Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Newsletter

Undergraduate Scholars Conference in Israel Studies

Abstracts, PowerPoints and presentation audio can be found below in alphabetical order by presenters' last names.

Panel I: The Israeli Economy and Society in the Age of Globalization

Susan Bean | Vincenzo Caporale | Alissa Lioznova | Madeleine Powell

Panel II: The Social Construction of Israeli Identity

Mohamad Batal | Yana Kogan | Makayla Lopez

Panel III: Israel and the World

Sebastian Feldman | Nathan Glovinsky | Kayla Jahangiri | Victoria Wahbah

Panel IV: The Evolution of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Elianna Bernstein | Jael Espinoza | Janis Hoffman | Victoria Le Berder


Mohamad Batal | Claremont McKenna College - Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

Title: Shifting Priorities? The Changing Landscape of Israeli Constitutionalism - PowerPoint

Panel: The Social Construction of Israeli Identity

Abstract: I begin by explaining Israel’s foundational constitutional tension—namely, that Israel’s Jewish identity often conflicts with liberal-democratic principles to which the state is also committed. From here, I briefly sketch the evolution of the state’s constitutional principles, pointing to Chief Justice Aharon Barak’s 1992 “constitutional revolution” as a critical juncture where Israel’s constitutional tension was introduced into the public sphere. While the Jewish State had long-prioritized its ethno-religious character in practice, Barak’s jurisprudence forced all of the Israeli polity to confront the theoretical tension lying latent in its founding document. Through an analysis of the “landmark” Ka’adan case of 2000—one that deals with discriminatory land allocation and state-sanctioned segregation—I argue that even the Barak Court was fairly tepid in asserting liberal-democratic principles. Moreover, I assert that in the very recent past, several structural, jurisprudential, and political developments have demonstrated the state’s burgeoning neglect for liberal democracy; in other words, after confronting its foundational constitutional tension, the Israeli polity is consistently and reliably prioritizing its Jewish identity in principle. Ultimately, I will claim that we are likely witnessing the beginning of a transformational shift in Israel’s constitutional priorities, and the Israeli Supreme Court—or any other part of the Israeli polity—does not appear particularly well-suited to stopping it.

Mohamad Batal Presentation


Susan Bean | UCLA - Global Studies

Title: Urban Agriculture in Israel - PowerPoint

Panel: The Israeli Economy and Society in the Age of Globalization

Abstract: One in three people in the world suffer from some form of malnutrition. Access to safe and nutritious food is a fundamental human right that is not actualized by millions of people throughout the world. While the current food system produces more than enough food to feed the world’s population, the food is unequally distributed and delocalized and the means of production are exploitative and unsustainable. Urban agriculture is one potential way to mitigate the effects of food insecurity, unsustainable forms of agriculture, and poor nutrition. This paper assesses the role urban agriculture plays in the nations of the Global North and the Global South and explores the impact that it has had (and can have) on the world’s globalized food system. A closer look at the State of Israel will reveal the current research and technology being tested and studied, showcasing the future potential of urban agriculture. Moreover, it examines the extent to which urban agriculture arose as a response to neoliberal policies which heightened disparities in food insecurity. What is currently lacking in the current implementation of urban agriculture is an interdisciplinary approach: one that combines integrative urban planning with supportive policy making. A model that can have a significant impact in ensuring that every individual’s fundamental human right to food is upheld requires the efforts of NGOs, communities, and the public and private sector on a municipal, regional, national, and international level.

Susan Bean Presentation


Elianna Bernstein | UCLA - Jewish Studies

Title: The Children of Israel: Peace Prospects and the Arab-Israeli Conflict - PowerPoint

Panel: The Evolution of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Abstract: The purpose of this research project is to gather information about Hand in Hand:Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, a program with schools throughout Israel that co-founded Project Harmony, a summer camp that provides the unique opportunity for Arab and Israeli children to co-exist in a setting that fosters peace and understanding through dialogue. Through my research, I will analyze how these organizations facilitate respectful conversations among young generations dwelling in a country fraught with violence, how the schooling of the children affects their parents, who may or may not have starkly different or much more rigid understandings of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how this system of education will impact future generations. I will also explore the implications of the bilingual system, and how teaching all students in Arabic, Hebrew, and English helps create friendships between groups of children and adolescents who would likely otherwise be adversaries. The project will address the difficulties that must be overcome in order for the program to be successful among children, parents, and teachers. Lastly, I will focus on the power of constructive discourse and the willingness to listen to another person/group’s narrative, particularly in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. As the country is again afflicted, this time with an upheaval of violence on the Gaza border currently and during the recent past, programs like Hand in Hand and Project Harmony are among the reasons to catch a glimpse of hope for the future of a land so sacred, yet so troubled.

Elianna Bernstein Presentation


Vincenzo Caporale | UC Berkeley - Political Science

Title: Modernization and Economic integration: Arab Christians in the Israeli Economy - PowerPoint

Panel: The Israeli Economy and Society in the Age of Globalization

Abstract: File

Vincenzo Caporale Presentation


Jael Espinoza | California State University, Long Beach - International Studies & Political Science

Title: Evolving Druze Identity in Israeli Society - PowerPoint

Panel: The Evolution of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Abstract: Contrary to its original conception in 1948, the demographics of Israel today are non-binary, with Arabs, Druze, Circassians, Ethiopians, and several other groups making up the rest of Israel’s non-Jewish composition. The Druze are an anomaly in their own right, because although they adhere to the standard qualifications of an Arab, namely through their language and culture, they are distinct from the rest, most notably in regards to religion, political loyalty, military service, and education. This paper analyzes the roots of what Druze scholar, Kais Firro, refers to as “Druze particularism, ” which societally categorizes the community as separate from Israel’s wider Arab population, and argues that seminal events and legislation in 1948 and surrounding the conflict are imperative to the construction of the Israeli-Druze identity today. Moreover, this paper focuses on the key factors that have historically shaped the identity of the Israeli-Druze communities, and suggests practical application for these factors to better predict how the Druze community will continue to transform within Israeli society.

Jael Espinoza Presentation


Sebastian Feldman | UCLA - History

Title: From the Labour of Love to the Labour of Hate

Panel: Israel and the World

Abstract: This research paper is an examination of the Labour party in the United Kingdom to determine why the party switched from a pro-Zionist platform to one which is anti-Zionist. This move is similar to some factions of the progressive movement in the United States, such as the National Democratic Party. This is not solely an American or English problem, as many other Western countries have groups adopting a similar ideologies. To conduct my research, I analyzed the socio-political implications of this attitude shift and, particularly, why the transformation occurred. Furthermore, I explored whether or not this shift is temporary, and what the potential future relationship between Israel and a progressive Western government will look like. My studies largely centered around a difficult question: are the criticisms of the state of Israel legitimate, or are they just a new form of antisemitism? To answer this, I analyzed primary sources and compared them to modern literature on the subject. My research demonstrates how the shift in policy affected the countries’ intrastate affairs and interstate relations. The change in policy for the progressive movements, including the Labour and Democratic parties, could have major implications for diplomatic relations between Israel and other progressive governments. Through my research, I have determined that some criticism of the state of Israel is antisemitic, as Israel is held to a standard higher than any other country.

Sebastian Feldman Presentation


Nathan Glovinsky | UCLA - History

Title: Visual Recruitment: The Use of Film in the Pre-State Enterprise - PowerPoint

Panel: Israel and the World

Abstract: Once early settlement activity intensified in Eretz Yisrael, the Zionist enterprise was faced with a major recruitment obstacle: convincing Diasporic Jewry to immigrate to a land they had never seen before. This problem coincided with the emergence of a strange new cinematic technology, which was quickly embraced by Zionist creatives to produce a corpus of work best defined as “travelogues.” However, these films were more so visual propaganda than anything else, but they allowed the global community to see – for their own eyes – the early success and further potential of the Zionist dream. When using comparative film analysis to analyze these films, similar visual and auditory themes become apparent that reveal a layer of political nuance. By comparing The Land of Promise (1935), This is the Land (1935), and The Great Promise (1947), this paper seeks to explore their commonalities to better understand how film was used as an instrument of recruitment propaganda in the pre-state period. Thus, a creative analytical approach will be used to connect art to history, and medium to purpose.

Nathan Glovinsky Presentation


Janis Hoffman | UCLA - History

Title: Zionists and The Hidden Question of the Arabs: The Origins of the Conflict from 1881-1914

Panel: The Evolution of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Abstract: Was the prospective conflict between Jews and Palestinians hidden or purposely ignored by early Zionists? This paper examines Yitzhak Epstein’s 1907 article “A Hidden Question” as the lens through which to examine the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beginning in 1881 calibrated within the historical context. Epstein, a member of the first wave of immigration to Palestine in 1886 was witness to, and documenter of, the issues that plagued the first Aliya. Epstein claimed that Zionists had never addressed the question of their attitude toward the Arabs which he believed posed an imminent threat. Epstein’s prophetic article perfectly identified land as the conflict, making a current, further exploration of it very relevant. This paper analyzes the critical period of the founders through Epstein’s questions, assertions, observations and warnings and argues that the diversity of early Zionists and their ideologies was a central feature in the evolution of their actions and the subsequent conflict. With the celebration of Israel’s seventy years of independence coinciding with the relocation of the United State’s embassy to Jerusalem under President Trump as Palestinian protestors rallied and were killed, light can be shed on current mismanagement of Arab affairs by Israel if we understood the roots of these mistakes.

Janis Hoffman Presentation


Kayla Jahangiri | UCLA - Global Studies

Title: American Extremism and Foreign Pluralism: Impacts of Foreign Policy on the Israel-Palestine Conflict - PowerPoint

Panel: Israel and the World

Abstract: This paper aims to answer “is political opinion in Israel more pluralistic than in the US?” Through the discovery of this question, I additionally hope to explore what constitutes this difference and what effects it has on the region. American foreign policy opinions have become increasingly polarized and simplistic as foreign opinions have become increasingly complex and diverse. This contrast is crucial because of the consequences they have for people living in Israel, potentially impacting US aid in the region. I will explore how Americans have utilized a simplified version of the Israeli narrative to further their own agenda within the Middle East. To reveal this contrast in opinions and the effects that it has on the Israelis, I will conduct interviews in the region. Through the Olive Tree Initiative, I will meet with notable individuals such as members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, officers within the UN, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, and a colonel in the IDF. When I return to the United States, I will conduct interviews for Israeli and Palestinian political groups on Californian college campuses. This preliminary that I will find the prevailing narrative of “us versus them” in the American opinions, focusing more heavily on violence and freedom, whereas the Israeli-Palestinian narratives are more complexly constructed. I hope to fully explore not only this contrast in opinions, but the tangible impacts it has on the people living in the region.

Kayla Jahangiri Presentation


Yana Kogan | UC Santa Barbara - Global Studies

Title: Telling Time in Israel: The Construction of National Social Time - PowerPoint

Panel: The Social Construction of Israeli Identity

Abstract: Historians of the French Revolution often point out that the first thing the revolutionaries did was create a new calendar, a new system of time that would mark the beginnings of their new polity. Brumaire, Germinal, Messidor, and the others did not last very long, but this example underscores the importance of constructing times that would thrive and rule. Time cannot be divorced from state-formation, as time requires social and political adherence. Scholarship on time constructions illustrate how nations and people often live in multiple time zones. This paper explores how social and national time was constructed in the new state of Israel and how conflict over this structure has remained central to the politics of the state. The Zionist fore-fathers could have elected to simply adopt the British Mandatory system of time, structured Monday through Sunday. But then there was the Sabbath. Of course, some Zionist thinkers advocated for the adoption of the Western calendar and thought that Sunday should be the new state’s day of rest. Menachem Friedman, an accomplished scholar and historian, has described David Ben-Gurion fateful decision to attempt to accommodate the groups in his status quo agreement. In doing so, Ben-Gurion endeavored to present a unified front as the partition plan moved forward in the UN. The Sabbath would be the state’s national day of rest. But what was left unresolved is the extension of that official day of rest, as well as the differences and conflicts it may involve.

Yana Kogan Presentation


Victoria Le Berder | Sciences Po/UC Berkeley - Political Sciences & Gender and Women's Studies

Title: Palestinian-Arab Citizens of Israel: Political Position and Alternative Forms of Political Participation

Panel: The Evolution of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Abstract: This presentation studies the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel political position, as ‘second-class’ citizens in the Jewish State and their recourse towards alternative modes of political participation. It highlights the possible future tensions that may result from Palestinian-Arab citizens political marginalization. This paper leans mainly on previous political sciences’ research on the topic. Chaim Weizmann warned in 1947, "I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish state by what it will do with the Arabs." Seventy years after the Israeli State creation, Sammy Smooha defines the Jewish State’s political structures as an ethnic democracy system, in which de facto Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel remain second-class citizens. Their participation in the traditional political system of representation; through the act of voting and having representatives at the Knesset, does not lead to significant social, economic and political gains. As a result, Palestinian-Arab citizens have recourse and favor alternative forms of political participation. The presentation will focus on two of them; the local level and the NGO’s. Finally, the Arab-Palestinian citizens' political marginalization is conflicting with the democratic Israeli ideal. It constitutes a source for current and future political tensions.


Alissa Lioznova | UCLA - Economics

Title: Impacts of Globalization on Israeli Identity

Panel: The Israeli Economy and Society in the Age of Globalization

Abstract: I will be examining whether the process of globalization has made Israeli society more universalistic or particularistic. The goals of Zionism were a break with the exclusively Jewish orthodox past, and the movement emphasized Western secular and liberal attitudes. However, Israel is a unique nation by being the only Jewish state in the world, and the hostility it is facing by its surrounding neighbors leads to a sense of unity and particularism. Globalization works in the opposite direction by establishing a more connected world and the formation of universal cultural uniformity. In my examination, I will also be taking into account differences within the state by comparing the cosmopolitan, high-tech driven city of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which is a city being increasingly dominated by orthodox Jews. In order to reach a conclusion, I will be looking at the influence of globalization on Israeli ideas of citizenship and its attitudes toward its role within the international community.

Alissa Lioznova Presentation


Makayla Lopez | UCLA - Political Science

Title: The Impact of the Holocaust on Israeli Security Policy - PowerPoint

Panel: The Social Construction of Israeli Identity

Abstract: The effect of the Holocaust on the establishment of Israel has been widely debated in academic literature, but in this paper I will discuss the effect the Holocaust had specifically on security policy in the early years of the State of Israel under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. There are two schools of thought when approaching this issue; that the Holocaust had a significant impact on the security policy in that it contributed to the mindset of a siege mentality and self-reliance, or that because many Jewish people immigrated to Mandatory Palestine before the Holocaust, it had a smaller impact on security policy than other factors, such as the influence of the British Mandate Period or the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Ultimately, the research indicates there is an overemphasis on the effect of the Holocaust on Israeli security mentality-that its impact on the public sphere was greater than its influence on the leadership at the time, most likely because they did not experience the Holocaust directly. Security is central to the State of Israel, and understanding the pretext for early security policy yields important analysis on the outcomes in the period from 1948-1967 and the legacy it has had on today’s policy.

Makayla Lopez Presentation


Madeleine Powell | UCLA - International Development Studies & Political Science

Title: The Start of Start-Up Nation: 70 Years of Innovation in Israel - PowerPoint

Panel: The Israeli Economy and Society in the Age of Globalization

Abstract: In their book, “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle”, Dan Senor and Saul Singer argue that Israel’s economic success is based in “a cultural core built on a rich stew of aggressiveness and team orientation, on isolation and connectedness, and on being small and aiming big” . In fewer than 70 years, Israel has built itself into a powerhouse of innovation. Coming in tenth place on the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index, this tiny country has come to the forefront of economic development in an incredibly short period of time and is now a significant contributor to the world economy . Today, there exists a particularly interesting relationship between Israel and some European countries and institutions, specifically the European Union and Germany; both have established start-up exchange programs with Israel to collaborate and share their respective entrepreneurial spirits . Over the course of this report, I will explore the cultural characteristics that have allowed Israel to grow into “start-up nation” in seventy short years, highlight how Israel’s innovative spirit and success have sparked further economic interaction between it and international entities, and emphasize how programs such as these exchanges create an international culture of cooperation and mutual success in a way that few other forms of international interaction have the capacity to replicate.

Madeleine Powell Presentation


Victoria Wahbah | UCLA - Sociology

Title: Israel & Los Angeles County: An Evaluation of Child Welfare Systems - PowerPoint

Panel: Israel and the World

Abstract: How is it feasible for one developed country to have a superior child welfare system than another equally developed society? For ages, Israel has always had child-centric societies. This perspective is seen and amplified with the creation of the kibbutz and communal child rearing, as well as the slow, but continuous growth of government and religious programs that overall benefited children and their families. This paper examines and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Los Angeles County’s and Israel’s foster care system. It briefly looks at the Israeli and Californian laws in place for child safety, structure of the child welfare system, the reason children are entered into the system, and perhaps most importantly the conditions that lengthen the stay. The primary focus of comparison is of the similar implemented program in both societies: the Point of Engagement. The Point of Engagement system in tandem with religious perspectives are taken into account in order to rationalize the wide efficiency divide. This paper delves into the origins of each country’s respective system, as well as how and under what circumstances allowed for its development. As the number of children entering the foster system increases, it attempts to find potential solutions that can better improve the Los Angeles County system, and therefore fulfill its true goal of returning children to the care of their biological parents if possible.

Victoria Wahbah Presentation