The first professor of Israel Studies at Oxford University, Prof Derek Penslar, delivered the annual Sherman Community Lecture on Sunday 10th March 2013.
The lecture, which is under the auspices of the Jewish Representative Council, the Zionist Central Council and the University of Manchester’s Centre for Jewish Studies, regularly opens the week of Sherman lectures subsequently held at the university.
JRC president, Frank Baigel introduced the session and ZCC past president, David Berkley QC opened the discussion. Raymond Solomon, ZCC vice-president, gave the vote of thanks.
The University’s Centre for Jewish Studies co-director, Prof. Alex Samely introduced the speaker as the first to hold a chair in Israel Studies at Oxford University, having moved from a post at Toronto University.
The lecture, entitled “How Did Jews Become Israelis?” ranged over the history of the development of the Zionist idea, emphasising its early religious roots, through the emergence of the state to the emergence of a new type of “post-Zionist” Israel with the coming to power of the Likud under PM Menachem Begin.
Los Angeles born Prof Penslar questioned the dominance of communal memory over the facts of history, saying historians often could not fight against that phenomenon. As an example he claimed that the forces of the nascent Israeli state in 1947-48 were stronger than were perceived in Israeli folk memory. *
A long and lively
session of questions and answers followed. JRC president, Frank Baigel, received audience approval when he posited the proposition th
at the few high profile British Jewish and Israeli anti-Zionists belonged to the international socialist tradition and had become antagonistic either to Israel or Israeli policies when Israel had left behind its early pioneering, socialist identity. **
The community lecture was held at the Nicky Alliance Centre. The next day’s lecture at the university featured a kosher reception.
* (This claim was made despite enormous losses suffered among the Jewish forces and a severe shortage of weaponry. LMC)
** ( because the dream of Communsim had died whereas Zionism had succeeded and that rankles with them. Frank Baigel)