Macquarie honour for Israeli professor

MACQUARIE University has recognised a top Israeli scholar with one of its most exclusive honours.

Professor Irad Malkin, the chair of Mediterranean history and culture at Tel Aviv University, has been awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Fellowship – reserved for only the most eminent, globally celebrated scholars – for 2015. He is currently in Australia as a guest of the recently established program for the archaeology of ancient Israel at Macquarie Uni.

Malkin, who last year won the Israel Prize for history, told The AJN the award was “a significant honour and a significant recognition”.

“I’m delighted to be at this particular university which has quite a lot of similarities to my own.

“People are amazingly open and it’s a pleasure to be a guest in Australia and enjoy the warm hospitality,” he said.

He also praised the archaeology of ancient Israel program and its founder Dr Gil Davis.

“I think the program is almost unique of its kind in the world, in its scope, its ambition and its depth. It’s very important work that they’re doing here,” he said.

Davis said Malkin’s recognition showed “the respect that the senior administration from the vice-chancellor down” holds for the program.

“It’s an extraordinary thing that in the current climate the vice-chancellor would choose, out of all the eminent scholars in the world, to select a prominent Israeli Jewish person,” he said.

The ancient Israel program itself has gone from strength to strength since its establishment. Around 450 students per annum take the course, of which 25 travel to Israel each year to participate in an archaeological dig.

The program has a full-time lecturer funded by the Education Heritage Foundation and has just appointed a teaching fellow funded by the Roth families to teach ancient Israel subject matter in schools and prepare educational materials.

“[It’s] not aimed at Jewish people. It’s aimed at educating the wider world about the connection of Jews to the land of Israel, about the history of Israel and providing the actual facts and evidence for that,” Davis said.

“It’s not aimed to be an apology or explanation for Israel, it’s simply a recording of the real facts, and that’s where its value [in countering anti-Israel distortion and bias] lies.”

He said there is a lot of opportunity in the school outreach component, which, once rolled out, will cater to primary-aged students and up.

“This is an effort to get out there and positively change the message in the wider community.”

GARETH NARUNSKY