Yoni Mendel completed his doctoral studies in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University in 2011. In the course of his doctoral studies he received several scholarships, including the Chevening Scholarship, the Wingate Scholarship, and the Leo Baeck Scholarship. His doctoral thesis was on the political history of the study of Arabic in Jewish schools in Palestine/Israel from 1935 to 1985; it contained an analysis of the political and security networks that shaped the study of Arabic in Israel. Upon his return to Israel he received a post-doctoral fellowship at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where he taught a course in the Department of Government and Politics titled “Language, Politics, and Conflict.” He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on the beginnings of Arabic-language instruction in the Jewish education system during the British Mandate period (1920–1948). He examines the influence of Jewish-German scholars on the study of Arabic in Hebrew-language schools and analyzes the encounter between the German Orientalist tradition in philology and the field of Arabic-language study that was then developing in Palestine.
His research area is the sociology of language, specifically, the influences of political conflict on the study of, and attitude towards, a language and the way in which research on language contributes to understanding deep social and political processes. In this regard, his most recent study at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev deals with the Zionist Arabic news agencies which operated in the 1930s and 1940s. A study that he is working on at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute deals with the political meanings of Yiddish spoken in Palestine during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In January 2015, Dr. Mendel was appointed to head a new center at the institute – Manarat: The Van Leer Center for Jewish-Arab Relations. It focuses on issues connected to Jewish-Arab relations in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and to Israel-Arab relations in the Middle East as a whole.
In additional to his official roles at the institute, Dr. Mendel also participates in the Partition and Its Alternatives discussion group, which deals with aspects of dividing the country, coordinates the Ofek Project for Arabic Media, which deals with translation to Hebrew of opinion pieces from the Arabic press, and has initiated an Arabic conference at the Institute.