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  • Honorary Doctorate Recipient Bernard-Henri Lévy lecturing at Bar-Ilan University

    Honorary Doctorate Recipient Bernard-Henri Lévy lecturing at Bar-Ilan University

    Honorary Doctorate Recipient Bernard-Henri Lévy Lectures at Bar-Ilan University

    Date: 2017-05-16 Hour: 13:50

    Praising Bar-Ilan University as a "very special place in Israel and in the world of Judaism",  the renowned  French author, philosopher and humanitarian Bernard-Henri Lévy wowed a packed auditorium at the Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center with a riveting and very moving lecture based on his latest book, The Genius of Judaism.  

    Levy's lecture took place in advance of his receipt of an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan this evening, in the framework of the University's 62nd annual Board of Trustees meetings.

    "I don't seek honors and I have very few of them," said Lévy.  But there are two types of honors that I do accept – one from victim countries, and martyred states.  States under attack, such as Sarajevo, Georgia and Kurdistan have recognized me as one of their defenders.  The other type of honors I receive are from the State of Israel.  Since my first trip here in 1967, I always thought the best gifts to me would come from this country.  Jean Paul Sartre acted and thought exactly the same way as I do.  He refused the Nobel, but accepted an honorary doctorate from an Israeli University.  So I am especially pleased because this honorary doctorate that I have accepted is from Bar-Ilan University," he added. 

    "I believe that knowledge is never as strong as when it is pregnant with study.  This is what I live and try to do.  This is what you do at Bar-Ilan University.  You are at the top of science, of brain study and of Jewish study.  You are a very special place in Israel and in the world of Judaism and this matches my thoughts and living requirements.  This is what also makes me so honored to be recognized by you," said Levy.

    Expressing sorrow at the rifts that exist between religious and secular Jews, he said that "Bar-Ilan University breaks the dreadful dividing lines inside the Jewish people" and cited this as another reason that he is proud to be honored by the University.

    University Rector Prof. Miri Faust praised Lévy as one of the most prominent intellectuals of our times.  Faust read from a letter that Alfred Einstein once wrote to Sigmund Freud: "My life experience has taught me that intellectuals are prone to collective, disastrous incitements because they stay in the ivory tower and receive second-hand information."  Addressing Lévy, Faust continued, "You don't stay in the ivory tower.  You are in and out of the tower.  You live life, you risk yourself, you go where there is human suffering and disaster and are immersed in real life.  You dare against the rest. You dare to criticize European and French society that demonize Israel."

    Dr. Hanoch Ben-Pazi, of the Department of Jewish Philosophy, also delivered opening remarks. "This evening devoted to Bernard-Henri Lévy and his last book, L’esprit du Judaïsme or The Genius of Judaism. This is an especially challenging book, one that raises many questions for the readers. It begins with the question of Judaism and the Jews at the present moment, and attempts to understand the various manifestations of modern antisemitism, and in its anti-Zionist guise (mode) that which is evident and that which is hidden behind the political discourse about colonialism. The book conducts a particularly acute conversation with the ideas of the Holocaust deniers, antisemitism, the state of the Judaism, and the status of the Jews," said Ben-Pazi.

    Prof. Elise Brezis, of the Department of Economics, narrated the event.  "We should say a benediction when we meet someone special.  You, Bernard-Henri Lévy, are exceptional, not only as a great intellectual, but for what you do all over the world." She went on to recite the Hebrew blessing that is generally recited upon meeting a Head of State: Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has given of his glory to flesh and blood.

    Prior to Lévy's lecture, a cocktail reception was held in his honor in the presence of French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal and University officials.