The Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem focuses on the study of Muslim and Middle Eastern societies from the appearance of Islam in the seventh century CE up to the present day.
Among the areas of particular strength in the Department are the pre-modern history of the Middle East, Ottoman studies, Iranian studies, the material culture (art history and archeology) of the Islamic world, the history of Central and Inner Asia (including the history of the Mongol Empire), the history of Palestine/the Land of Israel (from the Muslim conquest until today), and the history of the modern Arab world. This emphasis on both the medieval and modern periods of the Middle East, covering a wide range of topics and themes, makes the Hebrew University unique among departments of Islamic Studies in Israel.
The foundations of the fields of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in Israel were laid at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem already in the 1920s, and indeed, these fields were an essential part of the initial core of the University at Mt. Scopus. Since its very beginning, the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies – for many years now the largest unit in the Faculty of Humanities – has set the highest standards in teaching and research. Its faculty members are an integral part of the international and Israeli scholarly community in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies as well as in other fields, and are well known at home and abroad.
The Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies is part of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, working closely with its sister departments: the Department of Asian Studies and the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. The Department also cooperates with units within the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Social Sciences and various research centers at the Hebrew University (most prominently the Nehemia Levtzion Center for Islamic Studies and the Harry S Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace), as well as departments of Middle Eastern Studies in other Israeli universities.
At the B.A. level, the Department aims to impart to its students a broad understanding of the major events and processes that have shaped the history, culture and politics of Muslim societies and states – as well as that of non-Muslim communities under Muslim rule – with an emphasis on the Middle East in the broadest sense. The study of area languages (especially Arabic, but also Persian and Turkish) is a crucial part of this learning process.
The M.A. program enables the expanding and deepening of the student’s knowledge and understanding of the field in a wide spectrum of subjects, while permitting and encouraging specialization. In recent years, the B.A. and M.A. curricula have been revised in light of changes in the region, developments in the field, and a desire to incorporate insights and methodologies from other fields in the humanities and social sciences. The Department’s alumni find employment in education, research institutions, governmental and public agencies, journalism, and in the private sector.
The department also offers Ph.D. studies, in accordance with the specializations of its faculty members. Graduates of its Ph.D. program attain positions in leading institutions of higher education in Israel and abroad.