Democracy and Security in Israel

470.762.91 Democracy and Security in Israel

Democracy and Security in Israel


This course would seek to understand the nature of democracy in Israel and would be of interest to students in the multiple programs at the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies as we intend to examine Israeli democracy in the context of both its security dilemmas as well as within the context of its domestic institutions and history.  Alumni and students outside the Government Program are also welcome to register for the class.

Course Description

The influence of the security circumstances of Israel and its point of departure as a nation for democracy in Israel will be the focus of this class.  The exigencies of war put tremendous pressure on liberal-democratic ideals and institutions, and very few democracies have endured such long-term conflict as Israel has.   How has Israel managed to combine security with liberty without sacrificing one to the other?  How might Israel democracy better serve its multi-ethnic constituencies?  What is it about the nature of Israel’s institutions, its history, and its culture that enables it to persevere as a liberal democracy? With authoritarianism on the rise in the world – will Israel be able to resist it?   We have planned a variety of units to look at these facets of Israeli democracy – its strengths, challenges, and vulnerabilities.

Democracy and Security in Israel

Course Outcomes

The objectives of the class are to understand the security and political challenges of democracy in Israel as well as use Israel as a comparative example to better understand democracy as such.  By visiting Israel and hearing firsthand a variety of perspectives on the state of Israeli democracy and its relations with its Arab neighbors, students will appreciate the state of democracy in a region of the world where few democracies have flourished.  Lessons learned may apply to how other democracies, including the United States, can approach political challenges and opportunities.   This course fulfills two of the MA in Government’s concentrations: the Concentration in Security Studies and the Concentration in Democracy Studies and Governance.


Course Structure

There will be four parts to this class:

  • An introduction and orientation to the class in Washington, DC, and via Zoom in mid-December (this will be recorded).
  • Three lectures in Washington, DC, in December and January, that students may access in person or via Zoom (all lectures will be recorded).
  • The in-country portion of the class which takes place from January 10 to January 18 in Israel.
  • A final paper (15 to 18 pages) addressing one of the key themes of the class on Israeli democracy.

Democracy and Security in Israel

Course Themes

  • Democracy in Wartime: In order to appreciate Israel’s experience, the students will first become acquainted with some of the classic texts on democracy in wartime. In The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides famously describes the impact that the war had on Athenian democracy; how it was “a savage schoolmaster that brings the characters of most people down to the level of their current circumstances.” How has Israel handled the “circumstances” of its constant security threats?  What is the lasting impact of the 1967 War on Israeli security and democracy? Adam Wolfson, JHU Adjunct Faculty and Dr. Michael Kochin, of Tel Aviv University, will address some of these questions.
  • Zionism and Democracy: The class will spend time examining the founding spirit of Israel in Zionism and discuss contemporary concerns about the compatibility of Zionism with a multi-ethnic democracy. Eyal Chowers of Tel Aviv University will address this question.
  • Israel Democracy – The Knesset: We will study the way that Israeli democracy actually works as a multiparty parliamentary system. We will be hosted by a member of the Knesset and spend time learning about Israeli politics first hand. We will also have guided tours and lectures from resident scholars at both the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the Yitzhak Rabin Center.
  • Israeli Innovation: We will explore the relationship in Israel between its democratic institutions and its economic system: Just as we will ask why Israel’s democracy has flourished under the constant threat of war, so too we will ask how Israel has become a leader in high-tech innovation notwithstanding the many security threats. How have security threats in particular spurred Israel on to become the second leading patent holder per capita (next to the US)? Professor Eviatar Matania of Tel Aviv University will lead a discussion on technology, cybersecurity in Israel.
  • Israel and the US Alliance: The United States has been Israel’s most steadfast ally.  Why is this the case? How long will this last, given some of the political shifts we are seeing? Benjy Krasna, of the Israeli Embassy, will speak about some of these issues in Washington, DC.
  • Two state solution and Democracy: One cannot understand Israeli democracy without engaging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We will invite speakers to address this issue from a variety of angles to offer students a broad perspective.  Arab and Israeli journalists and practitioners who have covered or worked in peace negotiations will discuss this important issue, including former Middle East Envoy, Dennis Ross. In Israel, we will hear multiple perspectives from both Israeli and Arab speakers.

Readings and Assignments

  • Readings will be available and distributed at the beginning of December
  • Class Participation, Readings, Attendance: 70% of the final grade
  • Final Paper: 30% of the final grade

Academic Honesty

It is expected that all wording and ideas presented in any written work handed in for this class are your own, unless you have explicitly credited your source/s. It is also assumed that any work turned in for this class was composed exclusively for this class. Please refer to the Johns Hopkins University Ethics Statement, which asserts that “The strength of the university depends on academic and personal integrity. In this course, you must be honest and truthful.  Ethical violations include cheating on exams, plagiarism, reuse of assignments, improper use of the Internet and electronic devices, unauthorized collaboration, alteration of graded assignments, forgery and falsification, lying, facilitating academic dishonesty, and unfair competition. Report any violations you witness to the instructor.”

Democracy and Security in Israel

Draft Course Schedule

Some events may change or be added, etc

  • Friday, January 10
    Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv
  • Day 1: Saturday, January 11
    Depart for Dead Sea/Masada
    Orientation and Lunch Dead Sea
    Dinner Tel Aviv
  • Day 2: Sunday, January 12
    Lecture on Israeli Border Security
    Tour Golan Heights and artillery base 1973 War Memorial and Lebanese Border
    Tour Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa
  • Day 3: Monday, January 13
    Tel Aviv University:
    Lecture on by Eviatar Matania on “Technology and Cyber Security in Israel”
    Lecture by Dr. Michael Kochin on “Israel and the US Alliance”
    Lecture by Eyal Chowers on “Zionist Political Thought”
    Tel Aviv Carmel Market
  • Day 4: Tuesday, January 14
    Tour and lecture by resident scholar at Yitzhak Rabin Center
    Tour of the Sea of Galilee and Nazereth
  • Day 5: Wednesday, January 15
    JHU Day at the Knesset with a member of the Knesset (host to be determined after September elections)
    Tour Old City of David
    Sound and Light Show at the Tower of David
  • Day 6: Thursday, January 16
    Panel on Israel-Palestinian Two-State Solution by Israeli and Arab Journalists/Thought Leaders
    Guided Tour of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center
    Bachana Ehuda Suk (shopping, dinner, nightlife)
  • Day 7: Friday, January 17
    Guided Tour Yad Vashem
    Walking Tour of the Old City including the Western Wall Tunnel
  • Day 8: Saturday, January 18
    Mount Olives and Garden of Gethsemane
    Walk the Via Delarosa
    Wrap up Session
    Depart for Airport

Course Tuition and Costs

  • Tuition: $4,111.00
  • Trip Fee: $4,100.00
    Dan Panorama Tel Aviv January 10-14, 2020 (double accommodation)
    Dan Panorama Jerusalem January 14-19, 2020 (double accommodation)
    Meals: Breakfast daily, 3 dinners, 7 lunches
    Assistance upon arrival and departure at Ben-Gurion Airport
    8 days bus, 8 days tour guide
    Entrance fees
  • Travel Costs: Will vary.

Transportation from student home to Israel is student responsibility but we will all take the same flight to Tel Aviv out of Washington, DC, so we can have transportation together to the hotel. More details to follow.


Registration for the course will open on September 6 and close on October 15. Students will register for this course in SIS. Payment of Tuition and Course Fee is due at the time of registration. If a student decides to drop this course before October 15, $500 of the fee is non-refundable and also the course fee is non-refundable, regardless of a student’s payment method (financial aid, employer assistance, tuition remission, etc.). Please note: This course does not follow the regular tuition refund schedule and all tuition and fees for the course are non-refundable after the course closes on October 15.

The course needs 10 people to run. Refunds will be made if not enough people register to run the course. Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Do not purchase travel or make other investments in your trip until you hear from Dr. Dorothea Wolfson that there are enough participants to run the course. This will be determined by October 15 or possibly earlier.

Student Emergency Contact Information

Students must update their emergency contact information in SIS by following these instructions:

  1. Log in to
  2. Hover over the “Personal Information” tab
  3. Select “Emergency Contact”
  4. Complete “Emergency Contact” information

Important Forms for the Course

Note: For the International Travel Registry, you will need to log-in using your JHED ID. Click on the “My Travel Profile” in the upper left-hand corner. Please complete the “My Travel Profile” form in its entirety.

These forms all need to be completed by October 15, 2019

Each student must have a valid, signed, US passport, one that has an expiration date that is at least 6 months beyond the date of arrival in Israel carried on their person, in order to enter and leave the country.

Note: Emergency Contact Information in Israel will be provided before departure.