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 conjecture 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 Enlightenment in Germany. Zalman Shazar Center & Leo Beck Institute, 2016. English version forthcoming 2017.
  • “‘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
  • “God’s Chosen Lands: German Orientalism – from Judea to India”. Tel Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Geschichte (forthcoming)
  • “‘Decent Life in the Sensuous Orient’: Race and Masculinity in Early Zionist Discourse”. In: Achim Rhode (ed.), National Politics and Sexuality in Transregional Perspective (forthcoming, Ashgate)