More than a decade ago, during Benjamin Netanyahu's first tenure as prime minister, he criticized the 'ideological tyranny' of the intellectual elites in Israel. In an interview to Haaretz he claimed that academic institutions in Israel "are committed to a singular ideology," and "create more and more generations of young people with that same monolithic ideology."
It now appears that at the start of his second term as prime minister, the situation is on the verge of changing: The Shalem Center, a conservative-right wing research institute that has been operating in Jerusalem since 1994, initiated the establishment of an elite college for the humanities. Last week, the Shalem Center filed an application with the Council for Higher Education in Israel for the opening of an institution of higher learning that would be authorized to grant B.A. degrees in liberal arts. The academic degree would be a multi-disciplinary program in the humanities and economics, and sources familiar with the initiative described the teaching staff as "representing the entire political spectrum of Zionism."
One characteristic of the lecturers listed as the college's founders is that they are all known to be highly critical of the 'leftist' academia and 'leftist' intellectual approaches, such as those of post-colonialism and post-modernism. Among the narrow list of lecturers intended to be part of the institution are Professor Yoav Gelber, a historian who opposes the 'new historians' in Israel; Dr. Martin Kramer, who wrote many books and articles against the influence of Edward Said; and Professor Yosef Gorni, a historian of the Labor movement and a well known critic of post-Zionism in Israeli academia.
"The idea is to create an elite institution in the humanities and social sciences," Professor Gelber, who currently teaches at the University of Haifa, said on Friday. "I look at the condition of humanities in the universities and the situation is very bad. Humanities are in crisis."
The post-modern inclinations in academia are a main reason for the drop in the popularity of humanities, according to Gelber. "They teach all the post-modern silliness, and therefore no one is interested in it. If you are talking about a drop in the standing of humanities, then this is also part of it."
The plan is for a select group of candidates to be accepted to the college every year - 'cream of society' is how those behind the project describe the future students, who are intended to serve as the future leaders in business, governance and social initiatives. Students will be selected on the basis of their exams, intellectual capabilities and motivation to influence.
The four-year program will require writing a thesis, and will offer majors in Middle East studies, philosophy and political science, but will also have core requirements in philosophy, history, social studies, economics, religion and Zionist history.
Several months ago the Shalem Center published an announcement inviting researchers to apply for positions at the new institution, including openings for a head of the economics department, and the departments of philosophy, politics and religion.
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