Department Head: Dr. Alon Levkowitz

Dr. Alon Levkowitz

Dr. Alon Levkowitz, Head of the Asian Studies Program

BA, MA, and PhD in International Relations, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Post-doctoral fellowship in the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada


So… What can you do with a degree in Humanities?

Humanities impart knowledge and thinking tools, which surprisingly (or notat least in my opinion, it’s anything but a surprise) are very practical. If we look at Asian studies, understanding the unique cultures of this continent can help you refrain from basic errors that can be cardinal in academic or professional relations and even in friendly contexts or when touring the continent.


What attracted you to the field?

When I started my BA studies, China and Japan dominated the field, whereas Korea was underappreciated. I deliberately chose to focus on Korea, aiming to amend this fault. Since then, Korean studies have become a central and significant focal point in the field of Asian Studies.


Tell us an anecdote from your academic life that can reveal something about the nature of research in the field.

In one of my lectures at a leading research institute in Washington, I presented my work on South Korean relations with the Middle East. In the audience were many researchers, lecturers, and experts in American and Korean governance who asked challenging questions, forcing me to practice complex, creative, and fast thinking. The tools l have acquired through years of studying the humanities enabled me to understand the multiple interests, cultures, and implications of the subjects they brought to the discussion, and even the contexts that led them to raise their questions, all of which allowed me to answer properly.

Which academic studies do you think fit best with Asian Studies? What is the added value, professionally, of these combinations?

Asian Studies includes learning an Asia language and delving into the culture, politics, economy, history, and other relevant features of the continent’s countries and peoples. I recommend adding a complementing field and studying economics, political studies, law, or communications. These will allow you to maximize the accumulated benefits of the knowledge you gained in Asian studies. I advise putting an effort into extending your comprehension and awareness of Asian social, historical, and cultural nuance, for these are crucial to avoid mistakes that can lead to total failure. In Korea, for example, addressing your superiors by their first name is unacceptable, and such typically friendly Israeli behavior could be considered an insult. Another example is a joint lunch or dinner, the Koreans’ informal way to build trust with foreigners; declining an invitation to dine together or misbehaving throughout a meal will damage trust. Today, the Asian market is a dominant factor for both the private and public-governmental sectors, and obviously, approaching a job interview with a degree in Asian studies will give you an advantage over other candidates.

What distinguishes the Asian Studies Program at Bar-Ilan University from others?

Our program provides a sense of the warmth of an academic family. We instruct the students personally and encourage them to be creative and aim high.


What are the most important tools or abilities for those specializing in humanities?

Acquiring an Asian language—Japanese, Chinese, or Korean—and understanding Asian cultures, economics, and politics make for many intriguing opportunities.


Peeking into your work bag or study, what interesting, perhaps surprising, object might we see there?

In my office, you will find a Moktak, a percussion instrument used for rhythm in Korean Buddhist temples.