About Manarat: The Van Leer Center for Jewish-Arab Relations

Having recognized the great importance of fostering projects related to Arab culture and society and to Jewish-Arab relations, in 2015 the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute established the Manarat Center. Manarat (“lighthouses” in Arabic) throws its light on a variety of issues, including those pertaining to the status and rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the ramifications of the protracted Israeli-Arab conflict for both Jewish and Arab societies, and Israel’s place in the Middle East. All the Center’s activities involve rigorous research and critical discourse. Not only do they highlight the challenges facing Israeli and Palestinian society, they also reveal the methods and principles likely to promote understanding, a shared life, mutual respect, reconciliation, justice, and peace. To achieve this, Manarat will promote partnerships between Jewish and Arab organizations and research headed equally by Arab and Jewish scholars. 


Manarat aims to attain these objectives through three main fields of activity. First are the projects related to the Arabic language. The underlying idea is that language is a proxy for social and political relations. Therefore, focusing attention on it through projects that analyze its status in Israel, bolster its presence in the public space, and emphasize translation and dissemination of new knowledge from Arabic into Hebrew will promote a set of values and insights about Jewish-Arab relations, particularly the Jewish-Arab rift.


The second group of activities deals with local political issues associated with the current sensitivities of Israeli society, given the weakening of democratic and liberal values, the lack of tolerance, and the rise of overtly racist remarks about Arabs. The projects promote broad public discussion of current issues pertaining to Jewish-Arab relations in Israel as well as closed discussions by professional panels concerning nationwide tensions in Israel. Our intention is that these activities encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking that builds on the importance of peace and equality.


The third branch engages in regional action, attempting to redress the hostile relations between Israeli society and countries and societies of the Middle East. A variety of projects aim to instill different knowledge – cultural, social, political, and human – about the region in which Israel is located: the Middle East. To sketch the possibility of future neighborly relations in the region and a way out of the long stalemate, the projects encourage fresh, courageous thinking that sheds new light on issues at the heart of the protracted conflict in the region.


The Manarat Center is directed by Dr. Yonatan Mendel, who earned his doctorate in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. His research field is the status, study, and locus of Arabic studies in Israel. He is a research fellow at the Center of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge and at the Franz Rosenzweig Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ms. Hanan Saadi, born in Acre and a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, partners with Mendel in the management of the Center and serves as the projects coordinator. Her rich experience over the past decade at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in managing projects of this nature (particularly those related to civil society and Jewish and Palestinian communities) ensures the smooth conduct of the entire Center. 


The following is a general description of the Center’s projects. For further information about the projects in general, specific projects, and opportunities to support the Center, and to receive updates, please e-mail Yonatan Mendel (yonim@vanleer.org.il) or Hanan Saadi (hanas@vanleer.org.il).