David Shulman, Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an activist of Ta’ayush (www.taayush.org) Arab-Jewish friendship group, has said he has no faith in the current political dispensation of Israel.
“The present leadership is unworthy of minimum trust and is bent on occupying as much Palestinian land as possible which is immoral and completely unacceptable,” said the noted Indophile, at present at Nepathya in Moozhikkulam, near Kochi, to enjoy a month-long performance of Anguliyankam Koodiyattom.
Prof. Shulman said it is the lure for land that has led Israel, a tiny country, to occupy Palestinian territory. “They appropriate it and build on it… It is a real estate issue.”
In occupied areas such as the South Hebron Hills, inhuman treatment is meted out to Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. Under constant attacks, the population is struggling to survive. Activists of Ta’ayush often visit the occupied territories to protect farmers, who are driven away from olive fields, he said. “Only when we stand by them can they do some elementary farming activity. We also provide them legal support”.
For Prof. Shulman, Israel is a wonderful country with a rich cultural and intellectual tradition, but ridden by miserable politics. “The Ramallah government is positive and keen on thrashing out a solution to the long-standing problem by way of negotiations, but the Israeli leadership looks the other way.”
Dwelling on the ‘strong humanistic tradition’ of Israel, the professor said the Middle European historical and philosophical tradition had evolved a scholarly approach to cultural practices around the world so as to study and imbibe them. “So, it is natural for our universities to offer courses in various cultural traditions and ethnic practices, and it is easy to convince students to take up these courses…. You can’t understand modern India without understanding Sanskrit,” he explains the rationale for his students to learn Sanskrit language and literature.
A Koodiyattom enthusiast, the professor thinks the art is full of surprises. “It is not enough for you to study the attaprakaram [performance text]. You need to watch the entire performance [almost 150 hour-long performance of Anguliyankam , in this case] without skipping anything to appreciate this great artistic masterpiece. It is a tremendously powerful experience…”
It is the lure for land that has led Israel to occupy Palestinian territory, he said.