Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Introduction to Israeli Society: Vision and Reality

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Steven Klein


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

10-Week Course

Feb. 27 - May 7. No Class April 23.


While the State of Israel is often viewed dichotomously as a Jewish state contending with an Arab minority, the reality on the ground is far more complex. Some Jewish citizens strive to secularize the state, yet some Arab citizens openly support the country’s Jewish character. Both separate and overlapping identities govern relationships among the country’s residents. In this course, we will look at the gamut of communities – Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and secular, mainstream and marginal, immigrant and non-immigrant – through various academic lenses. Participants will be introduced to important sociological theories including constructivism, revitalization theory, social distancing and integrated threat theory. As we explore the history of relations among and between the different communities, we will ask how perceptions led to changes in the different relationships, as well as how public policy has governed intercommunal relations. Participants will come out of the course not only better able to understand Israeli society but also with insights about how identity and relationships evolve in all societies.

Group Leadership Style

More lecture than facilitated discussion.

Course Materials

I will provide on Google Sites a combination of news articles, videos, and carefully curated academic articles and books, at no cost to the participants.

Preparation Time

2-3 hours per week. 


Dr. Steven J. Klein has taught about Israeli society and Jewish peoplehood since 1992 for programs ranging from Young Judaea Year Course in Israel to Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University. He has been teaching online since March 2020, both independently and for Case Western Reserve’s Siegal Lifelong Learning program and the Rabbi Samuel Scolnic Adult Institute. Raised in Minnesota and North Carolina, he moved to Israel in 1991. He is currently a senior editor and contributor at Haaretz English Edition, living with his beloved family in Modi’in.