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European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London, 2015-16

The Politics of Land. Archaeology, Architecture and City Planning in Israel

This season’s theme intends to approach its broad subject via a spectrum of political, legal and cultural perspectives. We will examine more closely how the realities of ‘land’ or ‘territory’ impact on the daily lives of Israeli and foreign citizens living in the State of Israel, be they Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

Organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.

Places are strictly limited and must be reserved in advance by contacting the Leo Baeck Institute, London
Email: info(ghi)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7882 5690

Venue: German Historical Institute London.


5 November

Gunnar Lehmann (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)
Past and Politics in the Archaeology of Israel

The different concepts of the past are an integral part of Israeli politics today. Jewish politics in Israel often seek legitimation through a connection with the physical remains of the past. As stones do not speak, their presence and their past meanings are explained within the present political discourse of the Israeli society. In some sense, every generation creates its own past. While the national religious and right wing secular sections of the Jewish society have a deep interest in connecting their identities with assumed past collective meanings, other sectors of the society express less interest in this discourse. The Arab sector feels that archaeology leads to a delegitimization of their interests. The secular Jewish sector on the other hand does not feel a need to refer to the past. They consider their Israeli identity as an established fact that does not require legitimation through the past.

Gunnar Lehmann is Professor of Archaeology working today in various projects in Israel and Turkey.

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (this will take you to the Leo Baeck Institute website)

3 December

Thabet Abu Rass (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)
Land, Power and Resistance in Israel: The Case of the Bedouins of the Negev

In this lecture the state policies toward tens of thousands of the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev region in Israel who live in ‘unrecognized villages’, will be highlighted. Militarizing space to secure land has always been one of the means to control land. The Prawer Plan is the current attempt of displacing the Bedouins to finalize their land claims and urbanize them against their will. The landowners have tried all means of resistance including the legal and political ones, however, they didn’t succeed. Therefore, they returned to their tribal roots in a last, but incredibly effective attempt to challenge the imminent confiscation of the lands of their ancestors.

Abu Rass is a political geographer and an expert in land and planning. He teaches courses at Ben Gurion University. His research interests include minority-majority relations, local governments, land and planning. He has been writing extensively about the Bedouin community in the Negev and he is currently the Executive Director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives (Jerusalem).

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (this will take you to the Leo Baeck Institute website)


11 February

Yfaat Weiss (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Political Sovereignty and Cultural Property: The Mount Scopus Enclave in Jerusalem

The UN Partition Plan for Palestine known as UN Resolution 181 envisioned Jerusalem as a Corpus Separatum, an international city open and accessible to believers of the three monotheistic religions. This did not materialize. While the city was divided as a result of the 1948 War, Mount Scopus in its northern part acquired an exceptional status. Until 1967 it existed as an enclave amid Jordanian territory, divided into a Jordanian and an Israeli part under UN control. This lecture will shed light on the fate of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a contested space encapsulated and frozen in the midst of national conflict and armed struggle.

Yfaat Weiss is Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the Head of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History. Her latest monograph in the field of spatial history is A Confiscated Memory: Wadi Salib and Haifa’s Lost Heritage (2011).

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (this will take you to the Leo Baeck Institute website)

14 April

Wendy Pullan (University of Cambridge)
In the Shadow of the Wall: Icon and Identity in Jerusalem’s Separation Barrier

In Jerusalem, the separation barrier has galvanized public opinion, both in its role as a hard barrier inside a divided city and as the visible ‘tip of the iceberg’ that reflects only a fraction of the political and military regime supporting the occupation. This lecture will acknowledge the wall’s political status but focus on issues to do with the iconicity of such a structure, including its power in situ in the human landscape, in the media and in its existential meanings.

Wendy Pullan is based at the University of Cambridge where she is Head of the Department of Architecture and Director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research. Her recent publications include: Locating Urban Conflicts (2013), Architecture and Pilgrimage (2013) and The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places (2013). She is a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (this will take you to the Leo Baeck Institute website)


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