Overview of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)
Co-directed by Prof. Aren M. Maeir (BIU) and Prof. Angelika Berlejung (University of Leipzig)
The cultures of Israel and of Aram are two of the most important cultures of the ancient eastern Mediterranean (and the ancient world in general), not only in the fact that they played crucial roles during early periods (and are extensively portrayed in the biblical text), but as they are among the few cultures of antiquity (not only in the Levant but in the entire world) whose cultural patrimony exists until today. As it is clear that these two cultures were intimately connected throughout major periods of their development, the study of the character and extent of the interconnections and mutual influences between these two cultures is of deep interest.
To this end, the Minerva Foundation, of the German Max Planck Society, has awarded a Minerva Center, entitled “The Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)” to Prof. Aren M. Maeir of Bar-Ilan University and Prof. Angelika Berlejung from the University of Leipzig (who will serve as co-directors of the center). The center will include scholars from Bar-Ilan University (Prof. Esti Eshel, Dr. Yigal Levin and Dr. Leeor Gottlieb), the University of Leipzig (Prof. Andreas Schuele, Prof. Michael Streck, Prof. Marco Frenschkowski and Dr. Takaoshi Oshima), Würzburg University (Prof. Guenther Vittmann), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Dr. Nili Wazana and Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen) and Tel Aviv University (Dr. Omer Sergi).
The center’s primary objective is to conduct joint research on the character of Aramean-Israelite relations during the biblical period (Iron Age and Persian Period). This said, we envision the center dealing with broader issues as well, such as relations between Israel and Aram in later periods (classical periods up until Late Antiquity), but also relating to Aramean communities and traditions of contemporary times.
In the background of these research objectives is our wish to study, from a broad range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, whether concepts and constructs of “autonomy” and “autonomous decision making” can be utilized in historical research in general, and in particular for the explanation for socio-political connections and relations in Ancient Periods. The focus of our researches on the relations between Aram and Israel will function as case studies for this.
Inter alia, we will study the character and mechanisms behind the relations between these two important biblical cultures, with a strong emphasis on what was the nature of these relations? How did decision making take place and how was it communicated? How can we describe the interplay between autonomy and dependency? We plan to interface this study not only with archaeology, history, philology, textual and biblical studies – but input perspectives and ideas from a wide variety of other fields (such as social theory, socio-linguistics, international relations, law, psychology, philosophy, etc.).
We intend that the center’s activities foster a deeper understanding of the connections between these two cultures over a broad range of periods, and lay the foundations for a broad range of topics of study. We also wish to perhaps contribute, in a meaningful way as possible – even if only through scholarly discussion of relevant issues, to the preservation of contemporary Aramean cultural heritage, which is under duress in the contemporary Near East. In addition, the connections that will be fostered between scholars in Israeli, German and other institutions, as well as between Israelis and members of other contemporary Near Eastern communities will be of importance – both on a scholarly and contemporary level.
The center is currently funded for 6 years, in which a series of conferences, meetings, workshops, student mentorships, and various joint Israeli-German meetings and activities will be carried out, both on the senior/researcher level, as well as between students from both countries. These meetings will be held both in Israel and Germany. While center’s main activities will be at BIU and Leipzig and with the participation of BIU and Leipzig University faculty and students, scholars and students from other institutions in Israel and Germany, as well as from other parts of the world, will join in on the center’s activities at various stages. The results of these meetings as well as of the related research will be published regularly, in dedicated monographs and research articles. The proceedings of a preparatory meeting of the group, which was held in Leipzig in the winter of 2014 is currently in preparation (to be published in the LAOS series of Harrassowitz). The possibility of publishing an online journal dedicated to center activities and related issues is now being explored.
The following institutions are currently involved in the center’s activities, and we invite other institutions to join us as well:
- Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University
- The Zalman Shamir Bible Department, Bar-Ilan University
- The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Bar-Ilan University
- Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath
- Institut für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Universität Leipzig
- Altorientalisches Institut, Universität Leipzig
- Forschungsstelle Judentum, Universität Leipzig
- Institut für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft an der Theologischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig
- Lehrstuhl für Ägyptologie und Lehrstuhl für altägyptische Kulturgeschichte in ptolemäisch-römischer Zeit, Institut für Altertumswissenschaften, Würzburg University
- Bible Department, Hebrew University
- Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University
- Tel Abel Beth Ma’acah Excavations
- Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
- University of Helsinki Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions Project
- Universität Konstanz NISIBIN Aramäische Studien
As part of the center’s activities, several stipends are being offered for doctoral studies at BIU, in topics related to the fields covered by the center, to be carried out in one of the following departments: Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Jewish History, and Bible (according to the topic to be researched, the advisor, and previous studies). The stipends are meant for students who will commence their doctoral studies in the 2015/2016 academic year (beginning in October 2015). The stipend will be to the sum of 4000 NIS per month for 4 years, as well as a full exemption from tuition. The grantees will commit to not work in other jobs, and to complete their PhD within 4 years (in certain cases, an extension of one year will be permitted). In addition, the grantees will be required to participate in the center’s activities, including workshops and conferences, in Israel and abroad.
Students will deal with topics in the following fields:
- Archaeology of Israel and Aram
- History of Israel and Aram
- The Bible and its Aramaic Translations
- Hebrew and Aramaic Epigraphy
- Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic Language
- Second Temple Period Literature (Hebrew and Aramaic)
The first group of stipend applicants have already been chosen and in the coming years, we hope to offer several additional such stipends.