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Yaakov Malkin


Prof. Yaakov Malkin was an intellectual, educator, writer, literary critic, and professor emeritus in the Faculty of Arts at Tel Aviv University. Malkin worked and wrote on a variety of fields, including cinema and aesthetics, the Bible as literature and Judaism as culture, community life free from religion, and more.

Malkin was born in 1926 in Warsaw, Poland, and immigrated to Israel (then Palestine) at the age of seven with his parents, the lecturer and theater critic D.B. Malkin and Felia Flexer Malkin, an accountant at the Histadrut and a clerk at Bank Hapoalim.

He was the editor of the monthly "On the Wall" of the Hashomer Hatzair movement (1946-1944) and as part of his service in the Haganah was the voice of the underground radio station "Telem Shamir Boaz" and the first director of the "Voice of the Defense Army" broadcast station, from which the radio station Galei Tzahal grew. He was later responsible for arms smuggling through the ports of Marseille and Baltimore, in addition to other covert missions.

Between 1952 and 1956, Malkin taught comparative literature and the Bible from a literary point of view at the Kibbutzim Seminary College in Tel Aviv and also worked as the director of the Habima Theater's repertoire department and as a drama lecturer at the Cameri and Habima Theater School. He studied with Martin Buber at the Hebrew University, and later also at the Sorbonne in Paris, and during the 1960s  lectured on cinema at the Technion in Haifa while writing a doctoral dissertation at Tel Aviv University on the role of criticism in the cinematic creative process.

From 1969 to 1994 he was a professor at Tel Aviv University, where he taught aesthetics and criticism of theater and cinema. He was one of the founders of the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University in 1971, and also served as the first faculty member in the new department.

Malkin believed in the literary power of the script, a perception that was expressed in his statement: "It is possible to make a bad film out of a good script, but I do not know an excellent film created from a bad script." Together with a group of students - Uri Klein, Gidi Orsher, Eitan Green, Irma Klein, Danny Wert and Gideon Amir - he published "Closeup", a magazine that focused on the art of cinema. At the same time, together with Lia van Leer he developed the Israeli Film Archive and establishedthe first cinematheque in Haifa and later in Jerusalem. In 2004, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

Malkin founded and directed the first community centers in Haifa, Beit Rothschild and the Beit Hagefen Jewish-Arab Community Center. Following a series of articles he published claiming that secular community centers should replace synagogues and the publication of his book "Quality of Life and Community Resurrection", the then mayor of Haifa, Abba Hushi, invited him to establish the Beit Rothschild Cultural Center (now Beit Hecht) in the Carmel Center and establish the Jewish-Arab Community Center "Beit Hagefen". These community centers were first run by member communities that organized as independent associations and led and guided the dozens of activities and social circles that operated in them, including the Haifa Cinematheque. In 2010, Malkin was awarded the Haifa Municipality Award for these activities.

Over the years, Malkin worked to cultivate the democratic discourse in Israel, through his work in the fields of rhetoric and lecture. He founded the Israel Institute of Speech Culture, and published the book "The Art of Lecturing and Persuasion." As an author, he authored a number of works, including The Novel Vankaban and the plays "Jonah Jones" and "Song of Songs," which he co-published with his wife, painter Felice Pazner Malkin. The two also co-produced "Art as Love," a philosophical essay accompanied by drawings, and "The Lexicon of the Arts." Felice Pazner Malkin's paintings also appear on the covers of most of his books.

After retiring from Tel Aviv University, he devoted 25 years to secular and atheist Jewish culture in Israel and worked against the exclusive identification of Judaism with religion. Together with his daughter, Rabbi Sivan Maas, he founded "Tmura-Israeli Judaism: The International Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism," which trains active secular Jewish leadership and secular humanist rabbis. The institute is part of an organizational structure called "Secular Judaism" that includes educational, community and public activities.

Malkin perceived Judaism as a pluralistic culture - secular and religious. He argued that pluralism had characterized Judaism since biblical times, when the culture of the Jewish people was characterized by a multiplicity of gods, religions, cults, beliefs, and opinions. In contrast to atheist thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, Malkin devoted his writings to the humanistic beliefs prevalent in the non-religious public in the West in general, and among the Jewish people in Israel in particular. According to Malkin, there are no "nonbelievers" in the world, but people who express a variety of beliefs through their lifestyles and actions. religious beliefs can include a commitment to obey religious leaders who ostensibly speak in the name of god, while the beliefs of nonbelievers can include belief in man as sovereign over his life and over shaping his rules of conduct, as an individual and as a society, out of a desire to fulfill the purpose of human life — happiness.

Malkin argued that secular beliefs run counter to that of "divine religions," which require believers to follow their their leaders' orders, including those that run counter to the tenets of humanism and universal justice. The humanist faith also opposes "ideological secular religions" such as Communism and Nazism, since those who believe in them are also obliged to obey all the commands, commandments and instructions of their leaders in the name of the goal that sanctifies the means.

Malkin's writings explore the non-religious humanistic beliefs in the human as sovereign, including those of agnostics such as Socrates, deists such as Epicurus, pantheists suvh as Spinoza and Einstein, and atheists such as John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell. These thinkers are free from commitment to divine or ideological religion. Their beliefs are committed to humanistic ethics and universal rules of justice as formulated by Confucius and Hillel the Elder: Treat others as you would like others to treat you. From these rules of justice derive the moral values ​​of equality, liberty, and human rights for every person and every people.

Yaakov Malkin passed away at his Jerusalem home in July 2019. 


Uzia 11, Jerusalem

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