Identity Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East

There is much to discuss about the identity -and the identity crisis- of the Occidental culture and civilization, but the crisis at the foundation of all the others is one of cultural and spiritual identity. The way to address this crisis is a return to our roots, recovering awareness of our cultural and spiritual heritage so as to renew our appreciation for it.
Two double traditions lay at the foundations of the Occidental worldview: From the point of view of secular culture, a combination of the literary, philosophical and scientific achievements of ancient Greece and Rome. From a spiritual and religious perspective, the Judeo-Christian heritage and worldview. Most of the sources of Greco-Roman culture and those of Judeo-Christian heritage were written in either Ancient Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. Classical Arabic also played a part as the vehicular language that carried some of these works into the West through translations.
After Classical Latin and Ancient Greek stopped being the common spoken languages, people in the West kept studying them and using them up to the 19th Century. From the beginning of the 20th Century, the study of the languages in which our cultural heritage was expressed for the past two millennia was removed from the curricula, but this educational revolution was not accompanied by a significant work of translation of classical and medieval works into modern languages. Around 70% of the written works of Antiquity and the Middle Ages have never been translated into a modern language.

I will present here two projects based in Israel that wish to contribute to the recovery of the Occidental cultural and spiritual heritage:

The first project is Polis – The Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanities, a research and learning center devoted to reviving our ancient cultural heritage, which has developed an innovative language teaching pedagogy that enables students to learn ancient languages as mother tongues. By mastering the languages of Antiquity we can have a direct access to the written sources of our civilization, most of them available only in ancient Greek, Latin, Biblical Hebrew or Classical Arabic.

The second project is connected with the Judeo-Christian heritage. When the West looks for its own roots it must necessarily look to the place of birth of Christianity. The Saxum Project is a Conference Center with a Multimedia resource Center located 15 km. West of Jerusalem, aimed at hosting pilgrims, visitors and scholars from all over the world who wish to deepen their knowledge of the literature, history, archaeology, and social context in which the Judeo-Christian worldview was born. The Visitor and Multimedia resource Center offers information about the places connected with the Bible, the ancient history of the Jewish People and the birth of Christianity.

Dr. Mercedes Rubio

S. A in Ancient and Classical Heritage at OSI Occidental Studies Institute and Director of Research and Institutional Relations at Polis The Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanities. Spain/Israel.