Emet Prize Laureates

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar


2019 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Humanities
In Field: General History

Benjamin Z. Kedar

Jury Statement

“The EMET Prize is awarded to Prof. B.Z. Kedar for the extraordinary intellectual courage he brought to historical research in Israel; for his crucial contribution to the research of the Crusader era and the Medieval Mediterranean world; for his original insights concerning interreligious and intercultural encounters in the past and in the present; for his research in comparative history; for his cultivation of the study of the Land of Israel, and for the exceptional volume of his academic work.”

C.V.

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar is today one of the world’s leading scholars of the Middle Ages in general, and the Crusades in particular, following nearly six decades as a student and professor at the Hebrew University. This standing was reflected in his selection as co-editor of The Cambridge World History’s volume 5, which covers 500–1500 CE.

Prof. Kedar’s scientific approach, which defies geographic or cultural borders, has inspired a life’s work whose intercontinental scope and interreligious breadth rendered him a leading scholar of intercultural encounters. This status was established by his book Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toward the Muslims (Princeton, 1984), in which he identified and characterized diverse attitudes toward Muslims in European, Byzantine, and Eastern Christendoms, even as  the writer’s lens travels freely between Iberia, Anatolia, and Arabia, through Damascus, Jerusalem and Cairo.

The breaching of borders that characterizes Kedar’s work was reflected already in his first book, Merchants in Crisis: Genoese and Venetian Men of Affairs and the Fourteenth-Century Depression (Yale, 1976) which was based on his PhD dissertation at Yale, and combined history, economics and psychology while showing inter alia how the economic crisis of the fourteenth century discouraged commercial risk taking.

Set against this backdrop, it is not surprising that Kedar eventually journeyed to realms as distant from each other as researching Jewish communities in the Mediterranean basin, exposing the Nazi past of Bavarian historian Karl Bosl, deciphering aerial photos, establishing the Hebrew University School of History, and initiating the book Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade (University of Texas, 2009) in which Israeli, Palestinian, European and American  scholars wrote the history of the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif.