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First ever Hebrew conference held in New Delhi India

By Mason White 12:40 PM February 11, 2013
Hebrew conference in New Delhi India 

By: David Ross
The first ever Hebrew conference was held recently in South Asia, according to press reports in Israel.

By Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi

Tazpit News Agency For

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, made history when it organized a three-day international interdisciplinary conference on “Hebrew Language and Culture: Reception, Self Conception and Intercultural Relations” at the end of January, under the auspices of its Centre of Arabic & African Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies.

The conference was significant not only because it happened to be the first ever conference in South Asia to be focused on the Hebrew language, and that it took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University whose students have been particularly forthcoming in demonstrating against Israel’s military operations, but also because it was largely organized by Muslim scholars at a time when Jews and Muslims are perceived as natural adversaries.

The Organizing Committee produced another example of Muslim-Jewish amity in India, by convening this conference, during which thirty-nine scholars, Jewish, Muslim as well as of other religious affiliations, from a dozen Indian and Israeli institutions, presented their papers in sixteen parallel sessions. Eight of the institutions were Israeli, including Ariel University. The rest of the institutions represented were Indian.

The session themes focused on literature and psychology; language and religion; names in ancient and modern Hebrew; Halakhah, Jewish identity and modernization; law and language; Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic and the mutual influences; The language of the bible, as well as sessions held on the Indian Jews, and India in Hebrew Literature and Hebrew in India.

The Ambassador of Israel to India, Mr. Alon Ushpiz, in his keynote address, thanked the organizers from JNU and said that “the impressive depth of the discussions in the conference is a mirror image of the academic passion found in Israel for Indian culture, heritage, history and languages”.

“The key to our mutual academic fascination” added Ambassador Ushpiz, “is the fact that both Israel and India have managed to preserve their ancient heritage while constantly moving forward with the rapidly changing world”.

Professor M. A. Islahi, Dean of the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, gave the welcome address, while Dr. Khurshid Imam gave an introduction of the conference and pointed out that the conference aimed at exploring the different aspects of Hebrew: the language (classical as well as modern), the people and the culture. Several key personnel from the Embassy of Israel were also present on the occasion.

Jawaharlal Nehru University, the institution that hosted the conference, is currently the only Indian university that offers courses in the Hebrew language. Jewish and Holocaust Studies are absolutely non-existent in Indian academia in spite of a continuous Jewish presence in India for at least twelve centuries. The hope that this conference would generate greater interest in Hebrew among Indians was expressed by the participants.