Knowledge and Awareness: Jews of the German Academic Tradition and the Arab-Israeli Conflict


This research project sought to write a chapter in the history of cultural transfer and influence focusing on Jewish scholars in the area of Oriental Studies who were either partially or fully educated in institutes of higher learning within the sphere of German language and culture, and who subsequently pursued their professional careers in Palestine and the State of Israel. The study sought to examine the path taken by German Orientalism into the heart of Israeli learning and research on the one hand, and to trace the marks left by the escalating Jewish-Arab dispute on these same scholars, who initially became acquainted with the East in places far removed from this dispute, namely within the sphere of European and particularly German learning and discourse.

This research project departed from the premise that the study of the Orient provided these scholars with various singular linguistic and cultural skills that influenced their understanding of the developing reality they encountered upon their immigration from Europe and shaped their outlooks to some extent. The research project further assumed that their close proximity to their objects of study as a result of their migration, and the growing pressure exerted on them to harness their expertise and professional knowledge to the needs of the Jewish collective in Palestine and the State of Israel, challenged their scholarly ethos of independence, distance and objectivity that had been inculcated in these scholars in the European academies of the turn of the century and the first third of the 20th century. It therefore sought to examine the paradox of proximity and remoteness; and through this to examine the possibility that the proximity to the East distanced it from these scholars, or alternatively, caused them to choose to distance themselves in response to the intense proximity created by the dispute. Mobilization, disappointment and disenchantment are part of the range of reactions exhibited by these scholars in face of the growing dispute, and it is these reactions that the research documented and analyzed.

  • knowledge and awareness