Prof. Rosenfeld Ben Zion [Emeritus]
Prof. Ben-Zion Rosenfeld
Department of Jewish History
Faculty of Jewish Studies
Ramat Gan 52900
1. Personal details:
Name: Ben-Zion Rosenfeld
Date of birth: September 20, 1948
Place of birth: Israel
Marital status: Married + 5 children.
2. Academic education:
BA: Jewish History and Talmud (both as major subjects), Bar-Ilan University 1971-1974.
MA: Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University 1974-1977.
Ph.D: Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University 1977-1982.
Title of doctoral dissertation: Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, His Life and Public Work.
Supervisor: Prof. Moshe Beer.
3. Areas of Academic Specialization:
Jewish History during the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud period, parallel to the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods as well as Classical Studies, the history of the Classical World and Graeco-Roman Culture, and the History and Culture of the Christian World.
4. Permanent position:
Department of Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, since 1975.
Tenure, since 1987. Professor since 2002. Full Professor, 2010.
5. Other professional experience:
- Director of the Center for the Study of Eretz Israel and its Settlement, jointly affiliated with Bar-Ilan University and Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 1986-1995. This included organization of several conferences. At the same time, member of the extended committee of Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
- External reader of many articles and professional literature, dissertations and thesis proposals for graduate degrees in various institutions, including Bar-Ilan University.
- Participated in many professional scientific committees in Bar-Ilan University and other academic forums, including committees organizing conferences and congresses.
- Chair of the writing team for the Open University course “The World of the Sages”.
- Academic consultant on literary and educational projects at the Ministry of Education, and at various colleges in Israel.
- In 2003 I took a sabbatical at Yeshiva University in New York. There I taught a two semester course in education and administration at the graduate school, which was open to masters and doctoral students. I also served as an advisor to research students and assisted in numerous additional academic areas.
- During the second semester of 2007, I went on sabbatical with the intention of accepting an invitation to serve as a visiting professor-research fellow at the department of Jewish studies of the University of London. I was also to be appointed to the international research committee of the faculty. In the end, however, I chose to forego this appointment after I was asked to take upom myself the chairmanship of Bar-Ilan's Department of Jewish History, the position that I hold until today.
- Chair of the Department of Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University, 2007-2011
6. Additional information:
I have filled other positions in Bar-Ilan University and elsewhere such as:
1.Chair of the Committee for Relations with Educational Institutions of Bar-Ilan University, 1987-1994.
2.Member of Bar-Ilan University’s Admission Committee, 1989-1994.
3.Member of other committees in Bar-Ilan University, including Public Relations Committee, Absorption Committee.
4.Member of committees of public and governmental bodies.
8. Organization of Scientific Conferences:
1.1986 – Land of Israel in Medieval Jewish Thought (in collaboration with the equivalent center at the Hebrew University).
2.1988 – The Religious Companies in the War of Independence, on the State’s 40th anniversary (in collaboration with the Institute for Religious Zionism).
3.1990 – The Dead and the Living, Burial Customs in the Ancient World.
4.1991 – The Hassidic Movement and its Attitude towards Eretz Israel in the First Decades of its Existence.
5.1991 – The Purchasing of Land in Eretz Israel – on the 50th anniversary of the Jewish National Fund (in collaboration with the Geography Dept. at Bar-Ilan University and the JNF).
6.1992 – Town and Village in the Ancient World (the Annual Conference of the Department of Land of Israel Studies in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Eretz Israel and its Settlement).
7.1993 – The Historian Josephus and his Works (the Annual Conference of the Department of Land of Israel Studies in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Eretz Israel and its Settlement).
8.1993 – The Third Canada Israel Conference of the Social Approaches to the Study of Judaism (I also gave a lecture that was published in JSJ, see list of publications, no. 21).
9.1994 – Security Problems in South Judea and the Desert Border Area in the Ancient Era (the Annual Conference of the Department of Land of Israel Studies in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Eretz Israel and its Settlement).
10.1995 – Innovations in the Study of the Coastal Plain (the Annual Conference of the Department of Land of Israel Studies in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Eretz Israel and its Settlement).
11.1999 – The Fourth International Conference on the Study of Jewish Names, Bar-Ilan University.
12.1996- 2002. Regular Annual Chairs – Collaboration with the Institute of Assyriology at Bar-Ilan University to bring guest lecturers from well-known foreign Universities.
13. 2006 - Bar Ilan: “Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriah: Ideology and Practice-Ten Years To His Death”.
14. 2007 - Leadership and Conflict Resolution in Judaism. Organized by: The Conflict Management and Negotiation Program, and Jewish History, Bar Ilan University.
15.As chairman of the department of Jewish History, I organized international
and intercollegiate academic conferences attended by researchers from
Universities in Israel and from abroad, and in some of them I lectured. Also,
our department is partner to other many academic conferences in relevant
2008, January. The international convention in Bar Ilan University:
Commemorating Two Hundred Years since the Aliya of the Disciples of the
Vilna Gaon to the Land of Israel (1808-2008).
16.2008, March. Inter Academic: The Sixtieth Year Since the Yemenite
Emigration to Israel: “On the Wings of Eagles”: 1948-2008.
17.2008, June. International Conference: Israelite and Jewish Identity during the Biblical and Second Temple Periods: Tribalism, Nationhood and Religion.
18. 2008, June. The Chief Rabbinate and Public Leadership in Changing Times: In the Footsteps of The “First of Zion”: Rabbi Jacob Meir.
19. 2008, June. International Conference: “Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: 200 Years to His Birth. With Rabbi S. R. Hirsch Catedra.
20.2008, December. The International conference in Bar Ilan: Historic
Inquiry into the Society and Leadership of the Jewish People in the
Second Temple, Mishna and Talmudic Periods.
21.2009, March. Inter Academic Conference: 100 Years to the Yemenite
Settlement in the Agricultural Villages.
22.2009 May. Inter Academic conference: The Etzion Block: Construction and
23.2009, June. Inter-Academic Conference: Zionism Tested By the Times:
Ideology, Vision and Reality in the Zionist Movement.
24.2009, November. In Tel Aviv University: International Conference: Italian
Judaica. Organized by: Diaspora Research Center, Jewish History-Tel Aviv
University, and Jewish History-Bar Ilan.
25.2010, April. Inter Academic Conference: History, Justice and Customs
Among Yemen Jews in the Land of Israel.
26. 2010, May. Blazing Roads – The Yeshivot and Ulpanot of Bnei Akiva.
(Commemorating 70 Years to The First Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh).
27. 2010, June. Inter-University Conference: Leadership in the Religious Zionist
Movement: In Memory of Moshe Chaim Shapirah, 40 Years to His Death.
28. 2010, December – Inter University Conference: Methods for Teaching
Historical Research” – With the School of Education of Bar Ilan University.
29. 2011, March – International conference in Bar Ilan: The Tenth International
Conference on Jewish Names.
30.2011, May – Inter University Conference in Bar Ilan: Poverty and the relation
To the poor person in Jewish Society in the Mediterranean Basin in the
Middle Ages and the beginning of New Era.
8. Lectures at Scientific Conferences ( 2000-2011):
1.2000, June Lecture at an international conference in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Conference on Biblical Economics, The Center for Rationality and Interactive, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Published as article, in JSJ, 2007.
2.2001, July. Lecture in Central Session, The section of Roman-Byzantine Period. 13th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem. “The Villages' Sages and the Social Success of the Sages in Mishnah and Talmudic Period”. Part of it was published in HUCA, 2007. Other part in my book published by Brill: Leiden, 2007.
3.2001, June. Lecture in Fourth International Congress of Jewish Names, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan. "R. Joshua b. Levi and his Wife Kyra Mega, Interpretation some Inscriptions from Beth She'arim". Published as article, in Cathedra, 114, 2004.
4.2002, July. Lecture in Conference of European Jewish Studies, Amsterdam. “Josephus and the Mishnah: Two Approaches to the Map of Palestine”. Published as article, in REJ, 2004.
5.2003, May. Lecture Yeshiva-University, New York. Colloquium of Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies: “The Court of the Sages after the Destruction of the Second Temple”.
6.2003, July. Lecture in Conference in Brandeis University, Boston: “Deeds of the Patriarchs as Symbols for Future Generations, Thoughts and Reality”.
7.2004, September. Cividale: Udine, Italy. Lecture in Conference of the Association of Italian Jewish Studies (AISG): “The Wealthy Members in Jewish Society in Roman Palestine”. Published as article in their Journal, Procorsi di storia ebraica, Materia Giudaica, vol. 8, 2005.
8.2004, May. Lecture in 14 Conference of Judaea and Samaria Studies and published in their Journal: “The Inscription of Rabbi Issi Ha-Cohen from the synagogue of Susiye”, Judea and Samaria Research Studies, 14 (2005), 167 – 182 (Hebrew).
9.2005, July. Lecture. 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem: “The title 'Rabbi' in the Land of Israel Inscriptions and the parallel title in Sages Literature”
10.2005, July. Participant in International Conference, Prague: “The Black in the Ancient World”.
11. 2006, May. Lecture: “Between Rabbi and Student: Ideology and Practice in Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriah’s Educational Conduct”. In Conference: “Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriah: Ideology and Practice-Ten Years To His Death”. Bar Ilan.
12.2006, July. Lecture in the International Conference of the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature), Edinburgh: “Inland and Sea Culture in Roman Palestine"
13.2007, March. Lecture in the International Conference 'Motar' of the Faculty of Arts, Tel Aviv University: “The Menorah as Jewish Symbol, from Dura Europos to Symbol of the State of Israel”.
14. 2007, December. Lecture: “The Theological Crisis in the Second Temple Period- As a Reference Parable for Today”. In Conference: Leadership and Conflict Resolution in Judaism. Organized by: The Conflict Management and Negotiation Program, Bar Ilan University.
15. 2008, January. The international convention in Bar Ilan University: Commemorating Two Hundred Years Since the Aliya of the Disciples of the Vilna Gaon to the Land of Israel (1808-2008), Lecture: “Hallacha, Reality, and Vision in the Rabbi Israel of Shkalov’s ‘Peat Hashulchan’”.
16. 2008, September. Participation in International Conference of AARG, Aerial Archaeology Research Group, University of Ljubliana, Dept. of Archaeolology, Ljubliana
17. 2008, December. The Inter-university convention in Bar Ilan: Historic Inquiry into the Society and Leadership of the Jewish People during the second temple period, the Mishna and Talmudic Period. Lecture: “The Influence of Babylonian Sages on the Leadership of the Yeshiva of Tiberius in the Period of the Talmud”.
18.2009, July. Lecture. 15th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem: Lecture: “Indications for the Existence of “Middling Groups” in Jewish Society in the Land of Israel in the Period of the Mishna” (with H. Perlmutter).
19. 2009, September. The International Congress in Prague Czechoslovakia: “The Maharal of Prague”. Lecture and Panel: “The Woman in the Writings of the Maharal”. “The Talmudic Background of Maharal’s Theories.”
20. 2010, May. Lecture: “The Establishment of the Yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh”. In
the Conference: “Blazing Roads – The Yeshivot and Ulpanot of Bnei Akiva”.
(Commemorating 70 Years to The First Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh),
21. 2010, June. Lecture in 20 Conference of Judaea and Samaria Studies:
"The Poor Sector in Judea in the Period of the Mishna, 70-250 CE:"
Ariel, (with H. Perlmutter). 3.6. 2010.
22. 2010, July. The International Congress of the EAJS, European
Association for Jewish Studies, Ravenna, Italy. Lecture: "The Poor
Family in Jewish Society in Roman Palestine", also, chair of session.
23. 2010, December. Lecture in 6th International Conference of the Israeli
Association for Research in Jewish Education. Challenges in Jewish Education: Cultural Vitality.
24. 2010, June, 21 Conference of Judaea and Samaria Studies: "Leadership and
Administration and in Bar Kokhbas Revolt" (with H. Perlmutter).
25. 2011, July. The International Conference of ARAM Society, Oxford.
Lecture: “Linen Trade in Roman Palestine in 3rd and 4th centuries”, Also chair of session.
- 2013, July, International Conference ARAM Society, Oxford, Oriental Institute. Lecture "The Camel Caravans from the Decapolis to the Galilee in the First centuries CE – A revolution in regional transport".
- 2013, September 26-27. Regensburg. Lecture: "Social Aspects of Editing
Ancient Texts and the Influence on Subsequent Texts", 11th International
Conference on Books and Publishing. University of Regensburg, Germany
(With: H. Perlmutter).
- 2013, December 1-2, The 54 International Conference of the Israeli Geographic Commete . Lecture " Rechov Inscription on the Gates of Roman-Byzantine Scythopolis".
- 2014, July, 15, International Conference of the JLA (The Jewish Law Association) with Antwerp University. Lecture "Halachic Decisions in the Rechob Inscription, and their Legal and Historic Ramification for Jewish Society and Rabbinic Literature".
30. 2014, July 21, 10th International Congress of EJAS (European Association for Jewish Studies), Paris, Sorbone 1. Lecture "Stages of the Compilation of the Rehob Inscription in light of Interdisciplinary Inquiry".
Fields of Research
My main research interests are the various aspects of Jewish history in the period of the Second Temple, the Mishna and the Talmud (the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods), up to the Moslem conquest.
My research methodology is based on examining the various subjects through multiple sources and disciplines and analyzing them critically by combining interdisciplinary methods. My research utilizes sources from the Jewish and general literature of the period (such as Hellenistic-Roman literature, Christian literature, etc.), geographical, archaeological and sociological information and any field that can contribute to the understanding of the subject. My research focuses especially on the complex interaction of three main elements within Jewish society with various other factors:
1. Internal – within the complex fabric of society itself.
2. With the Diaspora Jews who were a varied cultural mosaic due to their dispersal around the settled world.
3. With the surrounding non-Jewish environment and culture.
The latter is perhaps the most complicated, since it was an external factor that was not subject to, and indeed stronger than, Jewish society. The non-Jewish world surrounded the Jews in several circles: the close environment, the authorities, such as the Romans, and the general cultural human atmosphere. All these exercised a great influence upon the character and history of Jewish society, as a minority society in this context.
The focus of my research is the human being, his society and natural environment. Therefore, I have tried to understand what I consider to be phenomenological issues within Jewish society. A large portion of the sources for this period is the literature of the Sages, who claimed to be the social and spiritual elite and struggled to participate in the political leadership as well. In doing it I have studied the society of the Sages itself and its place within, and interaction with, Jewish society throughout the period.
Other social groups also serve as an important axis in my articles, my book about Lod and my future research. They are discussed in several aspects, such as: the relationship within the society, the political leadership and especially the patriarchate, institutions that developed within Jewish society such as the inn, which was alien and gradually became accepted. I have studied the various forms of dwelling in the Jewish settlements such as the Shekhunah. Common human beliefs, such as the adulations of saints and their tombs, have also been discussed. All these human social phenomena occur in the context of the environment. I have therefore extensively studied the history of settlements and regions within the Land of Israel, such as Lod, Ashkelon and the Shephela.
The spectrum of research aspects described is most extensively implemented in my book about Lod. I tried to combine all the fields of research, literary-philological, historical, the Classical and Christian sources, archaeology and sociology. All these were combined with critical analysis to describe most of the aspects of the city’s history.
A special dimension of my research can be seen in my Introduction to the Jerusalem Talmud. A first-of-its-kind research project involving interdisciplinary methods of the study of Talmudic literature with the relevant historical-sociological information has aided in the understanding of this difficult source.
An area that I have dealt with extensively is the study of the Jewish economy in the Land of Israel and its operations in the context of the Roman economic world. This research constitutes an important contribution to the study of central aspects of the Roman Mediterranean. This is the focus of my newest book, published by Brill. The study encompasses the institutions of the marketplace, commerce and economic concepts and their place in the Jewish society of the Land of Israel. I continue to investigate this wide area.
Another field of research is the study of the settlements of the Sages in the Land of Israel between 70 and 400 AD, centers and periphery. The approach in this research is historical-quantitative, along with an anthropological interpretation. The purpose is to track the geographical location of the cultural-spiritual centers where the Sages were active, to study the extent of the Sages’ activity in that period, the degree of their involvement in Jewish society in the Land of Israel, their influence on society and their internal system of connections, especially between the centers and the periphery, and also their cultural contribution and its significance.
My current and future research spreads over several other fields. For example: the attitude of the Jews to the coastal region, which was mainly Hellenistic, in the first few centuries AD. Part of this research, dealing with the attitudes towards this region that is reflected in the writings of Josephus, has been published. This research, which is being prepared in book form, extensively discusses the complex and changing Jewish approach towards the non-Jewish Hellenistic cities and the whole coastal region in that period
Another ongoing project deals with the extensive network of connections between the Jews of the Land of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple, and especially in late antiquity. The research examines the complexity of the connections and their religious-social and political implications for the formation of Jewish culture in later generations.
A special research project that I am conduction examines the attitude of Jewish society to nature and the environment. The close relationship of this culture to the agricultural world has various historical underpinnings that help understand its character from a relatively new point of view.
Finally, I have recently begun examining a very challenging area that of the relationship between the art of the Roman-Byzantine Period and the Jewish culture of the same period. My wider purpose is to examine the visual as a historical text, and to understand its social and culture background.
In all the fields of research mentioned, I make an effort to publish intermediate results that constitute a series of articles which, when read in sequence, enable the interested scholar to follow my research and its implementation.