Letter from the Head of the Program

Simply put, our honors program undertakes to shape Israel’s future leaders. Three decades from its launching, Amirim graduates now populate numerous positions of influence in academia, law, industry, business, journalism and education. Our mission is to nurture and challenge, empower and humble, instruct and edify the minds who will define Israeli culture in years to come.

Each year, twenty-five of the very best students at Israel’s highest ranked academic institution are selected for the program. My obligation as Amirim’s director is to ensure that these young people will benefit from studying with our University’s most exciting teachers and receive broad exposure to eye-opening content within and outside the Humanities. Our requirements are demanding – students need to maintain a very high grade-average throughout their studies. They must master a third foreign language (apart from Hebrew and English) and be proficient enough for academic studies in this language in their third year as part of student-exchange programs in Europe. Students also participate in numerous academic activities outside their courses, such as debates, tours, symposiums, and conferences.

In return for their labours, these hard-working learners are rewarded through one-of-a-kind opportunities for personal growth. A rich cultural program enables our students to attend theater performances, watch dance, audit concerts, and participate in film festivals – all such activities are fully funded by Amirim. The capstone event of Amirim’s three-year program, is a thread of academic courses leading to a study trip abroad, in which learning and insight interlock with embodied experience. Recent trips were to England and Germany; future ones include China, India, and Italy. Resources covering such initiatives as well as the funding of the fellowships for Amirim students (the University waives their tuition fees), is a long-term obligation of The Hebrew University.  While it is situated within the Humanities, our program enjoys the ongoing support of the University’s President and Rector. Both are committed to ensuring that Amirim will thrive and be a potent vehicle for impacting Israeli society and culture for generations to come.  

Unique to Amirim, is that our students reach us at a relatively old age (23-4), after completing military service of at least three years. For humanistic studies, this delay in initiating study is priceless. It means that our students engage with profound works only after maturing in a challenging environment, after learning more about who they are, and undergoing real world encounters in one of the most fraught regions of the world. The practical, ethical, religious, and political tensions that these students have already lived with prior to reading Plato, Shakespeare or the Koran, elevates the level of in-class discussion. Due to this singular combination of personal experience, academic merit, and a communitarian ethos fostering candid debate, Amirim classes can become intense and profound study periods, that the best programs in the world would be hard-pressed to rival.

Prof. Tzachi Zamir,

Director of the Amirim Honors Program in the Humanities