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Moshe Amirav

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Moshe Amirav is a professor of political science at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School (RIS) and a world expert on the conflict in Jerusalem. He is the author of several books, including “Jerusalem Syndrome: The Palestinian-Israeli Battle for the Holy City.” Prof. Amirav holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Jewish history, a master’s degree in urban administration and a doctorate in political geography.

Personal Perspective

The subject Prof. Amirav teaches is a personal one – “my beloved city of Jerusalem,” he calls it, where his own story began. At 18 years of age, he served as a paratrooper in the Six-Day War and was wounded in the battle for Jerusalem, and he has served in various government positions in the decades since. In 2001, for example, Amirav attended the Camp David negotiations as an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, leading a committee that envisioned a political settlement in Jerusalem, with the city serving as a dual capital for both Israel and Palestine.

“I tried in all these conversations to bring peace to this city that is called in the Bible the City of Peace, but is really a city of war and conflict,” he says. “For me, Jerusalem is not just an academic subject. It’s something that I live, that I hope.”

That hope, Amirav says, is what sets him apart as a teacher: “I love the city, and I am the only optimist who is actually in Israel … I always say that what makes me special is not that I’m a great lecturer. It’s that I am part of the story of Jerusalem.” Much of what he shares in his classes comes from his own experience. “In the end of our course, I give a lecture which is a very personal one – how do I see the future of Jerusalem?”

Conflict in Context

To help students understand the story of – and problems facing – Jerusalem, as well as his own love for the city, Amirav takes them out of the classroom for multiple tours.

“I’m taking them to the place where the city was divided … and I’m telling them, ‘As a young paratrooper, as I was standing right here, 30 meters from me was a Jordanian legionnaire, and we were guarding the same city. He was guarding the Jordanian part, and I was guarding the Israeli part,’” he says. “Later on, I take them to the place where I was fighting … and tell them the story of the 1967 big victory of Israel.”

Amirav divides these class trips into what he calls the “three cities that are hidden in Jerusalem. One is my city, the Zionist and secular city … Then I take them to the Jewish Orthodox part of Jerusalem, which is like another world … And then I take them to the Arab city in Jerusalem.”

After each tour, Amirav and his students return to the classroom to discuss what they’ve seen – and put it in context. “We compare these three cities that we just saw in one city, and then compare it to other cities in conflict … I’m trying to give my students the feeling that actually, all the conflicts are the same.”

From there, they translate what they’ve learned into conflict resolution: “What’s the solution? How do we solve it?” Amirav says he offers his students the same example he once gave US President Bill Clinton: “In the middle of Rome is another country, another flag, of the Vatican … And it’s peace in Rome. It can be peace in Jerusalem, and that’s my vision, that’s my dream.”

Amirav also takes students outside of Jerusalem – to the Dead Sea and the Jordan River, as well as on a tour of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The goal, he says, “is more than just learning; it’s experience … Knowledge is important, but it’s not the most important thing. If they come all the way to Jerusalem, I want them to go home with the experience.”

International Environment

The fact that his students come to Jerusalem from all over the world, Amirav says, makes teaching at RIS particularly special. “They come from Tokyo, San Francisco, Spain, you name it … When they speak in the class, they tell about themselves and the places which they come from, so this brings immediately a kind of different feeling in the class – that we are international.”

Amirav says that global perspective adds fascinating layers to class discussions – and to group assignments as well. “I take two students: one is from Toronto and one is from, let’s say, Paris, and I like them to together do a paper … comparing these three cities – Jerusalem and their cities.” The result helps his students gain new insight into not only Israel, but their home countries and the world at large. “I feel I am doing something which is very, very meaningful … and I have a lot of satisfaction. I love my students.”


  • Doctorate in political geography, London School of Economics (1994)
  • Master’s degree in urban administration, New York University (1973)
  • Bachelor’s degree in political science and Jewish history, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1971)

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  • Eliezer Shore

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    Eliezer ShoreDr. Eliezer Shore is an instructor in Jewish thought and spirituality at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School (RIS). Dr. Shore teaches A History of Jewish Mysticism, The Body in Jewish Thought, and Hasidism: From Mystical Fraternity to Reactionary Movement. He is also an ordained rabbi and the author of numerous articles, stories, and essays. A full anthology of his work, The Face of the Waters: Chasidic Teachings and Stories for the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2017. Dr. Shore holds degrees in Jewish philosophy, Jewish education, and comparative religion.

    A Sacred Space

    The search for deeper meaning has been a lifelong pursuit for Shore, who grew up in New York and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College – where he had “a very rich college experience … it was meant to engender discussion and dialogue,” he says. “That’s the type of educational experience I really try to bring to my students, as well.”

    During and after school, a spiritual search took him around the world – and introduced him to some of the great teachers of Hasidism. Eventually, he completed an M.A. in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University in New York, and became a teacher himself. He went on to receive Rabbinic Ordination, and in 2005 earned a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy from Bar Ilan University – but teaching has remained a vital component of his life’s work.

    “I think I’ve been interested in teaching my whole life,” he says. Shore describes the classroom as a “sacred space” – not in a religious sense, he says, but “rather in the sense that when the class works, there should be something deeper coming out in that space … whether it’s thinking about life in a deeper way, or thinking about oneself in a deeper way, or thinking about the topic of the class in a deeper way.”

    “When the teaching is good, it all comes together,” he says. “The emergence of something deeper … It’s like all of a sudden, it’s happening between you and others, it’s happening in you, yourself, it’s happening between you and something you’re studying or reading, or involved in … And it’s a very special experience.”

    Engaging with Students

    Shore also sees teaching as a shared experience. “I learn also; I’m always learning … I will put on the table issues I’m having, questions about the topic we’re studying,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll put out questions about religion, or questions about observance, and I’ll be honest about them.” Shore says some of the best classes he’s taught have come from those discussions: “The students came away saying, ‘Wow, we really learned about that.’ Because they learned about themselves, not just about the topic, you know?” He says he’s often impressed by “their depth of willingness to open up and engage in … complex issues. And their ability to be insightful about these things.”

    Shore says those interactions with students also help him refine his work over time, “improving a class and making it more tangible and more relevant.” He also works to strike a balance “between being academically and historically correct, and philosophically correct … having a conceptual framework and then presenting materials” in a way that’s still personal and engaging.

    Another important part of the job, Shore says, is maintaining what he calls the “life and energy” of a classroom. “Sometimes I stand outside the door before I go in and listen to what’s going on in the class,” he says. “The kids are talking, and they’re lively, and they’re engaged, and they’re all chatting with one another, right? So if I step into the class and all of a sudden they’re quiet, and they remain quiet until the end of the class, what happened to that life that was present just before I walked in? I must have killed it! … For me, a good class is where that life and that energy continues after I walk in, although now it will be perhaps channeled and directed in a different way.”

    Discussion and Debate

    Shore says that energy is an important tool in the classroom even when it leads to what he calls “a wonderful moment of pandemonium.”

    “A good class is when I ask a question or bring up a topic, and everybody starts talking about it at once,” he says. “For one second or one moment, or five minutes, people are suddenly thinking and sharing ideas, and discussing things, and arguing about it. Then you have to kind of lasso the class back in and say, ‘Okay, okay, let’s think about what we just discussed, and let’s come to some conclusions, and let’s see what we can glean from it.’”

    Shore welcomes debate and discussion because “it’s not a matter of just how much information I can pass over to the students … If you learn about the topic in only a superficial way, and you didn’t learn about others or the world, then you didn’t really learn anything – even if details or facts were given over.” Rather, he says, his goal is “real communication – it’s openness on everybody’s part. It’s the experience of teaching, and the experience of learning, and the experience of education as a whole that I want to engage the students in.”


    • Doctorate in Jewish Philosophy, Bar Ilan University (2005)
    • Master’s degree in Jewish Education, Yeshiva University (1993)
    • Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religion, Sarah Lawrence College (1983)

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