SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introduction To Israeli Culture

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2

The module examines the evolution and origins of the new Israeli culture, its ideological background, its symbols and values as reflected in literature, drama, film, popular music and the visual arts. The module covers the period from pre-state period of early twentieth century until the 1990s.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

To give an introduction to Israeli culture, both high-brow and popular, without requiring a knowledge of Hebrew or Israeli history. This module will follow the successful precedent of the African and South Asian departments, and will aim to attract student of other degrees to consider taking a number of floaters in Hebrew studies.


Two hours of lectures each week over 22 weeks.

Scope and syllabus

We read, in English translation, a broad sample of Israeli writing, view some major films and slides of art and architecture. These works are set in context of Israel's history and society with particular reference to Zionist immigrations, the impact of the Holocaust, inner ethnic tensions and the conflict with the Palestinians.

Method of assessment

  • Two 2,500-word essays (10% each)
  • One 3-hour exam (80%)

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:
  • Abramson, G., Drama and Ideology in Modern Israel, Cambridge, 1998. 
  • Berkowitz, M., Zionist Culture and West European Jewry Before the First World War, Cambridge, 1993. 
  • Eisenstadt, S.N., The Transformation of Israeli Society, London, 1985. 
  • Hertzberg, A., The Zionist Idea; a Historical Analysis and Reader, New York, 1975. 
  • Levin, M., White City: Architecture of International Style in Israel, Tel Aviv, 1984. 
  • Manor, D., 'From Rejection to Recognition: Israeli Art and the Holocaust', Israel Affairs 4, Nos. 3-4 (Spring/Summer 1998) 253-77. 
  • Ofrat, G., One Hundred years of Art in Israel, Boulder & Oxford, 1998.
  • Rabin, C., 'The Revival of the Hebrew Language', Ariel 25 (Winter 1963) 25-34. 
  • Schorr, R., '40 Years of Film-Making in Israel', Ariel 71-2 (1988) 106-27. 
  • Segev, T., The Seventh Million; The Israelis and the Holocaust, New York, 1994. 
  • Shaked, G., Modern Hebrew Fiction, Bloomington, 2000. 
  • Shaked, G., 'The Arab in Israeli Fiction', Ariel 54 (1983) 74-85. 
  • Shilo-Cohen, N., Bezalel 1906-1929, Jerusalem, 1983. 
  • Shohat, E., Israeli Cinema: East-West & the Politics of Representation, Texas, 1989. 
  • Zerubavel, Y., Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition, Chicago, 1995.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules