Dr. Ofri Ilany

Areas of specialization:

History, German history, History of sexuality, Intellectual history, Bible interpretation, Enlightenment


Personal website

I have completed my PhD at the Tel Aviv University School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University. My dissertation, titled In Search of the Hebrew People:  Bible and Enlightenment in the Germany, has been published at Zalman Shazar Center and Leo Beck Institute. The English version is forthcoming at Indiana University Press. The book deals with the historical study of the ancient Israelites during the Enlightenment, and discusses modern forms of biblical interpretation that emerged in the German intellectual sphere during the 18th century. As opposed to previous studies about German Biblical research, which have attempted to identify it as one of the roots of Anti-Semitism, I suggest that this type of reading confines the discussion of the reading of Old Testament in Germany. To distinguish themselves from those Enlightenment thinkers who supported secularization and defamed the Old Testament, some German thinkers tried to rehabilitate Hebrew historical myth as a source of inspiration.

My current research project, Judaism and Männerbund, examines the historical, intellectual and political relationships between the first movement for homosexual rights and the early Zionist movement. Based on a wide variety of sources by major and minor figures within the early homosexual movement and the Zionist movement, it interrogates how Zionism and homosexuality have emerged out of the same historical conjuncture in central Europe of the late nineteenth century. From 1897 until 1945, it charts the ways in which discourse about queerness came to shape the debate about Zionism and vice versa. It also demonstrates how Jewish homosexual intellectuals and leaders of Zionist youth movements appropriated prevalent theories of masculine sexuality and attempted to rehabilitate “Jewish homoeroticism”.



In Search of the Hebrew People: Bible and Nation in the German Enlightenment. Indiana University Press, 2018

Hebrew version:
In Search of the Hebrew People: Bible and Enlightenment in Germany. Zalman Shazar Center & Leo Beck Institute, 2016

Non-Academic Books

The Zone of the Monsters: Essays. Forthcoming, Babel 2021 (Hebrew)

Refereed Articles

Herr Zebaoth and the German Nation: Bible and Nationalism in the Anti-Napoleonic Wars”, Global Intellectual History 2020

“Feverish Preference: Philosemitism and its Critiques”, Zion 2020 (Hebrew)

“Singling Out: The Politics of Chosenness”, Jewish Studies Quarterly 2020 (volume 27)

“The Role of the Intellectual in the Age of Extinction”, Teoria vebikoret 2020 (Hebrew)

“God’s Chosen Lands: German Orientalism – from Judea to India”. Tel Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Geschichte, 2018

“‘An Oriental Vice’: Homosexuality in the Hebrew Press of the British Mandate Era”. Zmanin (Hebrew) 2015

“‘Is Judah indeed the Teutonic Fatherland?’ The Debate over the Hebrew Legacy at the Turn of the 18th Century”. Naharaim: Journal of German – Jewish Literature and Culture History, September 2014

“From Divine Commandment to Political Act: The Eighteenth-Century Polemic on the Extermination of the Canaanites”. Journal of the History of Ideas, July 2012

“Ziona and Teutona: The Hebrew Poetry as a Model in the Sturm und Drang Literature”. History (Hebrew), July 2012

“Troglodytes, Hottentots and Hebrews: The Old Testament and the Genesis of German Anthropology”.  Chidushim – Innovations in the Study of the History of German and and Central European Jewry (Hebrew), 2011

Articles under review 

“Worms, Ants and “Greek Love:” Benedict Friedlaender’s Theory of Sexuality”

“Political Eroticism: Sexuality and Orientalism in the British Mandate”

Chapters in Books

“Christian Images of the Jewish State: The Hebrew Republic as a Political Model in the German Protestant Enlightenment” in Moshe Sluhovsky et al. (eds.), Jews and ProtestantsFrom the Reformation to the Present (Walter De Gruyter, 2020)

“Representations of Sodomy in Early Zionist Discourse”. In: Achim Rhode et al. (eds.), National Politics and Sexuality in Transregional Perspective (Routledge, 2018)

“Homo-Semitism: Jewish Men, Greek Love and the Rise of Homosexual Identity”. In: Ulrike Brunotte et al. (eds.), Internal Outsiders – Imagined Orientals? Antisemitism, Colonialism and Modern Constructions of Jewish Identity (Ergon Verlag, 2017)

“Ruins of the First World: Biblical Post-Catastrophe Scenarios in Eighteenth-Century Thought”. In: Kay Jankrift et al. (eds.), Natur und HerrschaftAnalysen zur Physik der Macht (Walter de Gruyter, 2016)

“The Jews as Educators of Humanity – a Christian-Philosemitic Grand Narrative of Jewish Modernity?”. In: Vivian Liska and Steven Steven Aschheim (eds.), The German-Jewish Experience: Contested Interpretations and Conflicting Perceptions (Walter de Gruyter, 2015)

“Bourgeois Revolution”. In: Ariel Handel et al. (eds.), Political Lexicon (Herbrew, Hakibutz Hameuchad, 2013)

Edited Volumes

Sacred People: Bible and Nationalism in the Modern Era (with Avner Ben Amos), Carmel 2021 (Hebrew)

The Nineteenth Century: Intelectual History (with Joseph Mali), Bialik (Forthcoming, Hebrew)

Non-Academic Publications

Dozens of essays and reviews on history, philosophy and culture at Ha’aretz, Yedioth Aharonot and other magazines and periodicals