Unique Research Center on Buddhism Opens in Israel

by Shmuel Ben Or, Israel Center for the Study of Buddhism, Sept 28 2006

Beit Shemesh, Israel -- The Middle East is one of the most unlikely places in the world to study Buddhism, or the Far East for that matter. But all that is hopefully going to change.

The Israel Center for the Study of Buddhism (ICSB) is a non-profit, interdisciplinary and intercultural research institution that wants to “bring the Far East to the Middle East”. It’s main mission is to bring an understanding of the fundamentals and the history of Buddhism as a whole from the earliest times up to the present so that Israeli society can better understand the Far East. This will hopefully pave the way for increased cooperation between the two Asian extremities in the future.

The ICSB is unique in two ways. First of all it will be the only academic institute from Morroco to Afghanistan and from Turkey to Yemen researching Buddhism and its cultural backgrounds (India, SE Asia, China and Tibet) individually as well as a whole, from the distant past up to today. Secondly, it will try to better acquaint the Far East, (especially China and India) with Judaism and the part it plays in the State of Israel. These two opposite paths, one internal and the other external in their outlook, are what make the Israel Center for the Study of Buddhism extraordinary.

Communication is the best means of mutual cultural understanding. To better understand the Far East, the ICSB’s major educational areas will be language and literature. The first major project will be to translate the Tipitaka (Pali, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist Scriptures) into Hebrew. This will form a firm base of departure for East Asian research, especially the teaching of the Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit and Pali languages. From the opposite end translations of traditional Jewish literature such as the Mishnah and the Talmud into the above mentioned languages will help Buddhists better understand their Jewish counterparts.

Other areas of research will include the native histories, arts and archaeology of the respective countries. Lectures will also be held to bring scholars and sages together to exchange modern and traditional views. These exchanges will be published through different means especially in the Hebrew language.

The Israel Center is still in its organizational stages. Just collecting the books needed for this endeavor is one major undertaking which needs a lot of financial support. But as it was said somewhere in ASIA (Middle East or Far East, depending on your point of view), “the longest journey always starts with the shortest step”.

For more information on what the Israel Center for the Study of Buddhism wants to accomplish, please view their web site at www.israel-center.org.

Shmuel Ben Or is the Founder and Director of the Israel Center for the Study of Buddhism. For more information on how to help support the ICSB please contact him at director@israel-center.org