President Rivlin Addresses Israel Academy of Sciences: Arab-Jewish Tensions at Record Highs

Photo by Haim Tzach
On Sunday, October 19th, President Reuven Rivlin addressed the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities at a special conference on "From Xenophobia to Accepting the Other". Following expressions of hatred and violence that have taken place recently, the Academy decided to hold a conference to discuss and tackle this phenomenon.

In his address, the President referred to the tensions flaring between the various populations in Israel, and noted the verbal violence which he experienced recently: "The tension between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel has risen to record heights, and the relationship between all parties has reached a new low. We have all witnessed the shocking sequence of incidents and violence taking place by both sides. The epidemic of violence is not limited to one sector or another, it permeates every area and doesn’t skip any arena. There is violence in soccer stadiums as well as in the academia. There is violence in the social media and in everyday discourse, in hospitals and in schools. I too have been exposed to verbal abuse every time I post something on my Facebook page which doesn’t sit well with one group of users or another. It is time to honestly admit that Israeli society is ill – and it is our duty to treat this disease."

The President continued his statement by saying: "To paraphrase Martin Buber's lecture, I do not ask, ‘Have we forgotten to be Jewish?’ But instead I ask, have we forgotten to be human? Have we forgotten how to speak? Have we abandoned the secret to conducting dialogue? It is my view that Israeli academia has a crucial role in reducing violence in Israeli society. The academic sphere, in which cultures and languages ​​are taught from a desire to get to know them deeper, where there is a ‘you and I’ affinity, there is a place which generates not only learning but also a real encounter. The Academy should be a space which prepares a new generation of Israeli citizens to talk to each other, and especially to learn how to listen to each other. At times like this, we need to learn how to talk, how to discuss, how to share without rejecting, and how to argue without reaching an agreement. The Academy cannot hide behind books and research. The Academy, as Plato founded it, is a place we learn a way of life."

During the event the President referred to grants he wished to provide doctoral students from humanities and social sciences, and said: "I do not have many ways to influence the path of the Academy, but at my request, the first President's Scholarships, will be granted to students in the humanities and social sciences, whose work describes an encounter between cultures, languages ​​and religions, with an emphasis on the significant encounter between East and West. I hope that through this tribute I can express my belief in the significant role of research in the humanities, as a basis for developing of a tolerant society."

Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson, Courtesy of