrate their ability to provide cogent analysis of literary and filmic texts (see class assignments).


Note: Knowledge of Hebrew is not required for this class.