On 18 September, in the conference hall of the main building of Voronezh State University Yana Kotlyar-Gal, the attaché for Science and Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of the State of Israel in the Russian Federation, gave a lecture for university students. The topic of her speech was “Contemporary Israeli Culture. Thirtieth Anniversary of Revival of Israeli-Russian Relations”. She talked about the need to keep the historical memory, about cultural innovations, and Russian classical literature.
“Voronezh is the first city I’ve visited since COVID-19 restrictions were loosened. Thank you for a warm welcome! Contemporary Israeli culture is very interesting. One of its characteristic features is multinationalism. You can see it very well in music. The second feature is its open-mindedness and discursive nature. We are not afraid of asking challenging questions and discussing them openly. We cherish the history of our country; we remember the war and the Holocaust. We do not stand still, we develop new art movements. Our life strategy is based on innovations. We pay a lot of attention to the development of technologies and their introduction into culture, communication, and science. Russia is a strong and developing country. I hope together we will create and implement many outstanding projects,” said Yana Kotlyar-Gal.
After the speech, students had a chance to ask questions to the speaker. They asked about future projects of the embassy at VSU, about stereotypes and differences in mentalities and family traditions.
“Will there be joint projects with VSU? We have a lot of progressive faculties!”
“We just discussed this with the Rector today. We hope to start Hebrew courses at VSU one day. Israel has very strong and interesting literature. Many publishing houses in Moscow are interested in translating books from Hebrew to Russian and the other way round. Yes, there are many different translations but there is always room for improvement. We are working actively in this direction.”
“Tell us, which works by Russian writers have influenced the Israeli culture? Which Russian writers are known in Israel?”
I love literature very much. Unfortunately, I am a very slow reader in Russian but I have read all books by Feodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, and Ivan Bunin. Have you heard about David Grossman? He believed that Russian classical literature has been one of the sources of his inspiration. Dina Rubina is well-known in Russia. And we also have wonderful writers. For example, Yevgeny Aryeh and the Gesher Theatre.”
“What stereotypes are there about Israeli women?”
“One of the most common stereotypes is the Israeli Mother. She is very strict. There are lots of “don’ts” which you must always keep in mind. I came to Israel when I was a little kid. I remember I was on a plane and a woman asked me: “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” I was about three at the time. And I said I wanted to be the queen of Israel. And today, I am here, at Voronezh State University, in the hall full of students, talking about Israeli culture. And I feel like my dream came true.”
“Is there anything in common between Russian and Jewish mentalities?”
“I’ll start with the differences. Chutzpah is a quality that helps us create innovations and move forward. We are also quite straightforward and always stick to our word. If we fail we will try again. Among our common features are curiosity, a love for culture, and a desire for knowledge.”
“Have you already visited the Jewish community during your visit to Voronezh?”
“Recently, we have held a charity event and brought needed medical equipment to a home for elderly people. It was very important to do now that the coronavirus infection is spreading very fast.”
“Are there any family traditions in Israel?”
One of the most common traditions is having a big family with a lot of children. Plus, our multinationalism makes an impact. We have borrowed many traditions from other nations! Also, we like to argue a lot. We do this in a non-hostile way, though.”