About Mediterranean Neighbours

Mediterranean   |   societies   |   communities   |   Levant   |   culture

Academic Director (in 2016-2017): Dr. Abigail Jacobson; Director of the Center for Jewish-Arab Relations: Dr. Yonatan (Yoni) Mendel; Program Director: Dr. Edo Litmanovitch

The Mediterranean is surrounded by cultures and societies that share a political, social, economic, and culturalhistory of reciprocal relations. The Mediterranean space is made up of layers of mutual influences and manypoints of contact that at times generate closeness and brotherhood and at other times generate distance or enmity. Although a Mediterranean concept has not been created and although neither peace nor justice reign in the region, many people feel that despite the conflicts the Mediterranean peoples share common experiences, customs, religions, languages, traditions, and narratives, and, above all, they are subject to the same dangers and exposed to the destructive effects of the same climate.

Because of this recognition, the institute has taken upon itself to promote the study of cultures and societies living in countries in the region and to establish the discipline of Mediterranean studies. The decision was based, inter alia, on the 1995 Barcelona Declaration and on the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which redefined the idea of the Mediterranean and cooperation in the Mediterranean basin as an economic, political, and cultural plan of action. In addition to research plans and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, the institute has chosen to focus on encouraging research and promoting understanding and dialogue between Israelis and their neighbours. In an attempt to contend with the political challenges while adopting a critical and independent intellectual approach, Israeli and Palestinian scholars at the institute are spearheading pioneering studies and cross-border projects and are aiming to challenge the discourse, to deepen the knowledge of what is being done in the region, and to serve as a counterweight to demonization, lack of communication, absence of knowledge, and hopelessness.
The Activity
The Mediterranean studies project at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute includes research projects, conferences and symposia, international workshops, and publications on a broad range of topics, from social and political topics to cinema, literature, and music. Some of the projects are for academics and some are for the general public. Discussion groups aim to generate new knowledge and to influence the public’s approach to Israel’s relations with the neighboring societies. The institute aims to be a center of independent research on the Middle East and the Mediterranean space and to overcome political and geographical difficulties in the region so as to create mutual recognition, understanding, and change.
Discussion and research groups address issues related to society, culture, and politics in the Mediterranean region, in the belief that the Mediterranean is not cut off from other geographical and cultural areas. The groups’ work includes lectures that are open to the public. Work in this discipline includes exploration and study of key issues in Israeli academe and in the public discourse, as well as the topics that are absent from them. The Mediterranean Unit encourages interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies and serves as a venue for intellectual discussion by
veteran and beginning scholars in the humanities and the social sciences.
Areas of activity:
• Research
• Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS)
• Regional dialogue
• Anna Lindh Foundation