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Great Moments of Leadership in Israeli History: How Words Shape(d) the Jewish Nation

What does it mean to be a leader, and how can their words make a real impact on history? In this seminar, we will explore leadership through the great speeches that shaped and sustained the Jewish state during its formative years. Each class session will focus on a single speech that meets the highest standards for greatness: the speaker was a prominent figure addressing a crucial challenge, the speech was powerful in its arguments and persuasive in its rhetoric, and the speech had a real impact by shaping the thoughts and actions of its listeners (and readers). 

Together, we’ll explore the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,” a foundational document that was read aloud by David Ben-Gurion to a live audience and that reverberated within Israel and around the world. From there we move to the inspiring “independence oration” delivered by Menachem Begin, leader of the right-wing Irgun, on the night of May 15, 1948, only hours after armies from five Arab countries had begun an attack aimed at destroying the new-born nation.

 The final two sessions are devoted to a pair of speeches given in June 1967, during and after the Six-Day War. Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s remarks to the UN Security Council on June 6 laid out the justification for Israel’s pre-emptive attack and has shaped the post-war diplomacy that is continuing through today. Yitzhak Rabin, the victorious Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, delivered an address describing the army’s success as resting on the foundation of its values. In the concluding session, we will also seek to tie together all the speeches to gain a broader understanding of how Israel faced some of its greatest challenges and to appreciate the power of oratory delivered by great leaders.

Students will emerge from the seminar with a greater understanding of key moments of leadership in Israeli history. We’ll also explore what is necessary for future leaders in the 21st century to guide Jews at critical moments.

Exact dates TBD

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