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The Cultural Crisis of Contemporary Israel

A Jewish Theological Perspective on Its Causes

Admiel Kosman

The cultural crisis that Israel is experiencing today derives largely from the concept of isolation, which is based in Jewish theology (Halevi). The concept itself stems from the 'illegitimacy claim', already present in rabbinic literature, which developed into the firm halakhic practice of separating Jews from non-Jews. Although rabbinic Judaism contains an alternative, universalistic current (Maimonides) that was influential in the Middle Ages, Israel's Religious Zionist educational system is based on the 'isolationist' system expounded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Proponents of the latter include both religious Jews and secular Israelis, who defend it as part of Israel's Jewish heritage. These tendencies not only prevent dialogue with Israel's neighbors but also fragment Israel's Jewish public. This rejection of the 'Other' as belonging to the 'sons of darkness' is largely responsible for the cultural crisis pervading the country. Israel should reorient itself toward the universalistic stream represented by philosophers such as Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas.

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Ibanga B. Ikpe

The debate as to whether the humanities is in decline is almost over. Statistics on declining enrolments, shrinking job prospects, dwindling funding and growing condescension from society add up to show that all is not well. Humanities scholars have, in the recent past, tried to discover what is wrong as well as do something to demonstrate that the humanities is still relevant to society. In this regard, many have suggested that the humanities should change to accommodate the needs of the marketplace, while others have argued that to do so will change the humanities so drastically as to render it unrecognizable. This article is about the current state of affairs in the humanities and the different views that have been expressed on it. It argues that rather than the humanities, it is actually society that is in decline, and as such changing the humanities to suit the needs of the marketplace would be a disservice to our long humanistic tradition. It acknowledges that humanities scholars need to engage more with society even as they continue in activities that have defined the humanities through the years and argues for humanities therapy as a way for the humanities to engage with a world that is increasingly enamoured with technê.