Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with US President Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
(photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP)
While the media all but exploded on Wednesday with reports, debates and analyses related to the police’s recommendations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, and while the matter was aired at various national and international conferences, there was at least one public forum in which there was not even a hint of the subject.
Although politics and the character of the state were mentioned, the prime minister’s name or the situation in which he finds himself did not cross any speakers' lips.
The event was the awards ceremony for presidential scholarships to be given to 10 doctoral candidates whose research is within the sphere of society and the humanities.
In recent years there has been a steady decline in enrollments for study in the humanities – not only in Israel, but throughout the western world.
This can largely be attributed to money. Career planners know that the big money is not in the humanities but in science and technology. In fact, radio and television commercials encourage high school students throughout the country to opt for courses on science and technology in order to use and build on the skills while in the army and to find employment in the hi-tech job market afterward.
To ensure that the humanities will not be wholly sacrificed on the altar of hi-tech, President Reuven Rivlin decided that during his tenure, the presidential scholarships would go to researchers pursuing studies in one of the many fields that come under the heading of humanities.
Rivlin proposes a sub-topic each year, and a committee of academic experts from universities all over the country examines the applications and decides on recipients. The committee is headed by Prof. Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A scholarship of NIS 150,000 is given to each recipient, enabling three years of study without the researcher having to worry about funding.
The sub-topic this year was “sovereignty and peace – national, religious and communal tensions in Israel and the ways to settle them peacefully.”
There were 10 scholarship recipients who each briefly introduced themselves, the subjects they have studied and the topics they are currently researching. Each had an outstanding scholastic record and all of them had studied at more than one university.
They hailed from moshavim, kibbutzim and cities in diverse parts of the country.
The subjects they are researching are humane aspects of war in modern times; human rights; relations between secular and religious individuals and communities; how minorities can maintain their identities when living inside a majority; the history of Israel’s different administrations; protest movements and political violence; the dialogue between the legislature and the Supreme Court; differences between Jews and Arabs studying together in the same classroom and those studying separately; the conflict between the individual and the community in which he or she lives; and the ideological differences between older and younger generations.
Rivlin was pleased that six out of the 10 recipients were women. The overall research, he said, opens a door for fresh thought on issues which “are almost an edict for our destiny. These young researchers help us to better understand ourselves and how to act in an ever-changing world.”
Retired judge Shulamit Dotan, a former president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court who chairs the Estates Committee in the State Custodian’s Office, said that the scholarships are proof of the old adage that Jews are responsible for each other.
She explained that the money for the scholarships comes from deceased estates whose owners in their lifetimes bequeathed money to the State of Israel to be used primarily for charitable purposes and academic causes. Many of these bequests came from people who were not residents of the country, but who cared deeply about Israel, she said.