Held in conjunction with a concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Tel Aviv, Israel. December 25th 1996.
It is with feelings of great emotion that I stand here before you to receive the honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Jerusalem. My emotions are stirred for various reasons, but mainly because of the great honour of being included within a long list of distinguished and important people who have preceded me in receiving this degree. The second reason is that the degree is in philosophy, an area which enables one to distinguish between merely putting together notes and making music, an area which helps one to understand music and to see in it not just a collection of notes but a general cosmic expression. The third, no less important, reason is my feeling upon receiving this degree form this prestigious and important institution, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with the emphasis on Jerusalem.
Although I was raised in Tel Aviv and went to elementary school as well as high school there, Jerusalem to me was always the symbol of the ties between the tradition which comes from yesterday and the future which begins tomorrow. The cultures of Rome, Greece, Eastern and Western Europe were nurtured from the sources to be found in Jerusalem. The source of all European culture is in fact Jerusalem. Every person that has any connection whatsoever with culture – whether one is speaking of music, literature, or science – returns, upon his coming to Jerusalem, something that he has received there, directly or indirectly, and therefore I see in Jerusalem the spiritual centre for all nations.
In this time, which is not an easy one in terms of political tension between various factions among our people and difficult conflicts between the Orthodox and the secular, I believe that first of all we must try and define who is a Jew. The definition of an Orthodox Jew is understood; however, the definition of a secular Jew is complex, and until we can make this definition, until we are able to explain what brings a person to be and to feel himself a Jew, we will not be able to explain to ourselves the foundation of our existence.; we will also not be able to conduct a dialogue between ourselves, and between ourselves and our Palestinian neighbours.
This is our fundamental problem. And until we understand this problem and are intelligent enough to define it, the State of Israel is likely to reach the situation of a theocratic state, as the Arab states are likely to develop along fundamentalist lines. A person who is unable to achieve self-definition and self-satisfaction will not be able to conduct a dialogue with others, and so we also will not be able to develop normal, reasonable relations with our Palestinian neighbours. Then, to my sorrow, the vision of the State of Israel and Zionism would become a passing, historic episode.
The greatest struggle of every mortal being is to try and halt the passing of time, and this of course we cannot do. Therefore, in my opinion, the concept of Zionism also must develop and find the golden mean that will lead to harmonious internal and external relations. This harmony, as in music, can be achieved even if it is made up of conflicting elements, albeit of the strongest and most radical nature, as long as each element can develop itself to its fullest.
It is my dream that all of the problems I have raised, of Jewish self-definition, of relations between religious and secular, and of the need to reach a situation of proper and fair relations with our Palestinian neighbours, will be solved soon. I believe that this is the only way and I believe that if this will be so, Israel will become a cultural centre of great importance in the Middle East, and will become, and not just figuratively, a light unto the nations.
I am pleased that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem chose this house in which we now find ourselves worthy as a place for presentation of this degree. This house is close to my heart and especially so because it is in this hall and with the Philharmonic Orchestra that I have appeared so many times for over forty years; the ties between us are strong, sturdy ties built upon mutual appreciation and professional and friendly relations. Therefore I see this degree as being given not only to me but also to the members of the orchestra who are sitting here tonight on this stage and also those who have shared with me important musical experiences in the past.
I hope that I will justify the trust that you have placed in me by presenting this important degree to me on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and that I will be able to continue to contribute with all of my ability to the state as a whole and to Jerusalem in particular.
I thank the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its leaders for presenting to me this degree of which I am so proud.