A history of the Southern African Society for Near Eastern Studies

Towards the end of 1988, a number of academics teaching in the fields of Semitics, Judaica and Islamic Studies met in Pretoria.  Their aim was to form a distinct academic society where research in these fields could be fostered.  Although the meeting was mutually agreed upon by the participants, the then Dr. JH (Henk) Potgieter from the University of Pretoria played a leading role in organizing this event.  Other participants included: Prof. Frans Laubscher (University of the Orange Free State, which became University of the Free State); Dr. Walter Claassens (University of Stellenbosch); Prof. JA (Cobus) Naudé (Rand Afrikaans University, which became University of Johannesburg), Prof. HJ (Hendrik) Dreyer (University of South Africa) and Prof. HF (Herrie) van Rooy (Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, which became North-West University).

The result of this initial meeting was a decision to establish one inclusive academic society to unify researchers who at that time belonged to smaller societies for Jewish and Islamic Studies, or who formed part of a sub group of the Old Testament Society of South Africa. Furthermore, it was decided that an annual conference should be held where research papers could be read. A first conference was organized in 1989 where an executive committee was elected.  Prof Walter Claassen became the first chairperson.  As vehicle for the publication of conference and other research papers the University of South Africa graciously offered their publication in this field to become the mouthpiece of the newly formed society. Hence, the Journal for Semitics was created on a well-laid foundation.  The first volume of this newly-named, peer-reviewed journal appeared in 1989 and has been in publication ever since.  Prof HJ (Hendrik) Dreyer was appointed the as the first editor of the journal.