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Israel at 75: A Crisis of Identity

Inaugural Younes Nazarian Memorial Lecture

Yossi Klein Halevi

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On Yom Haatzmaut, Israel's 75th independence day, award-winning author and journalist Yossi Klein Halevi will discuss the “state of the state”—the struggle over the nation's identity and whether it can fulfill the aspirations of its founders to be both a homeland for the Jewish people and a liberal democracy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
The UCLA Luskin Conference Center
Centennial Ballroom (Sections C & D)
425 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095
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Organized by the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Co-sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, American Jewish University, Hillel at UCLA, Sinai Temple, Valley Beth Shalom, B'nai David-Judea, Leo Baeck Temple, and IKAR.

About the Talk


The struggle over the judicial system that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets in the last few months is an expression of an even deeper schism. Israel defines itself as a "Jewish and democratic" state, but there is no consensus over what those terms mean in practice. This lecture will explore Israel's deepest ideological divide and how the nation might begin to heal.


About the Speaker

Yossi Klein Halevi is a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Together with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University, he co-directs the Institute's Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), which teaches emerging young Muslim American leaders about Judaism, Jewish identity and Israel.


Halevi's latest book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbors, is a New York Times bestseller, and his 2013 book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, won the Jewish Book Council's Everett Book of the Year Award. He writes for leading op-ed pages in the US, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and is a former contributing editor to The New Republic.


His 2001 book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land, was reissued in 2019 by HarperCollins. The novelist Cynthia Ozick called At the Entrance “a permanent masterwork.” The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, called it “extraordinary and heartbreaking…a book full of wonders.” His first book, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, tells the story of his teenage years as a follower of the militant rightwing rabbi Meir Kahane, and his subsequent disillusionment with Jewish radicalism. The New York Times called it “a book of burning importance.”


In 2013 he was a visiting professor of Israel Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and served as a writer in residence at the University of Illinois. He was a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem from 2004 until 2010. Born in Brooklyn, he moved to Israel in 1982, and lives in Jerusalem with wife, Sarah, who helps run a center for Jewish meditation. They have three children.


About Younes Nazarian z"l


Younes Nazarian was a prominent businessman and philanthropist who, along with his wife Soraya, supported numerous causes in education and the arts in Los Angeles and in Israel. Their generous contributions helped to establish UCLA's Israel Studies Program and, in 2010, they created a permanent endowment that led to the naming of the university's Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.


Nazarian grew up in an impoverished household in the Jewish ghetto of south Tehran. As teenagers, he and his brother traveled to Israel to support the newly formed country by working in the construction industry. These formative years influenced Younes and cemented his lifelong support for Israel. After returning to Iran, the brothers created a successful construction distribution business. However, the Nazarian family fled Iran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and made their new home in Los Angeles, where they rebuilt their lives.


In Israel, the Nazarians’ foundation helped to create the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Library at Sapir College and the University of Haifa, and it has supported Haifa University scholarships, the Bezalel Academy of the Arts, the Hebrew University and Israel’s National Library. In 2009, Nazarian was selected among 12 recipients to receive Israel’s highest honor of the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl. In Los Angeles, their philanthropy has supported the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Performing Arts at Cal State Northridge, the Nazarian Pavilion in Doheny Library at University of Southern California, Beit Midrash at the Milken Community High School, and the Hammer Museum at UCLA.


Younes passed away on March 18th, 2022, at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife, Soraya; four children, David, Shula, Sharon, and Sam; daughters-in-law, Angella and Emina; son-in-law, Fernando; and 11 grandchildren.



DISCLAIMER: The views or opinions of our guest speakers and the content of their presentations do not necessarily reflect the views of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Hosting speakers does not constitute an endorsement of the speaker's views or opinions.


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Sponsor(s): Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, The Shalom Hartman Institute, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, American Jewish University, Hillel at UCLA, Sinai Temple, Valley Beth Shalom, B'nai David-Judea, Leo Baeck Temple, and IKAR.