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Israeli-Palestinian History from a Progressive Zionist Perspective


This 3-part online class is based on a slideshow with the instructor, Rabbi Maurice Harris, narrating, followed by some Q and A with members of Or Haneshamah (Ottawa, ON, Canada). 

The 3 sessions were offered in the spring of 2021. They offer a comprehensive but not too overwhelming overview of how Jews came into being as a nation in the ancient Land of Israel, how their many centuries of exile affected their relationship to that land, and how modern Zionism developed into a successful state building movement culminating in the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948. The series also unpacks the major components of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts, taking care to honor both Palestinian narratives and Israeli narratives of what happened and continues to happen. Side by side, the course attempts to describe and humanize the narrative of dispossession and resistance of the Palestinians alongside the narrative of survival, return, and state-building of Jewish Israelis.

Rabbi Harris approaches the subject matter from a progressive Zionist perspective, seeking to develop insight into how large blocs within both peoples tend to narrate and mythologize the conflict; and always striving to honor the depth, humanity, and complexity of all the people involved in the conflict. Rabbi Harris also urges people who take this class to hear other points of view and to raise challenging questions to his presentation. The views and analysis presented are entirely the presenter’s, and do not speak for Reconstructing Judaism as an organization.

Rabbi Maurice Harris serves as Associate Director for Thriving Communities and Israel Affairs Specialist at Reconstructing Judaism. 

Note regarding a factual error in the first of these three presentations: During the first session, I referred to a pair of medieval European statues depicting figures known as “Ecclesia and Synagoga.” I said that these frequently displayed medieval icons represented a male Ecclesia, representing the Catholic Church, and a female Synagoga, representing the Jews. A friend pointed out to me that that is incorrect. Both statues were of women. The statues still communicate the idea of the supersession of the Church over Judaism, and the other things I said about the two statues were correct. But I was mistaken about the gendering of the two figures. – Maurice Harris

Watch archived recordings of the sessions here:

Part 1 - February 24, 2021 - From the Ancient Past to the British Mandate: how Israeli and Palestinian narratives tell these stories differently

Part 1: A Brief History of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Part 2 - March 17, 2021 - The Founding of Israel, the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Crisis, and a Chronic Stalemate (1947-67)

Part 2: A Brief History of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Part 3 - April 7, 2021- The Long Road to Oslo, the Collapse of Oslo’s Promise, and Possible Directions for the Future

Part 3: A Brief History of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Associate Director for Thriving Communities and Israel Affairs Specialist, Reconstructing Judaism

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