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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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Finding a university post in Israel - poor government investments in the academy

Forgive me if the following will not sound modest. I write this since I think that this post deals with a serious problem that is important to many Israeli musicologists.

An important musicologist from America wrote to me: “I am happy that all is working out. Let’s hope you get the grant! I also think that you should apply for American jobs this year. The Oxford project should help your chances of securing a position. I am happy to write a recommendation for you.”

I wrote back: “Thank you very much for suggesting to write a recommendation for me.
I’m in a hard position. On the one hand my profession is very important to me and I plan to do musicological research whatever happens.
On the other hand, it is important for me at the moment to live in Israel. This is because of my family, but not only due to this reason.
Perhaps in the future I will change my mind and then possibilities will expand. The sad truth is that the chance to find a university post in Israel in music is zero in the next few years. However, one must stay optimistic!”

I am aware that I am not the only one in this position. It is very sad that there are many talented Israeli people who returned to Israel after several years of studying abroad, and found that the scene here is disappointing. In musicology it is extremely disappointing.

The department in the Tel-Aviv University is closed. Nothing offered in Haifa or Beer-Sheva. A very small department in the Hebrew University (with 4 scholars). All universities are very poor. Is there any wonder that there is so little scholarship in Hebrew in music?

People think that music research is luxurious and should be done in better times. In USA and England they pay foreign students to live there and make research of music. Why? What is their interest?

They understand that music research builds a culture and culture is power. Much of the current research on music spreads cultural values that are important for these countries. Such research changes not only the way people listen and think about music, it changes they way they think about the world in general.

Music research deals with things that are important to many people: identity, gender, sexuality, race, popular music, politics and much more. People read the books that musicologists write and are influenced by them.

Many Israelis complain that “the world does not understand us”. That “the world” often takes the side of the Arabs when it is not always clear that they are right - or even when it is clear (at least to the Israelis) that they are not. Israelis blame themselves for not being able to explain to the world our position.

This is not surprising. Israel invests huge amounts of money in its army yet so little in education and academy. However, culture and political views are defined by education and academy. Articles and books change they people think. I do not suggest that the Israeli academy must populate nationalistic views through research on music (often Israeli academy can be highly critical to the acts of the Israeli government). However, silencing Israeli musicology by financially starving it avoids it from saying anything at all!

The sad truth is that the money goes to the army since it helps certain people who work there of people who gain personal profit from this act. Actually, much of the Arab-Israeli conflict is due to the financial or other profit the people from all sides make from it (politicians, weapon reproducers and dealers, etc.).

So if Israel is interested in spreading Israeli culture and views it must divert 10% of the money that goes to the army to the academy. The army will only be stronger from this act (they will have less money to waste) and the higher education will flourish. If you think that this is nonsense then do not be surprised that no one hears the Israeli side anymore, and that young Israeli minds prefer to leave Israel and go elsewhere in order to have an academic future.

Have any thoughts on this subject? Please comments on this post.

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