Skip to content Skip to navigation

"City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement" with Sara Yael Hirschhorn

February 11, 2019 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Building 460, 4th floor, Terrace Room

Free and open to the public.

Cosponsors: International Relations Program, History Department, American Studies Program

Aaron Roland Endowed Lecture

Since 1967, more than 60,000 Jewish-Americans have settled in the territories captured by the State of Israel during the Six Day War. Comprising 15 percent of the settler population today, these immigrants have established major communities, transformed domestic politics and international relations, and committed shocking acts of terrorism. They demand attention in both Israel and the United States, but little is known about who they are and why they chose to leave America to live at the center of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

This lecture, based upon Dr. Hirschhorn's recent book, unsettles stereotypes, showing that the 1960s generation who moved to the occupied territories were not messianic zealots or right-wing extremists but idealists engaged in liberal causes. They did not abandon their progressive heritage when they crossed the Green Line. Rather, they saw a historic opportunity to create new communities to serve as a beacon—a “city on a hilltop”—to Jews across the globe. This pioneering vision was realized in their ventures at Yamit in the Sinai and Efrat and Tekoa in the West Bank. Later, the movement mobilized the rhetoric of civil rights to rebrand itself, especially in the wake of the 1994 Hebron massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein, one of their own.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, this discussion illuminates the changing face of the settlements and the clash between liberal values and political realities at the heart of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn is the Visiting Assistant Professor in Israel Studies at the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University.  Her research, teaching, and public engagement  activities focus on Diaspora-Israel relations, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Israel ultra-nationalist movement. Her first book, City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement (Harvard, 2017) was the winner of the 2018 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature Choice Award and a finalist for the 2018 National Jewish Book Award. She is currently working on a new book manuscript, tentatively entitled "From Jackson to Johannesburg to Jerusalem: How the 1967 War Transformed Diaspora Zionists Into White People," which is a transnational history of the Diaspora Zionism since the Six Day War alongside other articles and projects. Prior to her appointment at Northwestern, Dr. Hirschhorn was the University Research Lecturer and Sidney Brichto Fellow in Israel Studies at the University of Oxford (2013-2018) and a postdoctoral fellow in Israel Studies at Brandeis University (2012-2013). She is a graduate of Yale University (B.A.) and the University of Chicago (M.A., Ph.D) and the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships. Apart from her academic work, Dr. Hirschhorn is also frequent public speaker, writer, media commentator, and policy consultant on Israel/Jewish Affairs.

Event Sponsor: 
Taube Center for Jewish Studies, American Studies Program, History Department