Some Israeli researchers and politicians are critical of a decision by the Hebrew University to teach more classes in English, but administrators believe such a switch is necessary to maintain the institutions status.
The Law School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seen in a picture uploaded Oct. 25, 2018.
Albert Einstein, the greatest of Jewish scientists, came to speak at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1923, when it consisted of but a single building on Mt. Scopus and hadn’t officially opened. Einstein was to speak on the theory of relativity, and he wanted to do so in French, but some of the lecturers as well as activists for the Hebrew language protested. Einstein acceded, opened with greetings in Hebrew, and then apologized before announcing that the scientific lecture would have to be delivered in French. Ninety-five years later, a similar conflict has resurfaced at the leading university in Israel.
At various meetings and conferences, Hebrew University President Asher Cohen has said that the emphasis during his tenure would be on internationalism, on boosting student exchange programs, receiving faculty from abroad and sending Israeli faculty to universities in other countries. In conjunction with this focus, the university administration would be examining the possibility of transitioning to instruction in English for courses toward advanced degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral studies in the sciences, as well as adding one or two required courses in English for a bachelor’s degree.
Reports about such a move have drawn sharp criticism, especially on the political front, and not only from the nationalist right. To wit, Knesset member Ofer Shelach, from the centrist Yesh Atid, wrote that it is ridiculous that for the sake of international status and the desire to attract foreign students, the university would take a step to reverse 150 years of Zionism and the essence of a free people in its land. Further, he threatened that if the university failed to abandon the idea, the political establishment would have to “cause it to reverse it.”
Yaakov Haguel, deputy chairman of the World Zionist Organization, wrote in a sharply worded letter to Cohen, “The reviver of the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, would certainly turn in his grave in light of this insane decision.” In conversations with Al-Monitor, university lecturers who spoke on the condition of anonymity also called the decision into question.
One lecturer warned that it is impossible to disconnect bachelor’s degrees from advanced studies because the lecturers are the same. A switch in language would therefore marginalize those who are not fluent in English and favor those who are. According to him, it appears that the university is acting based on economic reasoning, because foreign students pay higher tuition.
Another lecturer complained that the move would disconnect the university from Israeli society. He argued that if researchers are instructed to write articles in English only, their studies will likely be geared toward foreign journals only. This would create a situation where studies in Israel would no longer touch on what’s happening in Israel, because it wouldn’t interest the editors of those journals. “Who,” he asked, “would be left to study Israeli society or Judaism?”
Another critique touches on the exclusion of students whose English-language skills are not strong. Yuval Elbashan, dean of the law school at Ono Academic College, argues, “For children of professors, who spent their sabbaticals abroad and are fluent in English, perhaps it wouldn’t make a difference, but for students who come from disadvantaged populations, language could be an insurmountable obstacle. Thus, the academy would once again become the playground of only one group in Israeli society, which is dangerous in itself.”
By disadvantaged populations, Elbashan meant students who struggle to learn English as well as ultra-Orthodox students, who hardly learn any English in their educational systems, as they do not follow the national core studies curriculum. Arab students are another vulnerable group because the level of English instruction is uneven among the schools they attend.
According to one of the lecturers, the ideological critique is the strongest. He remarked that Hebrew University was born out of the struggle for the establishment of Israel as a Hebrew state, much like the Hebrew Academy and the revival of the Hebrew language. Replacing Hebrew with English would lead to a reversal, disconnecting the academy from Israeli society and language. The lecturer also noted that the issue has a political dimension. The international emphasis comes at the expense of Israeliness and parallels a universalist approach that pushes nationalism aside.
Barak Medina, the rector of Hebrew University, told Al-Monitor that alongside a commitment to research and instruction in Hebrew, the university administration recognizes the importance of advancing the international standing of the university, and that in order to do so it is necessary to increase the number of excellent foreign students and to continue receiving leading faculty from abroad.
According to Medina, studies for a bachelor’s degree will by and large continue to be taught in Hebrew. Certain courses in the social studies and humanities that do not have a significant local component are already taught in English, and the university plans to add a few more courses in English to these. At the same time, instruction for master’s degree studies in the exact sciences will mostly be in English, Medina said. This is already the case in agriculture studies and the dentistry schools and will be applied to the rest of the natural sciences.
The university’s position stems from the fact that in the global academic environment, Hebrew, like most other languages, is nearly irrelevant except in specific fields — in the case of Hebrew, in Bible, Talmud and Israel studies. For Hebrew University to maintain its position as the top-ranked institution in Israel and one of the best in the world, as per the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, Israeli researchers must retain their prominence in research internationally, not only in Israel. This is the only way to draw top researchers to Israel and to enrich the Israeli academy.
Hebrew University also competes with other institutions in Israel, like the Weitzman Institute for Science, which grants advanced degrees and instructs primarily in English. Even today, in most Israeli labs involved in the natural sciences, research is conducted in English. These labs attract doctoral students and researchers from abroad to conduct postdoctoral research.
Most prominent universities in Scandinavia, Belgium and Holland teach primarily in English, and this has contributed to the broad presence of researchers from these countries in all fields of academic research, where English is the common, professional language. France is an exception in not adopting English for higher education and academic research, and according to advocates for switching to English, the status of French scientists has declined over time, especially in the social sciences.
The question is whether Israelis want to be separatist, like the French, or internationalist, like the northern Europeans, and whether national pride in Hebrew is more important than the level of research at Hebrew University. Maybe Einstein took the best approach when he began his speech in Hebrew, and when he got to the theory of relativity, switched to the then-common scientific language, French. That is, adopt English where it is necessary as an international language for study and research but continue to use Hebrew as the primary language in all other courses and programs of study.
The University of Cape Town campus. Photo: Adrian Frith via Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Cape Town, the top-ranking academic institution in Africa, is set to consider enforcing an academic boycott against Israel later this month.
The UCT Senate, a decision-making body comprised primarily of professors and administrators, endorsed a proposal on March 15 to bar the university from entering into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions that operate “in the occupied Palestinian territories,” or otherwise enable “gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the university said in a statement.
The campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org – Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“For the sake of My servant Yaakov, Yisrael My chosen one, I call you by name, I hail you by title, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Many have seen similarities between the Biblical King Cyrus and President Donald Trump. (Breaking Israel News)
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
Many are claiming this was a pre-election gift to Trump’s friend, Netanyahu, but it others see a much larger significance that transcends politics and enters into the realm of the Biblical. One such belief was expressed by Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who noted that the announcement came on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)
If there was ever a quintessentially Jewish holiday, it’s Purim, when the Jewish people were threatened by Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and saved by God’s hidden hand. Even so, we find examples of people from the Nations being inspired by the story of Purim and even gathering to mark the day alongside the Jewish people.
Protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags shout anti-Israel slogans during a demonstration in Amsterdam June 4, 2010. Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which cal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch chief rabbi during his eulogy at a vigil for Muslims killed in New Zealand.
The incident Sunday happened as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was discussing the meaning of a minute of silence at the gathering at the Dam Square World War II memorial monument. Thousands of people, many of them Muslims, gathered at the square to commemorate the 49 people slain Friday by a far-right killer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The US administration says it will publish its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the general elections in Israel on April 9
There is a difference between an “honest broker” and a “neutral arbiter.” In advance of the rollout of its Middle East peace plan, the Trump administration has taken a series of steps to ensure its role as the honest broker. The U.S. is not “neutral” between our ally, Israel, and the Palestinians who seek to replace it. But it won’t be easy to change presumptions that are deeply embedded in the
When the FBI informs us that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday.
Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria.
According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria.
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.