About Humanities: The Breadth of Human Experience

The Faculty of Humanities is a wellspring of Israel's intellectual life and a worldwide leader that was recently ranked 41st among the world's universities in the arts and humanities.* It spans a rich diversity of disciplines and research fields — from cultures, civilizations and languages to education, archaeology and the full array of Jewish studies — whose variety reflects the breadth of human experience.

Humanities was the Hebrew University's first faculty to open — in 1928 — and has been home to greats such as Shlomo Pines, Yigael Yadin and Gershom Scholem, original thinkers whose work continues to influence and nourish the minds of later generations

In the wake of the recommendations of the 2006 blue-ribbon academic review headed by Professor John Gager of Princeton University, the Faculty is currently undergoing far-reaching structural and curricular reform that is broadening the scope of its teaching and updating its research methodologies and learning environment. By actively breaking down the traditional boundaries between disciplines, the Faculty is promoting a vibrant discourse between human cultures, genres of creativity and periods of history across the broadest geographic span — though while ensuring that it remains a font of original thought and creativity and maintains its high standards and leadership status.

The Faculty's teaching departments are today connected by five new schools which straddle disciplinary lines, removing the boundaries between departments which are often defined according to geographic area or cultural focus and thereby enabling students and faculty to participate in illuminating encounters between fields of knowledge and disciplines. The schools — in history, literatures, language sciences, philosophy and religions, and arts — are developing gateway courses that will include compulsory classes in research methodologies and a general course in a student's particular field of knowledge. Beyond becoming acquainted with their fields from the broadest perspective, the Faculty's students will be exposed to human cultures beyond their particular field of geographic, historical or other specialization — and, moreover, to the connection between cultural phenomena and society, between the human sciences and social reality.

This across-the-disciplines broad-based approach is already evident in two of the Faculty's most successful endeavors: the undergraduate program in cognitive sciences and the Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies in the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. Indeed, with its members drawn from disciplines within and beyond the humanities to investigate specific areas of Jewish studies in the broadest cultural contexts, Scholion is a trailblazer for the Faculty's efforts to promote cross-fertilization and nurture genuine academic communities whose scholarship gains breadth without losing depth.

Other notable centers, projects and programs at the Faculty include the School of Education, the Center for Islamic Studies in memory of Nehemia Levtzion, the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies, the Hebrew University Bible Project, the Jewish Music Research Center and the Revivim teacher training program. The recruitment, moreover, of almost 20 faculty members in the past few years — including a number from overseas — has added to the Faculty's scope of research. The new recruits include an Oxford-trained scholar who offers original insights into Jewish messianic movements, a lecturer in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies who specializes in women, feminism and gender and a linguistics expert who is a graduate of the Sorbonne.

The Faculty of Humanities likewise offers a President's Fellows doctoral honors program, which provides four-year fellowships and a unique intellectual environment for some 35 outstanding doctoral candidates in the humanities each year. These exceptionally promising doctoral students take part in a group workshop as they shape their research proposals, and they go on to organize a conference and attend mini-seminars relevant to their research. The program hosts master classes by leading scholars from Israel and abroad who, in addition to giving talks, meet with the doctoral candidates and discuss their subjects. The President's Fellows are also encouraged to take part in a new exchange program with Princeton University and exchange programs with other overseas universities are planned.

Imparting a broad education and disciplinary excellence while fostering a cross-fertilization of ideas that enriches and expands our knowledge and understanding of civilizations and cultures, the Faculty of Humanities is a continuum of original thought and creativity that is nurturing future generations of intellectual leaders.

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*the Faculty of Humanities was ranked 41st among the top 100 universities in arts and humanities in the 2008 Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds World University ratings