Israel’s first liberal arts college, associated with the Shalem Center, received
final approval on Sunday from the Council for Higher Education to begin
enrolling students next week. The approval is a culmination of a four-year
accreditation process with the council.
The four-year bachelor’s degree
program at Shalem College is modeled after small, liberal arts colleges abroad
in Europe and the US, and aims to provide a broad education in humanities and
The inaugural class of 50 students will get a double
bachelor’s degree at the new campus in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moriah neighborhood,
located at the Beit Milit building that previously belonged to the Jewish
All students will have two years of core curriculum in humanistic
studies, and two years in either philosophy and Jewish thought, or Middle
Eastern and Islamic studies.
The school hopes to eventually expand to
1,000 students and offer a wide range of degrees.
“The world is changing
very fast, and the things we need to know now may be different in five or 10 or
20 years,” said Martin Kramer, the president-designate.
“A liberal arts
degree is not training; it prepares you for change. Liberal arts schools are
opening up from China to the West Bank; Al-Quds University has a partnership
with Bard [College near Albany, New York]. If you’re narrowly trained, you’re
likely to become superseded by changes in market and changes in technology. It
is crucial to have skills of critical thinking and to have the skills to speak
and to write,” said Kramer.
“The [education] system as it exists doesn’t
produce versatile people; it produces specialized people,” he
“Every economy needs specialized people, but a changing
society is better addressed by people with a broader education.”.
said that as a student in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, he
never took a course outside of his discipline, a fact that he
Registration will begin for the coming academic year on January
20. Tuition will be on par with other private colleges in Israel, at
approximately NIS 30,000, though Kramer said generous scholarships will be
The college will be totally dependent on private donations and
tuition, and will not ask the state for the per-student allotment given to other
institutions of higher learning.
Kramer also stressed that the college
will not have the same ideology as the Shalem Center, which is generally
classified as a right-wing think tank.
The college originally planned to
take over the campus of the Nature Museum in the German Colony in a few years,
as the municipality wants to move the Nature Museum to the Museum Quarter next
to the Science Museum. However, volunteers and community leaders with the Nature
Museum vehemently objected to the impending move.
For now, the Shalem
College will stay in Kiryat Moriah for at least the next decade, and the Nature
Museum move is on hold.