In my research I am interested in the ways emotions serve as a motivating factor in the decisions that individuals and collectives take throughout history. In the history of Israel and the Near East, they play a central role in building a self-understanding or the image of the enemy. Analyzing textual representations and expressions of emotions, I am interested in the process in which collective and private emotions crystallize and transform through intellectuals into (calls for) action.
In my last book, I examined the journey of the religious studies scholar Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) from Berlin to Jerusalem and back to Germany. Being a Zionist, Scholem immigrated to Palestine in 1923 to discover that his Zionist Utopia could not be fulfilled in the way he expected. His disillusionment with his Zionist dream and the despair he experienced in Palestine during the years of the Holocaust brought him to gradually return to the post-1945 German-speaking intellectual world. In post-war Germany he played the role of a father figure and a moral authority for a younger generation of intellectuals who could not trust their own father generation. For Scholem, the return to Germany reflected his own disillusionment with the State of Israel and its political direction.
My recent research deals with the impact of the Six-Day War on Israel from 1967 down to today. At the center of my research stands the question of the relationship between Land and People in Israel/Palestine after 1967. Many Jewish intellectuals regarded the Six-Day War as a turning point. For many Israelis, the Zionist utopia was revived through the victory and the unexpected occupation of new territories, while others warned about the dangers to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the wake of the War. This project aims to analyze different reactions of intellectuals to the occupation of the territories in the Six-Day War. Another central aspect in my research is in the field of environmental history. The Land of Israel/Palestine is one geographical region, in which Israelis and Arabs share the same natural resources and ecological system. My research analyzes the idea of sustainability in Israel after 1967, especially in relation to the notion of environmental justice and the changing attitudes within Israeli society towards human rights. Finally I also seek to trace the emotional relation to the land in Israeli imagination and to examine the role of the Six-Day War as a turning point in this context.
I look forward to working with students who wish to understand better the complexities accompanying Zionism and the State of Israel from the turn of the century and until today, and students who are interested in the history of Israel in relation to other countries and in comparison with similar phenomena from all over the world.