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April 25, 2003

Brandeis Appoints Chair in Israel Studies

Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) has recently named Professor Ilan Troen (Brandeis class of '63; Professor of Modern History at Ben Gurion University) to the Stoll Professor in Israel Studies, the first endowed teaching position of its kind in the United States.

In an interview with the Waltham News Tribune Professor Troen had the following to say about Mid-East studies on college campuses (and the importance of Israel Studies):

As he balances spending one semester in the United States and the rest of the year in Israel, Troen straddles both worlds and seems uniquely qualified to teach both undergraduate and graduate students about Israel in America.

He hopes to address the dearth of instruction on Israel since "...the country is so often misunderstood either through ignorance or malicious intent. Without examining the country in the university, many encounter the complexities of the country only through media sound bites and short articles in the newspapers...universities must do more."

Discussing Israel, never mind lecturing on it, is often a challenge because the opinions of those involved come under scrutiny.

Troen is well aware of the challenge, and has clearly stated, "I am a Zionist and have decided to build my life (in Israel). I can also be critical of my society. Nevertheless, it is criticism within an appreciation for the positive and the commitment to work for improvement. This is particularly important in assessing Israel...since (there are) those within and outside the country who view the country's history as but a litany of misdeeds and the Zionist enterprise as illegitimate.

"There are those, for example, who do not believe a Jewish state can also be a democratic one. I think such issues and critiques ought to be brought forward directly and dispassionately even as my own position is unequivocal and clear."

In addition to the lack of Israel studies chairs in American universities, Troen said, "A strong representation of Israel is very rare in centers for Middle Eastern studies, which are often hostile to Israel." He hopes that one day, there will be even more specialists at Brandeis. [more]

Professor Troen is a remarkable man, who has authored/edited over 10 books! He's also the editor of the journal "Israel Studies". II believe that his comments regarding the (false) perception of Israel on many campuses is sadly true. However, with instructors such as Professor Troen, hopefully the tide will begin to turn (in Israel's favor)