Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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 Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs

 DIVISION FOR CULTURAL & SCIENTIFIC AFFAIRS
 
     

 
 

Sharing Israel's artistic, scientific and academic heritage with the world

  INTRODUCTION

Somewhere between the melting pot and the pluralistic society lies Israeli culture. Like her famous mosaics whose ancient scenes are brought to life by the assemblage of many colored tiles, so is Israel's cultural landscape the composite of the heritages and influences gathered in her midst. Situated geographically at the junction of east and west, with a population of wide and varied ethnic groups, Israel has begun the process of fusing these distinct elements into a culture that is uniquely Israeli, one that both respects and honors age-old traditions while continuously renewing the creative process in all fields - the plastic arts, dance, theater, music, film, literature, architecture and design, to name but a few.


CHANGING TIMES, CHANGING STRATEGIES

After nearly 50 years of struggle and conflict, Israel has, at long last, reached the stage of normalization. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and agreements leading to peace between Israel and the PLO have already been signed. Contacts and relations are being established with the countries of North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Israel has full diplomatic relations with 151 countries, 58 of which established (or re-established) ties since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

As part of today's changing world, the Israeli government is emphasizing the role of culture, science and economics as important means by which to develop relations with the countries of the world. The Israeli Foreign Ministry views these as the state's calling card. As of 1994, it issued a new directive mandating increased cultural, academic and scientific activity in the international arena based on the following objectives:

  1. To strengthen the peace process by developing and expanding cultural ties with the Arab world, and acquainting each people with the other's culture.

  2. To develop cultural ties and activities with the non-Arab Moslem states.

  3. To reach out to those places that until recently barely knew Israel such as China, India, Korea, Japan, Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

  4. To strengthen ties and contacts with intellectual and artistic circles.

  5. To improve the quality of cultural life in Israel through greater interaction with the cultures of the world.

  6. To improve and expand activities in the field of education by promoting pedagogical methods, youth exchanges and sporting activities.

  7. To cultivate and strengthen scientific relations and exchanges and to share Israel's experience and knowledge with the world scientific community.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  CULTURE IN AN ERA OF PEACE

As Israel moves from an era of confrontation to an era of peace and cooperation, we are placing increased emphasis on the quality of what Israel has to offer in the fields of culture, science, education and academic affairs. No longer the image of a besieged people, of a country excelling primarily in defense and security, Israel can now concentrate more on its cultural and scientific excellence. In light of this change, the Foreign Ministry is focusing more and more on the task of bringing the products of Israeli intellect and creativity to the attention of the world community.

With the Arab world, the challenge lies in bringing cultural content to an area that until recently did not recognize Israel's existence. With peace, Israel strives for a mutual exchange of culture and heritage with her Arab neighbors. Opportunities for cooperation in education and science, sporting encounters and relations between academic institutions abound.

Heightened cultural activity between Israel and the Arab world is already taking place. Groundbreaking and often pioneering in its nature, these contacts help forge a solid base for and widen the scope of the peace process. Whether it be Arab artists performing in Israel to mixed audiences or Arab-Israeli theater or musical groups showing the new faces of normalization to the world, what was once unheard of is today coming about:

  • North African, Palestinian and Egyptian films and film-makers are becoming regular features at the Jerusalem and Haifa international film festivals.

  • Writers, translators and publishers from the Arab world come to Israel for conferences and attend the biennial Jerusalem International Book Fair.

  • Major Israeli works of literature are being translated into Arabic and sold in the Arab world.

  • ARIEL, the quarterly journal on Israeli arts and letters, is now published in an Arabic edition and was excerpted in a leading Egyptian literary magazine, ABDAA.

  • Ali Salem, one of Egypt's foremost playwrights, visited Israel on a number of occasions and published articles in important Egyptian newspapers supporting cultural cooperation with Israel. His book, "Journey to Israel," which sold thousands of copies in Egypt, has been translated into Hebrew.

  • The Khan Theater (Israeli) and the Al-Kassaba Theater (Palestinian) have performed their joint production of Romeo and Juliet in Israel and abroad to rave reviews and widespread press coverage.

  • Israel Culture Weeks are taking place in Arab countries such as Morocco and Jordan.

Just as worldwide attention was focused on the conflicts in the Middle East region, so is there now great international interest in the peace process and its fruits. Festivals and events featuring Arab and Israeli artists are becoming more and more commonplace.

Some examples:

  • The 1994 Lille Festival (France) was dedicated to "The New Middle East."
  • The Peace Festival (Oslo, 1994) celebrated the first anniversary of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO.
  • The Peace Festival (Brussels, 1995) was on a scale never before seen.

The Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs (DCSA) supports many cultural events worldwide, and is actively involved in sending Jewish and Arab artists abroad to perform and discuss their art and politics. By the same token, it participates in the organization and support of Arab artists coming to perform in Israel.



STRUCTURE AND ACTIVITIES

The Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs is broken down as follows:

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elhanani: "A Young Yeshiva Student," Israel Museum
 
A. Arts and Literature Deptartment

1. Literature unit

Promoting the translation of Hebrew literature is the primary goal of this unit. Through the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, DCSA carries out a wide range of translation projects. Israeli literature, poetry, anthologies and children's literature have been translated into Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Turkish and Ukrainian in addition to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian, among others.

The unit facilitates sending Israeli authors abroad for festivals, conferences and lectures. It also arranges special projects such as sending a pair of writers, one Arab and one Jewish, on lecture tours.

Efforts by DCSA and Israel's missions abroad have led to Israel's participation in over 12 important book fairs in which there was no previous Israeli presence, such as that in Beijing. The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature plays an important role in this area and participates in major fairs such as Frankfurt and Bologna.


2. Performing Arts Unit

The Performing Arts Unit promotes Israeli artists and groups in dance, theater, and popular, classical and choral music. The unit, together with Israel's cultural attachés, works on press and public relations for performances, the establishment of ties with foreign artists, and facilitates the participation of Israeli artists in international festivals and tours. Foreign arts promoters are invited to Israel from time to time to see first hand what is happening locally in their fields.


3. Cinema and Television Unit

Israel's modest film industry receives international exposure through the work of this unit. Israeli Film Weeks are held around the world using Israeli films subtitled in English, French, German and Spanish, with Portuguese and Russian translations in the works. Often, Israeli producers, directors and actors are sent to these or other events to discuss their work and the industry.

In 1995, DCSA initiated a new project in conjunction with a New York-based film distribution company to make 11 Israeli feature films available for screenings on university campuses and in the Jewish and general communities. Future projects include sending a pair of actors, one Jewish and one Arab, abroad to lecture on Israeli cinema.

DCSA's Film Unit also sends representatives to major international film festivals such as Berlin and Cannes where Israeli films have generated international interest.

In Israel, DCSA supports the annual Jerusalem Film Festival and "Neighbors," the International Haifa Film Festival. It also brings international film makers and journalists to Israel for the festivals, screenings and to meet with local industry people.


4. Plastic Arts Unit

In conjunction with Israel's missions abroad, the Plastic Arts Unit coordinates exhibits of Israeli art. Current exhibits on display around the world range in subject from fine art, caricatures and photography.

The unit also participates in the organization of Israeli exhibits for major art bienniales such as Venice, Istanbul, Johannesburg and Sao Paulo. Artists, curators and art experts go abroad, with DCSA's help, to lecture in conjunction with festivals and exhibits. By the same token, international curators and art journalists are brought to Israel to expose them to the Israeli art scene during major international arts events such as Art Focus. Finally, DCSA assists Israeli museums in arranging exhibitions in Israel and abroad.


5. Cultural Relations with the Arab World

To promote culture and arts in an era of peace was the idea behind this new unit which was created in 1995. It explores, initiates and develops ideas and programs for cultural activity with the countries neighboring Israel. Bi-lateral projects and regional activity encompassing the countries of the Mediterranean basin are geared towards enhancing the peace process.

The Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs also publishes ARIEL: The Israel Review of Arts and Letters

Since 1962, Ariel has been Israel's leading cultural "window to the world." Published quarterly in six separate language editions - English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic - with occasional issues in other languages (i.e., Chinese and Japanese), this semi-scholarly, heavily illustrated magazine covers all aspects of Israeli cultural life, including prose and poetry, visual and performing arts, music, archeology, architecture, history, criticism and reviews, science and nature, etc.


B. Department for Cultural and Scientific Cooperation

1. Cultural and Scientific Agreements Unit

This unit prepares and implements Israel's cultural and scientific agreements and programs of cooperation. DCSA participates in an average of 20 joint committees a year in Israel and abroad, negotiating and concluding these agreements and programs.

 
 

 

 

The Hebrew alphabet: poster used for teaching Hebrew

 

 

Koffler Accelerator viewed through Kadishman sculpture, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot

 

 

 

  2. Education and Scholarships Unit

Working in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, this unit helps to develop professional contacts with educational institutions and experts in the field of education. In 1995, a special fund was established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DCSA and Mashav, the Division for International Development) and the Ministry of Education to develop programs of cooperation on various educational subjects. These programs, geared for specific countries, concentrate on technological education and computer training, as well as special teaching methods for early age, adult education, etc.

In accordance with bilateral agreements on culture and science, this unit oversees exchanges of lecturers and researchers as well as scholarships for study in Israel (approximately 100 per year.)

The unit also promotes Hebrew language study by sending Israeli lecturers to teach at foreign universities.


3. Science Unit

DCSA also assists Israeli scientists in going abroad for scientific conferences, etc., as well as in hosting foreign scientists in Israel. The unit is a partner in planning and implementing scientific agreements, bi-national science funds and special programs in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Arts.


4. Sports and Youth Unit

Assistance for and promotion of Israeli participation in international sporting events, youth activities, important competitions and conferences is provided by this unit. The unit also helps bring foreign athletes to competitions in Israel, as well as assisting in the coordination of matches between foreign and Israeli professional sports teams, and promotes sports activities between Israeli and foreign schools. The unit's activities in the sphere of youth groups include establishing policy frameworks for youth group exchanges and assisting in their coordination, often within the context of cultural agreements.


5. International Organizations Unit

This unit concentrates on multi-national organizations and NGO's dealing with science, education and culture, such as the European Union, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, in order to increase Israeli cultural and scientific activity in the international arena. The agreement signed between Israel and the European Union in 1995 provided a I impetus for activity in this sphere.


C. The Iberian Institute
(Instituto Cultural Israel-Ibero America)

This arm of DCSA was founded 40 years ago. Its in-depth familiarity with the cultures and societies under its domain make the institute particularly effective in programming Israeli cultural activity for the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world. It coordinates film weeks, exhibits, music concerts and lecture tours. In Israel, the institute organizes international conferences to which leading figures from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries are invited. The institute publishes a semi-annual literary magazine entitled Carta de Jerusalem and an annual activities report on the 56 institutes abroad, Suplemento de Informacion Cultural.


D. Management and Budget Deptartment

By handling the budget allocations and administration for all of DCSA's many activities, this division's role is vital. It has geared itself to the ministry's policy reforms emphasizing increased cultural activities and ensures responsible fiscal implementation.

In all its spheres of activity, DCSA consults with the relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Arts and Culture Administration and the Ministry of Science and Arts, as well as with former cultural attachés and leading experts in all fields.


PROFESSIONALISM AND EXPERTISE

As the Foreign Ministry takes on new challenges, it must also equip its staff with the appropriate knowledge and skills to handle the increasing amount of cultural, scientific and academic activity. These activities must be promoted and supported by an experienced team of professionals. To that end, the ministry's cadet training course now includes a field of specialization in cultural and scientific affairs which entails internships within DCSA.

Future diplomats receive training in the following areas:

  • Specialization in cultural fields
  • Initiating and coordinating projects
  • Using local resources
  • Establishing contacts with the local cultural media

In addition, Israeli diplomats going abroad receive instruction on cultural and scientific issues prior to their departure. Once abroad, DCSA conducts seminars as part of regional diplomatic conferences.

At present, Israel has 16 cultural attachés posted in 15 countries. Most attachés come from within the ranks of the Foreign Ministry. In some cases, attachés are selected from among leading Israeli cultural figures. In missions that do not have a cultural attaché, one of the senior diplomats handles cultural affairs. Local staff are regarded as an essential part of successful cultural activity as they provide continuity and expertise on the local scene.


CULTURAL AND SCIENTIFIC AGREEMENTS

Bilateral agreements on cultural and scientific cooperation are invaluable tools in enhancing relations and promoting reciprocal activity abroad. Israel currently has such agreements with 75 countries, a third of which were signed in the last three years. Agreements with additional countries are continuously being negotiated and prepared. Programs of cooperation, detailing specific activities as outlined generally in the agreements, are renewed on a regular basis, usually every two to three years. It is DCSA's task to represent Israel at the joint committees negotiating the agreements and the renewal of the programs of cooperation.


 
 

 

  A LOOK TO THE FUTURE

The future for Israel and her neighbors looks promising. DCSA will continue to incorporate cultural and scientific activities and exchanges as a central pillar of Israel's foreign relations and to incorporate them into the peace process at large, encouraging and facilitating dialogues on many levels. This cultural component fortifies the political process, enhancing the peace and assuring its durability. For while agreements are made between governments, it is the people who must ultimately bring them to fruition. Artistic encounters, academic and scientific cooperation present the opportunities to learn from each other and about each other.

 
 
 
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