Menachem Mendel

Menachem Mendel

Menachem Mendel RSS Feed

Is the Term Palestinian Talmud Offensive

Samuel Lebens writes the following at Haaretz:

Recently, I helped establish the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism. Last month, we held an online discussion. The scholars we invited to lead the discussion provided the public with a source-sheet of Jewish texts. They had recorded their own three-way video-conference, in which they engaged in a philosophical discussion of those texts. They posted their video on Youtube and a wonderful discussion ensued. However, something about the way we advertised our discussion provoked an angry/sarcastic e-mail. These are the sources that we publicized as background material for the discussion:

• Mishna Sanhedrin 9:6
• Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 81b-82b
• Palestinian Talmud Sanhedrin 27b

Can you spot the offensive phrase? Yes, we used the P-word. We spoke of the “Palestinian Talmud.”


Talking of the Palestinian Talmud neither endorses nor denies the modern phenomenon of an Arab Palestinian National consciousness. It neither endorses nor rejects the territorial compromises that Israel would have to make to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside itself. To talk of the Palestinian Talmud is merely to use the name that academia generally uses. Academia has been using that name continuously, long before the P-word became politically charged.

I am not sure when the term “Palestinian Talmud” was first used, but here are some things that I found on Google Books.

From 1837:

Jerusalemtalmud1 1

From 1833:

Jerusalemtalmud 2

I did find a use of “Palestinian Talmud” in the Encyclopedia Americana from 1829.

The Encyclopedia Americana  Google Books

Not surprisingly, sometimes the Jerusalem/Palestinian Talmud is also referred to as the “Talmud of the Land of Israel.”

12 Responses to “Is the Term Palestinian Talmud Offensive”

  1. 1

    You also need to search for things like “Talmud of Palestine.”

    I think the salient point is that “Palestinian Talmud” definitely originated before there was any political connotation by the phrase.

    I don’t like to say things like “only a moron would find it offensive,” but, come on. Someone who doesn’t get it should be educated so that they will.

  2. 2

    Try this link.

    Anyone care to comment on the relationship of the rise of the term “Palestinian Talmud” to the history of Zionism?

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:


    Interesting question. These two places might be good starting points. I was also amazed that in the special edition of Zion about Israeli historiography there wasn’t an article on the Talmudic period.

  4. 4
    Menachem Mendel:


    I took the liberty of embedding your link in your comment.

  5. 5

    Lebens is being both deliberately provacative and disingenous. Since there are two historical variations of the term, why not simply call it the “Jerusalem Talmud”? It is more Jewish, acceptable to everyone, and authentic. Not only that, but of the people aho actually study and refer to it, the vast majority call it the Jerusalem Talmud.

    Would add also that according to Lebes, Blacks should still be called Negroes, or perhaps more on point, the Kotel should still be called “the Wailing Wall.”

  6. 6

    “Since there are two historical variations of the term, why not simply call it the “Jerusalem Talmud”? ”

    Because he was already calling it the Palestinian Talmud and it has already been called this for a very long time in academic Jewish studies. He is being asked to change because it offends people. I argue that it shouldn’t offend people.

  7. 7
    Abul Bannat:

    If modern day Palestinians want to learn the Bavli, now they find it in Arabic. See: (lifted from the talmud blog).
    When my great grandfather came to the US in the 1890’s from Yafo, he was a yiddish speaking Palestinian. Until 1948 Jews living in eretz yisrael or coming from there commonly called themselves Palestinians.

  8. 8
    Josh Kulp:

    I like to use the term in transliteration, Talmud Yerushalmi, or just Yerushalmi. I also use
    Eretz Yisraeli in place of Palestinian when describing rabbis from the area.

  9. 9

    At Ben Gurion airport a few years ago my father was asked if he ever resided in the Palestinian territories and he replied in the affirmative. He arrived for the first time in 1945. They searched his bags.

  10. 10

    “He is being asked to change because it offends people. I argue that it shouldn’t offend people.”

    I agree it shouldnt offend people. But on the same token, as i just mentioned, Blacks should not be offended by the term Negroe, Muslims by Mohahamadean, parents of Down Syndrome children by the term Mongoloid, etc. All of these terms are not nasty terms of derision, they are simply the terms by which the foregoing were once described. So they shouldnt be offensive either, and yet, they are. So we change it, either to he more precise, or to accomdoate their sensitivities. In either case Lebens should apply the same thinking to calling it the “Jerusalem Talmud.” [Plus, as mentioned, this comports better with the Hebrew, in which it is universally known as the Jerusalem Talmud.]

  11. 11

    I note also that I posted my elementary response on the Haaretz website you linked to, and they did not print it. But they let in a few others bashing orthodox Jews. Behold the bastion of tolerance.

  12. 12
    Abul Bannat:

    Isn’t the reason that some prefer referring to Palestinian Talmud instead of Jerusalem, is because the deliberations recorded in it took place in various academies in eretz yisrael that were, in fact, outside of Jerusalem?
    BTW, in the realm of PC, how should “Palestinian” be spelled in Hebrew? With a tet (which is closer to how it’s spelled in Arabic) or with a tav (which evokes “plishtim”)? Both are commonly used. I used to think that there may be a more ideological basis for the difference, i.e., left – tet, right tav. But now I think it’s more haphazard. Any thoughts?




Recent Posts


Sign up for an email subscribtion to this blog.

Michael Pitkowsky


Daf Yomi



Jewish Law


Law and Legal History