Professor David Shulman, Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who was just awarded the Israel Prize in Religious Studies for his work on Indian languages and culture, has decided to donate his prize money (NIS 75,000, or about $20,000) to the organization “Ta’ayush” (“living together” in Arabic). This is a group of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who engage in non-violent direct actions to protect the basic rights of Arabs in the territories and Israel. The organization is very active in dealing with the expropriation of Palestinian lands by the state as well as the displacement of the Bedouin.
The prize committee wrote that Shulman’s studies “excel in their diversity, dealing with literary genres and various research topics including religion, mythology, art, folklore and imagination. In Israel he founded the field of India studies, and most India researchers in Israel are his students. Professor Shulman has made an important contribution to research management and teaching in Israeli universities.” Through his books and translations, Shulman introduced the field of India studies to Israeli academia and the general public, acting as a sort of ambassador for Indian civilization in Israel. Shulman retired from the Hebrew University this year after 40 years there.
The donation to Ta’ayush will help pay for the group’s two primary expenses: legal fees for the activists who are constantly being arrested by the occupation army and the Israeli police and transportation fees for activists from Jerusalem to the South Hebron Hills every week. In a video posted online on Wednesday, May 11, Shulman explained his decision to donate the prize money to Ta’ayush and his deliberations over whether to accept the prize at all, due to the “general deterioration of the situation and the witch-hunt against Ta’ayush, and other peace and human rights activists by a right-wing establishment determined to perpetuate the occupation.”