This course explores Israeli culture and society, past and present, through the medium of popular music. Students will learn about Israel’s social history and the rich cultural diversity of its population. They will develop broadly applicable critical thinking skills through analyzing pop music and its lyrics. In the process, students will gain a deeper appreciation of contemporary Israeliness and of the relationship between pop music as an artistic genre and the cultures within which it emerges.

Note: This course focuses on music created in Israel/Palestine. A substantial majority of the music we will examine was written by and for Jews. Palestinians tend not to listen to popular music created in Israel by fellow Palestinians, preferring instead to listen to Arabic popular music produced in neighboring countries such as Egypt and Lebanon. (Jews and Palestinians alike also listen to Euro-American popular music, primarily in English.)

This course presumes no background knowledge about Israel, Jewishness, or the Hebrew language. Students with prior knowledge of Hebrew are welcome to participate in a supplemental session (for a fourth credit) in which we will work through song lyrics in the original.

Note: I reserve the right to modify assignments as the course proceeds to better address your collective learning needs.

Course expectations

We will meet three days a week throughout the January term. Each morning session will be a seminar-style discussion of the assigned music and related readings, focused on helping you develop your critical thinking skills. The afternoon sessions will be run in more of a lecture style, with the goal of providing background information that will help you to better understand the readings and music within their sociocultural contexts. Consistent attendance, thorough preparation, and active participation are crucial in order for you to accomplish the course learning goals.

In general, we will meet Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 10:30-11:45 and 1:30-2:45.  Please note the following exceptions:

  • I reserve the right to reschedule classes in response to inclement weather, most likely to a Wednesday or to Jan. 28.
  • On Wednesday, Jan. 27, we will meet 10:30-11:45 and 1:30-2:45. We will not meet on Thursday, Jan. 28, unless necessary due to snow cancellations.

Four weekly essays will measure your command of the specific knowledge and skill sets being taught in this course along with the general skill sets associated with a liberal arts education. Engaging in acts of academic dishonesty is antithetical to this goal, and for that reason any student guilty of such acts may automatically fail the course. If you are in doubt as to whether an act crosses the line into academic dishonesty, speak with me, another member of the faculty, or a librarian.


Your grade for the course will be computed as follows:

  • Essays 1-3 are each worth roughly 20% of your grade.
  • Essay 4 is worth roughly 30%.
  • Preparation and participation is worth roughly 10%, and also serves as the tiebreaker when the mathematical average falls in between two grades (as it often does).

Grading in the humanities is not an exact science. My goal is to be fair in evaluating your work, open about the reasons for the grades I give, and available to help you improve your work over the course of the term. I am happy to schedule in-person meetings or phone conversations at any mutually convenient time throughout the term. I will weight later essays more heavily if they demonstrate substantial improvement.

I reserve the right to fail students who miss more than four class sessions, counting the morning and the afternoon as two sessions.

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