A New Orient

From German Scholarship to Middle Eastern Studies in Israel

Amit Levy

This study seeks to examine the history of Zionist academic Orientalism—referred to throughout as Oriental Studies, the term contemporary English speakers would have used—in light of its German-Jewish background as a history of knowledge transfer stretching along an axis from Germany to Palestine. The transfer, which took place primarily during the 1920s and 1930s, involved questions about the re-establishment, far from Germany, of a field of knowledge with deep German roots. Like other German-Jewish scholars arriving in Palestine at the time, some of the Orientalist agents of transfer did so out of Zionist conviction as olim (immigrants making aliyah, or literally “ascending” to the homeland) while others joined them later as refugees from Nazi Germany; both groups were integrated into the institutional apparatus of the Hebrew University. Unlike other fields of knowledge or professions, however, the transfer of Orientalist knowledge was unique in that the axis involved an essential change in the nature of its encounter with the Orient: from a textual-scientific encounter at German universities, largely disconnected from contemporary issues, to a living, substantive, and unmediated encounter with an essentially Arab region—and the escalating Jewish-Arab conflict in the background. Within the new context, German-Jewish Orientalist expertise was charged with political and cultural significance it had not previously faced, fundamentally influencing the course of the discipline’s development in Palestine and Israel.

Paper: $40 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $39.95
ISBN-13: 9781684582020
Pages: 380 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: December 23, 2024

About the Author

Amit Levy

Amit Levy is a Bloom postdoctoral fellow at the Department for Israel Studies, University of Haifa. His current project explores encounters of local and migrating knowledge in Jerusalem under the British Mandate. He is also the managing editor of Naharaim: Journal of German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History, published by de Gruyter. He won an Israel Scientific Foundation grant to translate his forthcoming Magnes Press book into English for publication with Brandeis University Press.

Ron Mordechai Makleff