October 2015 , No.3 


Ein Gedi Retreat- October 2015


On the 13th-14th October, the Center held a retreat at Ein Gedi. The purpose was to spend some time together away from the usual hustle and bustle learning more about each other's research and how it fits in with the central aims of the project and to brainstorm about the future directions and activities of the Center. Given the relatively large number of new members of the Center as we enter our third academic year, it was also an opportunity to get to know everyone. Each of the 25 participants presented one aspect of her / his work with time for questions and discussion. Though each person was given 20 minutes, it soon became clear that we were not going to be able to stick to the schedule as the discussion became animated and involved. 
In the evening, we had a musical interlude with Mani Gal, a member of Kibbutz Ein Gedi and the next morning, before getting down to work, we hiked into Nahal David to the waterfall and went to visit the ancient synagogue. 
The Retreat reinforced what we already knew – we have gathered together a wonderful group of scholars who have much to contribute on the subject of conversion and inter-religious encounters. It is going to be a very interesting year!




Convert of the Month


St. Pelagia – A Transvestite Convert
Pelagia was a beautiful harlot who lived in Antioch probably at the end of the fourth century.
Her story, one of the most fascinating in Christian hagiography, originated in the early fifth century and was extremely popular throughout the Middle Ages in all of Christendom. She converted after hearing a sermon by the bishop-monk Nonnos, who portrayed the judgment awaiting those who do evil and the hope reserved for the pious. Her conversion was sudden and dramatic. She distributed her great wealth among the poor and on the eighth day after her baptism left the city for Jerusalem, dressed in coarse masculine garb that she received from Bishop Nonnos. There she lived for three years as the eunuch hermit "Pelagius" in a doorless cell on the Mount of Olives. Only after her death did it become known that "Pelagius" had actually been a woman, the repentant Pelagia. She was buried in the small cell where she lived. Her tomb on the Mount of Olives, known to this day, is first recorded by an anonymous Italian pilgrim around 570: “On the summit of the mountain we saw many remarkable things, including the cell where Saint Pelagia lived the enclosed life, and lies buried.” Pelagia’s tale was well known in both East and West. Her saint’s day was celebrated on October 8.
The strength of the story lies in the radical transition it presented from the depths of sin to the peak of grace and mercy. This transition changed her body, previously vulnerable to sin, into an impregnable fortress. Cross-dressing is represented as an external manifestation of repentance and conversion, and is interpreted as rebirth in a new identity. Pelagia adopted an androgynous ideal, thus defusing the threat of female temptation prevalent in the ascetic environment of early monasticism. Her pilgrimage to Jerusalem is portrayed as a stage in her overall transformation and as its symbolic representation. Pelagia's true identity is revealed only after her death, and only then, as a woman rediscovered, does she become a saint.
Ora Limor


Prof. Chaim Hames, head of the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters (I-CORE), has been asked by the Research Council of Norway to join the Scientific Selection Committee for the Norwegian Centres of Excellence in the Social Sciences and Humanities. The Committee will assist the Council in choosing worthy candidates for the Centers of Excellence.
 For More Information 


An evening in honor of Daniel J Lasker's new book - The sage Simhah Isaac Lutski


Future Events




November 10, 2015
  Dr. Pawel Maciejko
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


November 24, 2015
  Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


December 8, 2015
  Dr. Yosi Yisraeli
Center for the Study of Conversion & Inter-Religious Encounters


December 22, 2015
                               Dr. Orr Scharf                                
   University of Haifa   


January 12, 2016
Prof. Elisheva Carlebach
Columbia University


International Conference



"Readings into Islamization"
January 4-7, 2016
Ben Gurion University
Details T.B.A


Faculty Activities


Amir Ashur:
Dr Amir Ashur and Dr Keren Abbou-Hershkovits, ‘Seeing is owning’, Veiling and its Implications in the Jewish Community of Medieval Cairo, Workshop: Language, Gender and Law in the Judaeo-Islamic milieu, 13–15 July 2015, Cambridge University Library
Medical Recipe by Maimonides from Medieval Egypt (together with Prof. Efraim Lev, Haifa University), Knowledge Transfer and Cultural Exchanges: II CHAM International Conference, FCSH/Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 15-18 July 2015


Daniel J. Lasker:
“Why did Jews Write Anti-Christian Polemics”, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, October 14, 2015


Keren Abbou-Hershkovits:
Dr Keren Abbou-Hershkovits and Dr Amir Ashur, 'Seeing is owning’, Veiling and its Implications in the Jewish Community of Medieval Cairo, Workshop: Language, Gender and Law in the Judaeo-Islamic milieu, 13–15 July 2015, Cambridge University Library
Public lecture on You Tube (in Hebrew)


Nadia Zeldes:
“The Account-books of the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily: a source for understanding inquisitorial strategies and practices”, for  the Simposio de Estudios Inquisitoriales: Nuevas Fronteras, Alcalá de Henares (Spain), 10-11-12 June, 2015


Uriel Simonsohn:
"A Confessional Politeia: Ecclesiastical Legal Adaptations to Caliphal Rule." Legal and Moral Challenges of Religious Resurgence, International Conferences, April, 2015, Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem

"Who is Not a Jew in the Early Islamic Period." Change and Renewal in Non-Muslim Communal Outlooks in the Classical Islamic Period, July 2015, the International Medieval Congress in Leeds


Future Events


:Alexander Van der Haven
Tel Aviv University Center for Religious and Interreligious Studies and CUPRiH, The Cambridge University Project for Religion in the Humanities, and sponsored by the Universities of Tel Aviv and Cambridge, and the Goethe University, Frankfurt. Converts as Mediators (response paper), Tel Aviv University December 13-15, 2015


Amir Ashur:
“Catalogue of Maimonides and Maimonidean related documents in the Taylor-Schechter Genizah collections in Cambridge University Library – an up-to-date report”, A conference in memory of Prof. S.D. Goitein, Ben-Zvi institute and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, November 4-5, 2015


Nadia Zeldes:
Dr Nadia Zeldes is going to participate in the coming conference of  The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) which will take place in Denver, Colorado (USA) from 21 to 24 November, 2015.
Her paper, Conversos and the Inquisition in Sicily in the Age of Carlos V, has been accepted as part of the panel of Muslims, Moriscos, and Christians: Conflictual Encounters, Conversions, and Exchange in the Early-Modern Mediterranean World chaired by Diana Galarreta-Aima. The paper was proposed following a call for papers published by the Mediterranean Seminar. 
Nadia will also participate on the 20th of November in a pre-conference meeting of select MESA members organized by Prof. Brian Catlos of Boulder University.


New Publications


:Alexander Van der Haven
"The War and Transcendental Order: Critique of Violence in Benjamin, Canetti and Daniel Paul Schreber." Tel Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Geschichte. Texturen des Krieges: Körper, Schrift und der Erste Weltkrieg43 (2015): 115-144

Heart (literature).Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception. Ed. Ed. Dale C. Allison Jr., Christine Helmer, Choon-Leong Seow a.o. Berlin/Munich/Boston: Walter de Gruyter vol. 11 (2015): 537-538


 Ayelet Harel-Shalev: 
Harel-Shalev, Ayelet., and Chen, Sarina. 2015. Democracy and Ultra-Nationalism – Normative Duality in Deeply Divided Societies. Theory and Criticism 44:9-33


Keren Abbou-Hershkovits:
Book review On Giladi, Avner. Muslim Midwives: the Craft of Birthing in the Premodern Middle East. Cambridge University Press, 2014
Blog in Haaretz (in Hebrew)
Science in Muslim World, Hippocrates discussed by Sa`id al-Andalusi, Ibn al-Shatir by Copernicus",
Social History Workshop Blog


Uriel Simonsohn:
“The Pact of 'Umar in Religious and Cultural Contexts,” Historia, 35/1 (2015)[In Hebrew]: 31-64

“Conversion, Apostasy, and Penance: The Shifting Identities of the First Generations of Muslim Converts.” In Arietta Papaconstantinnou et al (eds.), Conversion in Late Antiquity: Christianity, Islam, and Beyond, 197-218.Aldershot: Ashgate, 2015
“The Selective Memory of a Byzantine Orthodox Patriarch: A Few Remarks on the Interplay of
Narrative and Identity in the Annales of Sa'īd ibn Baṭrīq.” In Giovanni Galizia and David Shulman (eds.), Forgetting : An Interdisciplinary Conversation, 172-184. Martin Buber Society of Fellows Notebook Series; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2015