Research with not about Israel

A highly symbolic job: Yossi David from Jerusalem is the first Israel Professor at Uni Mainz.

Dr. Yossi David is Israel Professor at Uni Mainz
Dr. Yossi David is Israel Professor at Uni Mainz privat

He’s here at long last and he’s the first: since October 2018 Dr. Yossi David has been Israel Professor at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (JGU). For three years the Israeli expert in communications studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will work in Germany. His research will focus on how the two societies reciprocally perceive each other. Moreover, David will be studying media coverage and public opinion in Israel and Germany. “There are many cultural and social differences between the two countries, but there are also parallels. I’m interested in both. In our research and lives we all too often neglect what we have in common,” David suggests.

A gift from the State government

The professorship was a gift from the government of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. Back in 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, Minister President Malu Dreyer promised that the research position on Israel would be upgraded into a full professorship. The goal: To give research into Israel and the Middle East greater depth. “It’s a highly symbolic professorship,” says JGU Rector Professor Georg Krausch. “We’ve been in close contact with Israeli colleagues at our partner university in Haifa for many years now, but the collaboration becomes far more visible in the form of a professorship dedicated explicitly to Israel.”

Strengthening relations to Israel 

Establishing the professorship was no easy task. There were problems in the applications procedure and disagreement over the concept for the chair. As a result, several years elapsed before the position was filled. Now, all those involved at the JGU have agree on a fixed-term job being created. Every three years a new Israeli academic specialised in communications studies will come to Mainz. Krausch outlines the advantages of this arrangement: “We don’t want to research about Israel, but to do research with Israelis. A permanent professorship would be best suited for the former. We, however, want to strengthen our overall relationship with Israel, and the three-year model is ideal for that.” As a result, the university can forge links to different academics and in this way create a network. In this way, interaction between both students and between lecturers will hopefully be strengthened.

David wants to intensify exchange

David likewise wants to help – both during his time in Germany and after he returns home in three years’ time. “Of course, when sending students or colleagues abroad you much prefer to do so if you yourself already know the uni, the country and the people in question. I’m well networked in Israel and thanks to my position will soon be in Germany, too. Both countries could benefit from that,” the communications expert says.

Since 2011, the 36-year-old has been conducting research into political communications and empirical methodology in Israel. In his Ph.D. thesis, he focussed on public opinion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His findings show that the discussion inside Israeli society on the Middle East conflict is far more heterogeneous than the German public would believe. He wants to build on this view in Mainz and study how the two societies respectively perceive the other.

With my research I want to strengthen understanding between Israel and Germany.

Yossi David, Israel Professor at Mainz University

We asked Yossi David three questions about his new position and about Germany.

Dr. David, how do you like Mainz?
I love living here. It’s a great, unique experience, Alongside the USA and Israel Germany leads the world in communications studies. So not only is living here fun, but so is the research. Of course there were a few things I initially had to get used to. That’s normal.

Why did you decide to come to Germany?
When I was offered the job I didn’t need to think twice. I’d just completed my Ph.D. and was ready for a new challenge – in both academic and private terms. In Germany, I can get to know a new culture and at the same time collaborate with superbly qualified colleagues. Some of them are already big names in the field. It’s great to be able to work side by side with them.

What do you hope to achieve as the new Israel Professor?
I want above all to forge personal links between the two countries and through my research strengthen mutual understanding. I do hope I will succeed over the next three years.

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