The Shalem Center is a research and educational organization in Israel, which has had a nontraditional development pattern, starting with a research and graduate fellowships, then graduate education, and eventually the first liberal arts college in the country. It has the goal of "developing ideas capable of sustaining and unifying the Jewish people, and enriching and strengthening the State of Israel." It is fair to say that such a mission statement will not be likely to attract critics of Israel.
It opened in 1995, founded by people inside and outside Israel, led by Yoram Hazony and Daniel Polisar, with twelve graduate fellows. In 1996, it created the English-language journal of culture and public affairs, Azure, and a Hebrew-language Techelet, under editor-in-chief Ofir Haivry. They are now quarterly, and Techelet has the largest circulation of a general interet journal in Israel.
Publishing extended, in 1997, to Shalem Press, the first Hebrew translations of books including Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville's Demoracy in America, and John Stuart Mill's On Liberty followed.
A Senior Fellows program intended to support the writing of books, focused on Zionist History and Thought. Initially, Michael Oren wrote a history of the Six Days War. Next, in 1999, the Bernstein Memorial Lecture in Jewish Political Thought began, with the initial speakers being Irving Kristol, Ruth Wisse, Ruth Gavison, and Fania Oz-Salzberger.
A book imprint of The New Republic published Yoram Hazony’s The Jewish State on Zionist intellectual history, which was highly visible in the United States. In Israel, its publication startd a controversy over the drift towards post-Zionism in the Israeli school system, investigated by the Knesset. After hearings, the Education Ministry appointed an evaluating committee, and in the end adopted guidelines for presenting to students a "more positive perspective on Zionist history".
In 2001, the Institute for Philosophy, Political Theory and Religion, began a novel approach to the modern humanities curriculum, putting studying the Western tradition side-by-side with classical Jewish sources.
Michael Oren's Six Days of War was drepublished by Oxford University Press, while the Shalem Press issued a Hebrew edition of Samuel Harrington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, followed by works by Henry Kissinger, Alain Finkielkraut, and Natan Sharansky.
After a 2004 conference on political Hebraism, led by Meirav Jones, a movement within academia started to reconsider the nature and scope of the Jewish contribution to the core ideas of Western civilization. Following the conference, Shalem began Hebraic Political Studies, the first scholarly, peer-reviewed journal in this field.
Shalem addded archaeology in 2006, sponsoring an excavation in the City of David by senior fellow Eilat Mazar. Their dig found a massive structure dating to the 10th-century B.C.E., the time of David and Solomon, which could be the palace of David described in the Bible.
2006 marked the the first year of a pilot program to offer semester-length courses in Hebrew to Israeli undergraduates. After opening with 40 students in three courses, the program attracted over 1,000 applicants in its second and third years, of whom nearly 200 take part in over a dozen courses on subjects ranging from Jewish thought and political philosophy, to constitutional development and economic policy.
In 2008, the Center released a detailed time line for creating Israel’s first liberal arts college, and faculty recruiting and curriculum development began. The plan is to submit, to the Council on Higher Education in 2009, an application to accredit a four-year, BA-granting institution in Jerusalem.
With the support of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Natan Sharansky established the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center. Sharansky, whose aim was to develop the strategies needed by Israel and the West to grapple with an increasingly challenging international climate, was joined at the Institute by former IDF chief-of-staff Moshe Ya’alon and by Prof. Martin Kramer, and by Arab affairs commentator Ehud Ya’ari.
- History of Shalem, Shalem Institute