Two States One Homeland

I just returned from London, where I participated in a seminar convened by Lord Stone of Blackheath on a two-year old grassroots peace initiative for Israel and Palestine called Two States, One Homeland (TSOH). You can find a longer report on this meeting HERE. In addition to the two founders of this initiative, Tel Aviv-based Israeli journalist Meron Rappoport and Bethlehem-based Palestinian activist Awni al-Mashni who joined via Skype, there were about forty people in the Archbishop’s room at Millbank House, which houses offices and meeting spaces serving the UK House of Lords. Participants included potential funders, facilitators, foundation directors, and specialists in a variety of aspects that the convener thought would be useful and ought to be drawn on in helping the initiative to move forward more robustly. I joined this session because I had met Meron, Awni and Avner Haramati, a social entrepreneur who facilitated the London meeting, before. (I wrote about this meeting HERE.)

At the London meeting, we were asked to work on particular themes that were deemed most pressing to chart a way forward for this initiative. I joined the table that discussed the question of religion, where we quickly zeroed in on the most difficult and seemingly intractable issue of Jerusalem and the holy places claimed by Jews and Muslims, especially the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. I thought that TSOH might really make a difference with respect to what others recommend leaving to last by putting it front and center. I am not sure I persuaded anyone of the wisdom of rushing in where angels fear to tread.  In any case, you can find my thoughts on this matter HERE.

Last year, at Providence College

A lecture on Belief and Unbelief

US Supreme Court weighs in on Jerusalem issue

For my latest blog post on Jerusalem, a comment on the recent decision of the US Supreme Court on whether the child of a US person born in Jerusalem should have the right to have his passport say that he was born in Israel, see HERE. On a related subject, see the lecture I gave at the Association for Israel Studies 31st annual conference in Montreal, in June 2015, posted on

Speaking on Jerusalem, next week at Brandeis

I am looking forward to my talk on Jerusalem for the Brandeis University Schusterman Center for Israel Studies next Friday, October 24, at 12pm.

The topic of my presentation is “Jerusalem in the Religious Studies Classroom: Theoretical Considerations and Topical Issues” and it will be based on an essay recently published in a Syracuse University Press volume on Jerusalem: Conflict and Cooperation in a Contested City, edited by Madelaine Adelman and Miriam Fendius Elman.

Upcoming talks

I’ve been invited back by the fabulous folk at the CAS Core Curriculum to lecture on the Bible in general and the primordial history of Genesis in particular. (Tuesday, Sept 9, 2014, 9:30 am, at the Tsai Performance Center) I’ve been getting more comfortable with these lectures the more my own children have approached (and now reached) college age. It is very exciting to have the opportunity of framing the discussion of the Bible for two hundred first semester freshmen in fifty minutes or less.

On Oct 1 at 5pm I will lecture for the Institute for Philosophy and Religion (David Eckel, Dir.). This year’s series has the title Philosophy and the Future of Religion. My talk will be about whether philosophy can help us understand religion. My somewhat Straussian inclination is to argue that religion and philosophy are completely incompatible. But that would be a polemical position, and I am not sure it is the most productive or even the most accurate position to take. I will need to clarify and limit the topic, and I may be using Varro’s distinction between public, philosophical, and poetic religion to structure what we are even talking about when speaking of religion in general. My aspiration is to make this very complex and vast topic relevant for today.

Further out, I am excited about the programs of the Elie Wiesel Center this fall, with Eli Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, Ami Ayalon, and Sayed Kashua topping the list. (See our website at

A nice little feature on my Jerusalem class, the summer version

Sue Seligson, reporting for a BUToday’s series, wrote a nice little feature on my Jerusalem class, which I recently taught as a summer term class. You can find her article here.

Elfriede Jelinek, taboo violation, and Zank

Just published in an Austrian internet portal dedicated to the work of Elfriede Jelinek, a comment responding to a video-text by the author Adolf Holl on the seven deadly sins. Thesis: without transgression no redemption; without taboo violation no living language. See HERE.

February 2014

Two classes up and running, one on Maimonides (RN420) and one on Jerusalem (RN220). Also: help me welcome Prof. Thomas Meyer, our special guest and visiting professor in Jewish studies and political philosophy this semester! You can find him almost every day at our new offices on the ground floor of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, at 147 Bay State Road.

Please drop in and say hello!

Next week: Genesis

The very lovely people from the BU Core Curriculum kindly invited me back to give an introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Whether it’s age or the fact that I’ve been doing this kind of thing (i.e., teaching “Bible”) for such a long time, it strikes me as an extremely humbling and puzzling charge. After all, many of my colleagues might raise their eyebrows that the Core should invite someone who isn’t really a “Bible scholar.” I am really not; at least not in the sense that reading and producing scholarship on the Bible is central to what I do. So what gives me the right to introduce a few hundred freshman to the Hebrew Bible? Perhaps it is the very fact that I am not a “Bible scholar” that particularly qualifies me; after all, in their first collegiate encounter with the Bible as a cultural artifact, students are less in need of exposure to Bible scholarship than to an answer of why, in this day and age, it is still worthwhile to crack the spine of this ancient book. I am sure a genuine Bible scholar might be able to do this as well and better. But a “religion” scholar and student of philosophy like myself who has been continuously preoccupied with this question for over thirty years should indeed be asked that question. That there are people curious to hear my answer is a blessing, mostly for myself.