Independent Study Program

Please read the following before beginning to complete any assignments.

  1. After reading through the entire list of options (below), choose the assignment that interests you and whose credits satisfy your requirements. Be sure that the assignments sound reasonable to you. You can choose to read a book, view films, explore Israeli music, or complete online assignments. Inform us of the number of credits you plan to complete, and the assignments you are choosing by emailing
  2. Complete the assignment(s) you chose. Be sure that you follow the instructions carefully, since they vary from assignment to assignment.
  3. Submit your assignments to Your work must be double-spaced and should be no fewer than three pages for every credit indicated by the assignment. (A two-credit assignment should therefore be six-pages long, etc.)
  4. Your work must be received no later than April 15, 2016. Your participation on Seminar is contingent upon completing this work. It is vital that you pace yourself so that you will be able to complete all the assignments on time. Extensions will be granted for extenuating circumstances.
  5. If there are any problems with your submission, you will be notified within a couple of weeks. You will be informed if your assignments are acceptable, but not that we have received them initially. Do not expect to receive comments until you arrive in Israel.


If you have any questions about these procedures, please do not hesitate to ask Judy Greene.

Reading Lists and Assignments

O, Jerusalem, by L. Collins and D. Lapierre (Pocket Books, 1972). Paperback, about 600 pages.

Number of ISP Credits: 2

Despite certain inaccuracies, this is a fascinating journalistic history of the struggle for Jerusalem during the Israeli War of Independence. Reads like a novel, with notes and sources in the back. Gives a lot of good background to sites in the Jerusalem area that will be visited during the summer.

Assignment: After reading the book, write a three page essay – clearly and well thought out and in proper style (opening paragraphs, body, conclusions and personal thoughts) – addressing the following statement:

Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

Many Israeli leaders have made this statement. It has been part of the rhetoric of Israeli politics since 1948.

  1. Why is Jerusalem so central to Israel’s modern history? Bring support from statements in the book.
  2. The Old City of Jerusalem was not maintained under Israel’s control following the 1948 war (until 1967). Why do you think it is, nonetheless, so important to this day?
  3. If you had been the top policy makers at the time of the Independence War in 1948, and you had to choose between sending forces to the Negev desert or to Jerusalem, which would you choose?

Explain (use excerpts from the book as prooftext if you can).

Looking at a map of Israel, make the case for each argument in your paper.

Finally, explain your own feelings. Does Jerusalem seem closer or more remote to you following your reading of its more modern history in this book? How do you, as a North American Jew, relate to this city and to the people who defended it?


The Zionist Idea, Arthur Hertzberg (ed.) (Doubleday, New York, 1959. Paperback: Atheneum, NY.)

Number of ISP Credits: 2

Classic anthology of Zionist thought from writers predating Herzl to Ben Gurion. Introduction gives an interesting historical analysis of Zionism. A must for your personal Judaic library.

Assignment: “Zionism has been described as a revolution.”

By looking into the history of Zionism through its thinkers, complete the following two assignments:

A. On one page make a chart as shown below. Fill in the blanks matching Zionist approaches with the major thinkers associated with them (e.g. Jabotinsky, Ahad HaAm, Rav Kook, Herzl and A.D. Gordon), the organizations and youth movements which represented (or still represent) the approach, and a few key words to indicate the basic ideology of the approach. This chart should help you in writing the essay in part B.

(Note: If you have trouble identifying specific organizations or youth movements associated with particular approaches, try asking people who might know, or refer to a source such as Encylopeadia Judaica.)

B. Using the chart as a guide write a three-page essay – clearly and well thought out and in proper style (opening paragraphs, body, conclusions and personal thoughts) – addressing:

  1. The definition of Zionism
  2. The basic ideologies of the major ideologues for each of the Zionisms above. Why was Zionism a revolution? Do you think Zionism is still alive and relevant today?
  3. As a creative conclusion, you may write as if Herzl, Ahad HaAm, Rav Kook, A.D. Gordon and Jabotinsky were discussing the State of Israel today. Please explain your arguments with citations from the texts.

The Source, by James Michener (Fawcett-Crest, New York 1965). About 1030 pages.

Number of ISP Credits: 2

This monumental novel, steeped in the history of the Land of Israel – from the 10th century BCE until 1964 – is ideal for preparing for Seminar in Israel. In a methodical but fascinating way it introduces the reader to key periods of history, along with the issues that the people had to deal with for their physical and spiritual survival. Although outdated in some details, it is a terrific introduction to archaeology and to many of the most important sites in Eretz Yisrael.

Assignment: Paul J. Zodman, the Jewish milionaire from Chicago, who is funding the dig, visits the site and says excitedly that, “for two thousand years whenever we Jews saw a soldier, it could only mean bad news. Because the soldier couldn’t be Jewish. He had to be an enemy. It’s no small thing to see a Jewish soldier, standing on his own soil, protecting Jews… not persecuting them.” (p. 60)

In Rebbe Itzik and the Sabra, the Jewish characters who risk their lives are different to the Jewish characters who died in the previous chapters of the book. Explain – using quotes from the text – what makes the “new Jew” (e.g. Schwartz) so different. How do you relate to the “new Jew,” and how does this differ from how you relate to the “old Jew?”


Exodus, by Leon Uris (Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1958. Paperback: Bantam Books, 1989). 630 pages.

Number of ISP Credits: 1

The classic novel about “illegal immigration” and the Jewish underground armies during the British Mandate through the creation of the State. Probably the best-known novel about Israel’s beginnings.

Assignment: Some people say that Israelis have a Holocaust mentality.

Because of their collective background people say that Israelis are strong-willed, tough, street-smart, and even obnoxious. After reading the book write a 3-page character sketch essay – clearly and well thought out and in proper style (opening paragraphs, body, conclusions and personal thoughts) – comparing the characters of Ari Ben Canaan to
Dov Landau. How do their approaches differ? Why do they differ? Assuming that each of them posses a “Holocaust mentality” (explain and define that term as you understand it…), and that they both have similar backgrounds and understanding of Jewish history, how is it possible that they should look at life so differently? Explain. Finally, if each were the prime minister of Israel today, how do you think each would deal with peace negotiations with the Palestinians? Explain.


The Hope, by Herman Wouk (Paperback. Little, Brown and Co., 1993). About 680 pages.

Number of ISP Credits: 1

In fictional form, The Hope reviews Israel’s first 20 years – from the War of Independence until after the Six-Day War. We recommend reading the historical notes at the back of the book before reading the novel.

Assignment: Write a short essay (about a page-long, typed, double-spaced) for each of the following questions. Be sure to base your answers on the book.

  1. Who was Mickey Marcus? What is the connection of this U.S. military man with the Israeli War of Independence? What kind of a man was he?
  2. There are several female characters in the book, each of whom has a completely different personality. Three of them are Yael Luria, Emily Cunningham and Shayna Matisdorf. Describe each of these women. What role does each play in the story? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each?
  3. Trace the history of the brothers Leopold and Joseph Blumenthal (the latter having changed his name to Don Kishote). What happens to each of them?


The Glory, by Herman Wouk (Paperback. Little, Brown and Co., 1994) (Sequel to The Hope)

No. of ISP Credits: 1

The Glory begins where The Hope left off and brings the reader through the Yom Kippur War, all the way up until the late 1980’s. We recommend reading the historical notes at the back of the book before reading the novel.

Assignment: Write essays tracing the life and character of three of the following characters (each should be about a page long, typed, double-spaced). What role did each play in the history of Israel (whether fictional or real)? Is each character a complicated one or one-dimensional?

Golda Meir; Zev Barak; Gorodish; Sam Pasternak; Moshe Dayan

Option 1: What is Zionism Today?

Number of ISP Credits: 2

Read MyJewishLearning‘s overview on The Land of Israel in Modern Jewish Thought and the introductory articles in each of these subjects:

  1. Secular Zionism
  2. Religious Zionism
  3. Questioning Zionism
  4. Arabs in Zionist Thought
  5. An Alternative Zionism

After completing the readings, read the following statement made by Yigal Allon, a great Israeli leader and statesman, and complete the assignment below:

Zionism is the modern expression of the ancient Jewish heritage.
Zionism is the national liberation movement of a people exiled from its historic homeland and dispersed among the nations of the world.
Zionism is the redemption of an ancient nation from a tragic lot and the redemption of a land neglected for centuries.
Zionism is the revival of an ancient language and culture, in which the vision of universal peace has been a central theme.
Zionism is the embodiment of a unique pioneering spirit, of the dignity of labor, and of enduring human values.
Zionism is creating a society, however imperfect it may still be, which tries to implement the highest ideals of democracy– political social and cultural – for all the inhabitants of Israel, irrespective of religious belief, race or sex.
Zionism is, in sum, the constant and unrelenting effort to realize the national and universal vision of the prophets of Israel.


  1. Choose three of Yigal Allon’s statements and critique each one using material from the readings on (At least 2 pages)
  2. Which statement do you relate to the most, and why? (At least ( 2 pages)
  3. Describe your relationship to the Land, State and People of Israel. Would you describe yourself as a Zionist? Why/why not? (At least 2 pages)

As you work on the assignment, feel free to be in touch with Rabbi Ed Snitkoff with any questions.


Option 2: Modern Israeli Literature

Number of ISP Credits: 2 per book

Choose a book by a modern Israeli author listed by MakomIsrael, and use the reading guide provided there to help you create a 6 page reaction to the work. (Two ISP credits for each book)


Option 3: Modern Israeli Cinema

Number of ISP Credits: 2 per film

Choose one of the films recommended by MakomIsrael.

Using the film guide provided, submit a six-page reaction to the film, answering the following questions (Submit six-pages for 2 ISP credits for each film):

  1. How has this film enriched your view of Israel and Israeli society?
  2. Was there a personal opinion or impression you had of Israel that has been changed by this film? Elaborate.
  3. In what way do you expect that your exerience on Seminar will answer the dilemmas posed by this film?


Option 4: Modern Israeli Music

A. Music Blogs

Number of ISP Credits: 1

Choose two of the blogs that showcase an Israeli song, and compare the blogs and the songs, explaining what they teach you about Israeli Society. (Submit three pages for 1 ISP credit)

  1. How have these two songs enriched your view of Israel and Israeli society?
  2. Was there a personal opinion or impression you had of Israel that has been challenged by this song? Elaborate.
  3. In what way do you expect that your experience on Seminar will answer the dilemmas posed by these songs?

B. Kobi Oz

Number of ISP Credits: 1 per song

Listen to the amazing music of Kobi Oz and choose a song that interests you.

Answer the questions in MakomIsrael’s study guide about that song. One ISP Credit per song. (Submit three pages for each ISP credit)