Ambassador Kurtzer at Dedication of Center for Study of U.S.:
Baseball and Civil War Keys to Understanding United States
In talks with the Palestinians, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer related, one of the Americans wanted to know whether there was to be incremental progress toward a solution or whether they would be “swinging for the fences.” *
Whoever doesn’t know baseball would have no idea what he meant.
The American ambassador was guest of honor at the dedication of the University’s newest research framework, the Center for the Study of the United States. The ceremony was one of the events of the 30th meeting of the Board of Governors. The center was established with a donation from the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation-Fulbright, which selected the University of Haifa in a competition of proposals to set up such a facility. The research will concentrate on problems of relevance to both countries, its first tow years to be devoted to Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Diversity in the United States.
“Yesterday was Memorial Day in the United States,” Ambassador Kurtzer informed the audience. “It started as a result of the Civil War.
“To understand the United States, one has to study baseball and the Civil War,” he advised.
He continued: “It is not a forgone conclusion that understanding comes with friendship. Respective societies have to study each other.” They have to gain mutual “cultural literacy.”
The American ambassador gave an example of the recent use of a cultural idiom that did not involve the United States. “Israeli commentators wrote that Arafat needs his own Altalena,” he said. “If you don’t understand what that means, you don’t know Israel.” **
The University’s new center would be “a window to understanding,” he said. And, bringing home his point through an analogy, he added, “Students would then be able to move beyond the Beltway.” ***
Kurtzer concluded by saying that he hoped the partnership between the center, the city of Haifa, the University, the embassy, and the United States would flourish.
Other speakers at the ceremony inaugurating the center were Jonathan Friedland, the U.S. Consul in Haifa and director of the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation; Prof. Mechal Sobel of the Dept. of General History, who heads the center; and Prof. Hasia Diner, holder of the Steinberg Chair in American Jewish History at New York University. Diner delivered an address that gave much food for thought. That, in fact, was its title: “Food for thought: Immigration, Ethnic Identity, and American Abundance.”
* The term means trying to get it all; in baseball, trying to hit a homerun (by hitting the ball over the fence, out of the playing field).
** Name of a ship bringing in arms for a radical Jewish group that did not want to unite with the Haganah, pre-State Israel’s main defense force; despite the common enemy, Israel’s future Prime Minister ordered the vessel sunk in the name of a unified future state.
*** The highway surrounding Washington, DC.
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