Empowering students to appreciate—and address—the complexity of the challenges Israel faces in calling the Middle East home.

Alongside foundational courses on the history, philosophy, theology, and literature of Islam, the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies emphasizes fluency in Arabic as the key to an authentic, unmediated window onto Muslim society and the Arab cultures of the region. Thanks to this unique—and unyielding—insistence on language acquisition, Shalem has become one of the leading Israeli departments in the field, and the place at which a disproportionate number of former soldiers in the IDF’s elite intelligence units want to earn their degree.

A Language that Opens Doors—and Builds Bridges

Shalem’s pioneering model of twice-weekly tutorials with native speakers, an annual Arabic “boot camp,” and summer language immersion programs produce graduates capable of conversing in a language of strategic and cultural importance to the Jewish state.

The Confidence to Converse

Shalem’s intensive summer immersion program takes students out of the classroom and into Arabic-speaking towns throughout Israel, where they can use their skills in real-world situations—and expand their worlds dramatically as a result. They can also, as Shira Eschar ’20 says, “become part of the story of Jews and Arabs flourishing in this country together.”

Featured Courses

From a close reading of the Koran to a course whose textbooks are Arabic news sites, the curriculum in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies is as varied as the peoples, cultures, and religions of the region itself.

Persian Language

Entry into a rich and diverse culture, and a means of engagement with one of the region’s key players.

The World According to Bernard Lewis

The worldview and key works of the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East.

The History and Culture of Iran

From the empire of antiquity to today’s Islamist state, with an emphasis on its regional ambitions.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The roots of the conflict, the factors contributing to its protraction, and the possibilities for a resolution.

The Modern Arab Media

News sites, social-media posts, videos, and more as a means to gain insight into modern Arab society.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States

The only undergraduate course in Israel on the economies, demographics, and politics of the Gulf States.

American Policy in the Middle East

The guiding—and sometimes misguided—principles behind American’s involvement in the region.

The History of the Middle East

From Muhammad to the fall of the Abbasids and the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

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