An important academic conference, hosted by Herzog College and Ariel University in Jerusalem last week, explored both historic and contemporary attitudes to Israel in philosophy and literature.
The conference took place at the iconic and recently refurbished Hechal Shlomo building in Jerusalem. Its title – “Ayin L’Tzion Tzofia – Looking Toward Zion: The Longing for the Land of Israel in History, Thought, Culture & Reality” references the lyrics of “Hatikvah” and Israel’s importance to Jews throughout the ages.
The opening event included a lecture by Rav Hayim Sabato, author and Rosh Yeshiva of Birchat Moshe Yeshiva in Maale Adumim, on the longing for Israel expressed by the Ramban and Rav Yehuda HaLevy in Medieval Spain.
Visiting lecturers from overseas included Prof. Gershon Greenberg from American University, who spoke about Early American Orthodox Religious Zionism following the Balfour Declaration, and Prof. Nechemia Polen from Hebrew College in Boston, who spoke about Jewish life in Israel as documented in the book of Nehemiah. Prominent academics from leading Israeli institutions examined philosophical and literary expressions of “Zionism” during the Second Temple period, during the Middle Ages, among female writers, among the Jews of North Africa and in the Ottoman Empire, and in modern times.
On the second day of the Conference, Dr. Shmuel Bahat from Haifa University led a tour of Jerusalem, examining evidence of different attitudes to the city among early Zionists.
The final session discussed contemporary attitudes to Israel and Zionism in Jewish communities around the world. It was chaired by the CEO of Herzog Global, Amihai Bannett.
Explaining the rationale for the conference, Herzog College President Prof. Yehuda Brandes said: “At a time when the historic bond between Israel and the Jewish people is in question, this academic conference will discuss the strong connection between our people and our land throughout generations of exile. We believe that – even in this “post-truth” era – there is great value in sharing scientific and reliable information. We hope this conference will contribute to deepening the world’s understanding of the significance of the State of Israel as the fulfilment of a long-standing Zionist dream.”