MA in Religious and Middle Eastern Politics
Since the turn of the millennium religious ideas and identities have increasingly shaped national and international politics, especially in the Middle East. This online MA program – led by Prof. Jonathan Fox, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field – provides a unique platform for understanding the role of religion in contemporary politics.
We explore the potential of religions to unite and divide societies, to exacerbate conflict or provide frameworks for peace. Whether you are planning a career in academia, policy research, diplomacy, conflict resolution, or the clergy, or whether you simply have a passion to understand the social forces that shape our world, this program is for you.
This two-year, online MA program will provide you with a deep academic grounding in religious and Middle Eastern politics as well as in general political science. The program is taught entirely in English by leading experts.
There are approximately six hours of online teaching each week, and the program is open to students anywhere in the world.
We consider both religious politics and Middle Eastern politics important topics of study within political science. This program uniquely combines these topics, which include a broad survey of Middle Eastern politics as well as religious politics both in the Middle East and outside of the Middle East. At the same time, we provide courses that cover basic political science theory and methodology. Thus, while this course of study has a unique focus, it will also provide a broad foundation in the general discipline of political science.
Bar-Ilan University’s Political Science Department is uniquely situated to provide this course of study. Its faculty is part of a 40+ year tradition of expertise and excellence in religious and Middle Eastern politics and includes world-class researchers and instructors on these topics. The department is also home to premier research centers and projects, which focus on these issues. These include the Religion and State Project, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the Middle East’s premier national security think tank, and the Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People. Read more about this degree in this article.
Track 1: Thesis Track
- BA from an accredited university
- Grade average of 85%
- Interview with the MA Thesis Coordinator
- Fluency in English
Track 2: Standard Track
- BA from an accredited University
- Grade average of 80%
- Fluency in English
Students on track 1 will take all required courses, two elective classes, and complete a MA thesis. Students on track 2 will take all required classes and four elective classes.
Overview of Courses
- The Comparative Politics of the Middle East*
- An Introduction to Religion and Politics*
- Religion and Contemporary Political Theory
- Territorial Politics: The Case of the Israeli-Arab Conflicts
- Religion and Politics in Israel
- The Military and Politics in Israel: Theory and Practice
- Approaches and Theories in Political Science*
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods in Political Science*
- Introduction to Political Science Research Methods*
* = required class
Meet Your Professors
Prof. Jonathan Fox is the Yehuda Avner Professor of Religion and Politics in Bar-Ilan University’s Political Studies Department and director of this MA program. He is also the director of the Religion and State Project (www.religionandstate.org,) which collects and analyzes data on government religion policy in 183 countries. He is among the world’s most prolific academic authors on religion and politics, and his work includes 14 books and nearly 100 academic articles on the topic. One of his books is the most widely used textbook on religion and politics: An Introduction to Religion and Politics, Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018). These publications cover a wide variety of topics including religious conflict, government religion policy, religious minorities, and religion in international relations. His recent books include Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me: Why Governments Discriminate Against Religious Minorities (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Why Do People Discriminate Against Jews? (to be released by Oxford University Press in June 2021). Prof. Fox teaches the Introduction to Religion and Politics class in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/978.
Prof. Nahshon Perez is an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He has written extensively on religion and politics. His award-winning book (Best Book Award from the Israel Political Science Association, 2018) Women of the Wall: Navigating Religion in Sacred Sites (Oxford University Press, 2017) is the first book-length academic research to be published on this important dispute over prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, providing a detailed examination, including social, legal and Halachic (Jewish Law) aspects of the struggle of the Women of the Wall, and placing it in comparative and theoretical contexts. His book Governing the Sacred: Political Toleration in Five Contested Sacred Sites (Oxford University Press, 2020) defines and analyzes five governance models for contested sacred sites, corresponding to real life contested sites. It is the first research to offer such a systematic typology. His current book project Worldly Politics and Divine Institutions: a Casuistic Analysis of the Contemporary Entanglement of Faith and Government examines complex cases of entanglement of government and religion, including cases of discrimination conducted by governmental-funded religious associations; the governmental endorsement of religious symbols in public spaces, and others. Prof. Perez teaches the Religion in Contemporary Political Theory class in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/763.
Prof. Elisheva Rosman Stollman is an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University. She writes on a range of issues in Israeli, Middle Eastern, military, and religious politics. Her research focuses on the relationship between the military and religious soldiers including student soldiers and religious soldiers, and the media image of the Israeli soldier. This includes her book For God and Country? Religious Student-Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, (University of Texas Press and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2014). Her current research focuses on religious women in the military, religious feminism, and civilian medicine and the military. She has also received multiple awards for outstanding teaching. Prof. Rosman Stollman teaches the Civil-Military Relations in Israel: Theory and Practice seminar in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/596.
Dr. Meirav Mishali-Ram is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University. She has a wide variety of research interests including conflict, civil war, the Middle East, and South Asian studies. Her recent book Conflict Change and Persistence: The India-Pakistan and Arab-Israeli Conflicts Compared combines all of these topics and examines two of the most intractable rivalries in current world politics, focusing on transformation processes in the two rivalries, embodied in the characteristics of actors, discourses and conflictual expressions over time. Other recent work focuses on the question of what attracts Muslim foreign fighters to participate in conflicts in the Middle East. Dr. Mishali-Ram teaches the Approaches and Theories in Political Science class in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/582.
Dr. Ariel Zellman (PhD Northwestern University) is a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He researches a wide variety of topics including national identity and conflict in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia, white nationalism and American Congressional politics, and the role of religion in international and intrastate conflict. He has published in top-tier journals including the Journal of Peace Research, East European Politics, Politics and Religion, Security Studies, and Territory Politics Governance. His current major projects include the longitudinal study of the influence of religion-state policy on international territorial conflict from 1816-2001 with Dr. Davis Brown, the role of sacred sites in interstate dispute militarization in the post-Cold War era with Professor Jonathan Fox, and a book manuscript examining the impact of governmental and societal discrimination on protest and insurgent mobilization by religious minority groups from 2000-2015 with Professors Jonathan Fox and Matthias Basedau. Dr. Zellman teaches the Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods in Political Science course in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/902.
Dr. Julia Elad-Strenger is a political psychologist studying the psycho-social processes that shape citizens’ political attitudes and partisan and ideological identities. Her studies focus primarily on citizens’ attitudes in the context of conflict, in particular the factors that shape their support for violence and discrimination towards national out-groups and minorities. Her studies employ a wide range of quantitative methodologies, including experiments, panel studies and large-N surveys, and focus primarily on the Middle-Eastern and Western-European contexts. Dr. Elad-Strenger teaches the Introduction to Political Science Research Methods class in this program. Link to website: https://politics.biu.ac.il/en/node/1242.
Apart from the curriculum, every student must study: One Judaism/General course if they are a Bar-Ilan University graduate, and 2 Judaism courses or general courses if they are not a university graduate.
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The School of Communication at Bar-Ilan University is one of the few academic institutions in the world to offer research and training in International Communications and Public Diplomacy. It aims to empower Israel’s future generation with the knowledge and skills necessary to advocate for Israel across the globe. As a part of the BA program, students are offered the opportunity to immerse themselves in workshops on how to effectively convey messages and build a positive public image for anyone from brands, to themselves. The workshops, offered in areas relating to New Media, Advertising, Public Relations and Broadcast Media, are instructed by individuals considered professionals in their fields.
Why Study Communication
Communication is all around us. We use it every day without even noticing; we maintain personal communications with our family and friends, we consume mass media, and we create and participate in social networks.
Communication studies are intended for those who want to influence and leave their mark on the world, who wish to take part in making tomorrow’s news — today. In order to accomplish that, one has to understand the media: Why is the same topic presently differently from one media outlet to another? What makes Google or Facebook so popular? Which medium is more influential – cinema, TV, radio, internet, or maybe the mobile phone? If you are interested in these questions – your place is with us.
Bar-Ilan University has over 30 years of experience in teaching communication, and prides itself with hundreds of B.A. and M.A. graduates. The faculty members of the School of Communication and related units are internationally renowned researchers and lecturers, with extensive experience in all fields of communication: print press, TV, radio, advertising, marketing, public relations, spokesman ship and new media.
Ample Career Opportunities
Our graduates are sought after and well established in all fields of communications, both locally and globally. Many work in advertising or public relations offices, some in radio or TV stations, others in various websites, and a significant number in the press. Many of our graduates are media consultants in government or private offices, while others have chosen to pursue an academic research and teaching career.
During the third year of studies, our BA students can already participate in our internship program, in which they intern in different media organizations such as PR offices, news websites, government offices and others. Through the program, the students gain practical experience in the field and acquire important tools which will assist them in their future careers.
Program Length: 3 Years
Language of Instruction: English
- SAT: 1100
- 3.5 High School GPA
Application Deadline: Rolling admissions