You are here: American University College of Arts & Sciences Center for Israel Studies A Nation Torn: Recognizing the Gaps & Building Bridges in Israel’s Society

A Nation Torn: Recognizing the Gaps & Building Bridges in Israel’s SocietySeptember 10-11, 2023

At AU's Constitution Hall
3501 Nebraska Ave. NW, Washington, DC

Jump to Schedule details below.

See Visiting Campus for parking, public transportation, and more.

Conference Overview

Israeli society is a mosaic of ethnic, religious, and political groups, each with its own characteristics and history; historically, the various groups have not always had much interaction — today they seem to be moving even further away from one another. This can be seen with the rift over the judicial overhaul plan, resulting in street demonstrations that have been going on for months every Saturday night attracting hundreds of thousands.

  • How is the political system contributing to these divisions?
  • What efforts can be undertaken to bridge the growing divides between secular and religious, between Jews and Arabs, and between numerous ethnic groups in the society, including Mizrahi and Ethiopian Israelis?

Please join us as we bring together scholars, writers, and activists who are analyzing the gaps in Israeli society and are working to build bridges across these divides that at times seem insurmountable.


September 10

6:00-7:30 PM
Welcome: Michael Brenner (American University)
Opening Panel: “Recognizing the Gaps in Israeli Society
Ruth Calderon (former Knesset member and founder of ALMA Center)
Mohammad Darawshe (Givat Haviva)
Zvi Ben-Dor Benite (NYU)
Moderator: Guy Ziv (American University)

September 11

8:45-9:15 AM
9:15-10:45 AM
Welcome: Linda Aldoory
(Dean, American University, College of Arts and Sciences)
Panel 1: Secular/Religious Divide
Gilad Malach (Israel Democracy Institute)
Dan Ben-David (Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research)
Alexander Kaye (Brandeis University)
Respondent: Ruth Calderon
Moderator: Michael Brenner (American University)
10:45-11:15 AM
Coffee Break
11:15 AM-12:45 PM
Panel 2: “Arab-Jewish Divide”
Rebecca Bardach (Social change activist)
Ayala Hendin (Washington University, St. Louis)
Raghad Jaraisy (Sikkuy-Aufoq)
Respondent: Mohammad Darawshe (Givat Haviva)
Moderator: Lauren Strauss (American University)
12:45-1:30 PM
Boxed Lunch
1:30-2:15 PM
“Divisions in Israeli Society and the Current Political Crisis” 
Dana Blander (Israel Democracy Institute)  
Moderator: Laura Cutler (American University)
2:30-4:00 PM
Panel 3: “Ethnic Divisions among Israel’s Jewish Society”
Efrat Yerday (American University)
Hillel Cohen (Hebrew University)
Yuval Evri (Brandeis University)
Respondent: Zvi Ben-Dor Benite (New York University)
Moderator: Erez Naaman (American University)
4:15-5:30 PM
Speaker reception/discussion with students (Students only)

Ruth CalderonRuth Calderon

Mohammad DarawsheMohammad Darawshe

Zvi Ben-Dor BeniteZvi Ben-Dor Benite

Dr. Dana BlanderDana Blander


We gratefully acknowledge the support of Amy and Alan Meltzer and June and David Trone that made this conference possible.