Hebrew University Professor Wins Israel Prize for Religious Studies for Research on India

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved Prof. David Dean Shulman for the award, stating that his affiliation with left-wing activist group Ta'ayush has nothing to do with the honor.

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Prof. David Dean Shulman, a professor in the Department of Indian and Armenian Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Prof. David Dean Shulman, a professor in the Department of Indian and Armenian Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.Credit: Tzachi Lerner
Yarden Skop

Prof. David Dean Shulman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has won the Israel Prize for religious studies and philosophy, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced last night.

Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee, headed by Prof. Shaul Shaked. The committee said Shulman was a brilliant researcher who had done breakthrough studies on the religion, literature, and culture of southern India. He is an internationally renowned expert in this field, and his work is enhanced by his command of a wide range of languages, including Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam.

Because Shulman is known to be active in Ta’ayush, an organization that works on behalf of Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills, several media outlets pushed the Education Ministry for comment. “The Israel Prize for Religious Studies is given to Professor Shulman for his breakthrough research into the literature and culture of southern India. Minister Bennett believes that one should not disqualify someone for his opinions, left or right, whatever they may be," stated the response.

The prize committee wrote that Shulman’s studies “excel in their diversity, dealing with literary genres and various research topics including religion, mythology, art, folklore and imagination. In Israel he founded the field of India studies, and most India researchers in Israel are his students. Prof. Shulman has made an important contribution to research management and teaching in Israeli universities.”

Through his books and translations, Shulman introduced the field of India studies to Israeli academia and the general public, acting as a sort of ambassador for Indian civilization in Israel. Shulman retired from the Hebrew University this year after 40 years there.

In 1987, the U.S.-born Shulman won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the first Israeli to do so. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Sciences and a winner of the Emet Prize, awarded annually by the Prime Minister’s Office for excellence in academic and professional achievements.