Научная статья на тему 'Oriental studies in Israel: characteristics and trends'

Oriental studies in Israel: characteristics and trends Текст научной статьи по специальности «Политологические науки»

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Ключевые слова
ISRAEL / ORIENTAL STUDIES / MIDDLE EAST / ASIA / INTERNATIONAL TRADE / FOREIGN POLICY

Аннотация научной статьи по политологическим наукам, автор научной работы — Bizyaev Anton

Oriental studies in Israel have been essential for the state since its foundation and can be characterized by certain unique features and dynamics. This article provides an overview of educational programs in the field of oriental studies by leading Israeli universities and research centers. An important characteristic of Israeli oriental studies is that the country itself is a part of the Middle East. However, Israeli researchers might face severe limitations working with Muslim countries. In addition, trends in this field in Israel are partially determined by the foreign policy of the state. Historically much of the attention was drawn to the Middle Eastern countries. Although this region is still of the highest priority contemporary educational programs demonstrate a drastic increase in the interest towards Far East, South and South East Asia studies. It corresponds with Israeli political reality as well. Today Israel shows a growing interest in strengthening its trade relations with China and India, and so Israeli oriental studies strongly reflect this tendency. It should be noticed that US reaction to these dynamics remains an open question. This might serve as a prospect for future research.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Oriental studies in Israel: characteristics and trends»

Anton Bizyaev*

ORIENTAL STUDIES IN ISRAEL: CHARACTERISTICS AND TRENDS

Abstract: Oriental studies in Israel have been essential for the state since its foundation and can be characterized by certain unique features and dynamics. This article provides an overview of educational programs in the field of oriental studies by leading Israeli universities and research centers. An important characteristic of Israeli oriental studies is that the country itself is a part of the Middle East. However, Israeli researchers might face severe limitations working with Muslim countries. In addition, trends in this field in Israel are partially determined by the foreign policy of the state. Historically much of the attention was drawn to the Middle Eastern countries. Although this region is still of the highest priority contemporary educational programs demonstrate a drastic increase in the interest towards Far East, South and South East Asia studies. It corresponds with Israeli political reality as well. Today Israel shows a growing interest in strengthening its trade relations with China and India, and so Israeli oriental studies strongly reflect this tendency. It should be noticed that US reaction to these dynamics remains an open question. This might serve as a prospect for future research.

Key words: Israel, oriental studies, Middle East, Asia, international trade, foreign policy

"Oriental studies" as a notion substantially differs in Israel from what is usually meant by the same words in European academia. The reason is that Israel itself is an Eastern country and a part of Middle East in particular. Oriental studies in Israel can be divided into two lines of research. The first one is concerned with the "nearest vicinity" of the country, namely Arab and Muslim states. The second one is represented by remote Asia, including Far East, South and South-East Asia. This study presents an overview of oriental studies programs offered by leading universities of Israel and several conclusions regarding its relation with the current foreign policy of Israel.

The following universities were included in the overview: the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University and University of Haifa. Every university a variety of undergraduate, graduate and PhD programs for oriental studies. Dedicated departments are commonly divided into two categories:

Far East, South and South-East Asia studies (for example, Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem [9]; Department of East Asia, Tel Aviv University [10])

Middle East, Islamic and Arabic studies (for example, Department of Middle East studies, Ben-Gurion University [12]; Department of Arabic and Islamic studies, Tel Aviv University [6]; Department of Middle Eastern studies, Bar-Ilan University [13])

1 Bizyaev Anton Igorevich - Institute of Asian and African Studies, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Department of Jewish Studies, PhD student

Far East, South and South-East Asia studies programs mostly imply studying China, Japan or India; recently Indonesia-oriented programs have been introduced as well. Although these programs are characterized by emphasizing contemporary international economic and political relations (for example, Department of Asian studies, University of Haifa [8]), they also include studying culture, history, philosophy and art of the countries of choice.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem pays particular attention to Chinese studies. [9] The university offers a standalone advanced program for Chinese studies available only for students with the highest grades. Also students of this program can be taught in English. In addition, the university runs a specialized Confucius Center. The main goal of the center is strengthening the cultural ties between Israel and China and developing Israeli-Chinese research [5].

Middle East studies in Israeli university can be divided into three categories: 1) Islamic studies, 2) Arabic language and literature studies and 3) country studies. Islamic studies include religion, religious law, Islamic philosophy, art, history and modern political, economic and social development of Muslim countries. Students specializing in Arabic language and literature study all aspects of Arabic language, including standard, contemporary and colloquial Arabic. Studies also include classical, medieval and modern literature in Arabic both from historical and religious points of view [7]. Country studies include history, politics, diplomacy, culture, economics and social studies of Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and North African countries [11].

This review also includes three research centers in Israel, namely Moshe Dayan Center, Center for Iranian Studies and the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies.

Moshe Dayan Center was established in 1959. Initially the main goal of the Center was "to bridge the gap between the Israeli intelligence apparatus and academia" and "to provide research solutions to contemporary issues that the intelligence services did not have the time or capability to pursue." [17] Currently Moshe Dayan Center is not officially affiliated with intelligence services. The Center offers 8 research programs to choose.

Center for Iranian Studies was established in 2006 and is "one of the biggest centers for Iranian studies in the Middle East except for research centers in Iran." [21] I could not, however, access the web pages of the center because the access is granted only to the authorized members of Tel Aviv University intranet.

Louis Frieberg Center was opened by Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2006. The center is dedicated for Far East countries studies and represents an interdisciplinary forum aimed at creation of an open dialogue between academia and wider public. [19]

Oriental studies in Israel possess several unique features. Separation of oriental studies into Middle East and Far East is justified by reasons lying in the complicated political landscape of Israel. The former were necessitated by needs of Israeli intelligence services and its importance was paramount. The web site of Moshe Dayan Center tells about its past affiliation with security services. Today

the center is one of the leading academic research centers in Middle East studies in Israel. It is worth noticing that almost every university has a separate program for Islam studies and Islamic law. Moreover, the access to the Center of Iranian Studies is restricted which may also highlight the importance of such studies for the state.

Far East studies in Israel deserve some special consideration. This line of research, though being present in Israeli academia almost since the foundation of the state has recently seen a considerable increase in popularity. Around 700 students are currently studying in the department of East Asia in Tel Aviv University, total number of students in the university being some 30 thousand [3]. In Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a similar department has 300 students, total number of students in university being 15 thousand [20].

This popularity can be explained by development of relations between Israel and China and between Israel and India. Israel and India have signed mutual agreements on arms supply [14] and agricultural technologies cooperation [4]. Importance of China as a trading partner for Israel has been steadily growing too. In particular, heads of the states discussed opportunities for free trade between Israel and China [18], as well as governmental support for fostering Israeli exports in China [15]. Strengthening of these relations might be the reason why many university programs in this field emphasize contemporary studies and politics and economics of China and India.

Despite the importance of oriental studies for Israel in the light of political reality, USA remains the biggest trade partner for the Jewish State (28 percent of Israeli export in 2017) [16]. At the same time 24 percent of Israel export goes into Asian countries (China stands for 5,5 percentage points, India for 3,2 percentage points). For these reasons studying its western partners is as important for Israel as studying its Asian counterparts.

In conclusion, Israeli oriental studies have three distinct features. Firstly, the State of Israel is itself a part of the Middle East region which demands from Israeli orientalists a multi-faceted approach and an open mind towards Middle East studies. For example, department of Middle East studies in Bar-Ilan University comprises a part of Jewish Studies faculty, the fact that emphasizes deep interconnection between Israel and the Middle East.

Secondly, Israeli researchers face severe limitations in travelling across the Middle East, just like their counterparts from Muslim countries might have troubles visiting Israel. These limitations hinder the development of academic ties between Israeli researchers and the rest of the region. Professors of Arabic origin comprise only a small fraction of academic staff in Israeli universities. The highest ratio was found in University of Haifa (40 percent in two Middle East studies departments), in other universities it does not exceed 10 percent level. However, even among these professors the vast majority are either of Israeli or Palestinian origin, emphasizing the issue of Israeli academia isolation inside its own region.

Thirdly, an interest towards oriental studies in Israel has always been intertwined with political landscape around the country. Although initially most of the attention was focused on the neighboring countries and key players in the Middle East, with time the focus has gradually started to shift to Far Asia. Contemporary Israeli oriental studies are more influenced by China, India and Japan. The reason for this tendency lies in Israel's intention to diversify its international trade and, consequently, in the development of political and economic ties between Israel and these countries. A question remains open, however, how USA being Israel's biggest trade partner might react to these trends. Development of the US-Israeli relations in the light of strengthening ties between Israel and countries of Far East and South Asia might serve as prospect for future research.

References

1. Московский Государственный Университет им. М.В. Ломоносова. Общая статистика университета. [Moscow State University. General statistics.] URL: https:// www.msu.ru/science/2010/sci-study.html

2. Факультет ИСАА МГУ. Об Институте стран Азии и Африки МГУ. [Institute of Asian and African Studies, Moscow State University. About the institute.] URL: http://www.ci-msu.ru/about/isaa_mgu.html

3. 30000 students will be studying at TAU in 2013-2014 // Tel Aviv University. URL: https://english.tau.ac.il/news/30000_students_to_study_at_TAU_in_2013-4

4. Burgeoning footprint of Israeli agricultural technologies in India. // The Times of Israel, 2018. URL: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ burgeoning-footprint-of-israeli-agricultural-technologies-in-india/

5. Confucius Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. URL: http://confucius-huji.co.il

6. Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Tel Aviv University. URL: https://human-ities.tau.ac.il/arabic/courses/english

7. Department of Arabic Language and Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. URL: https://arabic-lang.huji.ac.il/book/7y-nnn

8. Department of Asian Studies, Haifa University. URL: http://asia.haifa.ac.il/index. php/en/

9. Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. URL: https://en.asia. huji.ac.il/book/undergraduate-studies

10. Department of East Asia, Tel Aviv University. URL: https://humanities.tau.ac.il/ eastasia/about

11. Department of History of Middle East and Africa, Tel Aviv University. URL: https:// mideast-africa.tau.ac.il/about

12. Department of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. URL: http:// in.bgu.ac.il/en/humsos/Middle-East-Studies/Pages/About.aspx

13. Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Bar-Ilan University. URL: http://middle-east. biu.ac.il/en/node/2

14. IAI wins $777 million deal to supply India with maritime missile defense system. // The Times of Israel, 2018. URL: https://www.timesofisrael.com/iai-wins-777-million-deal-to-supply-india-with-maritime-missile-defense-system/

15. Israel, China sign agreement worth $500 mln. to boost Israeli exports. // The Jerusalem Post, 2018. URL: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israel-China-sign-agreement-worth-500m-to-boost-Israeli-exports-573425

16. Israel's Top Trading Partners. // World's Top Exports, 2018. URL: http://www. worldstopexports.com/israels-top-trading-partners/

17. Moshe Dayan Center. URL: https://dayan.org/content/about-moshe-dayan-center-mdc

18. Netanyahu pushes for free trade with China in 2019. // The Jerusalem Post, 2018. URL: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-pushes-for-free-trade-with-China-570246

19. The Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. URL: https://eacenter.huji.ac.il

20. TopUniversities.com. Hebrew University of Jerusalem overview. URL: https://www. topuniversities.com/universities/hebrew-university-jerusalem

21. OD-ratPTß'^tP'lNTNyVoiN'1™ [Center for IranianStudies, Tel Aviv University]// Tel Aviv University News. URL: https://www.tau.ac.il/news/center-of-iranian-studies

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