Historian Yfaat Weiss receives 2012 Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought

Historian Yfaat Weiss.
Foto: HIS Verlag

August 23, 2012

This year’s award winner is Yfaat Weiss, historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Yfaat Weiss, so claimed the jury, points out the unusual course of Israeli history as well as the potential of civil society in her country: “Through her research, Yfaat Weiss opens our eyes to new thinking about the coexistence of ethnic groups and minorities in Israel.”

The Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought, annually extended by the City of Bremen and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, is endowed with Euro 7,500. It is given to individuals who commit themselves to “venture into the public realm” (Hannah Arendt) in their work. The prize will be presented on December 7th 2012 at the City Hall of Bremen.

The jury’s decision

„Yfaat Weiss, Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, belongs to a young generation of Israeli historians who, in an unbiased manner, research the history of Israel and Palestine“, according to the jury’s explanation.  Weiss tells forgotten and repressed stories about two ethnic groups in Israel, the Jewish people and the Arab people sharing the same living space. By doing so, she allows to "reveal buried memories among European and Arab Jews, between Jews and Muslim Arabs." Prudently, she questions the official discourse which sets the Holocaust as the only measure of coexistence between the peoples of Israel.

The historian encourages rethinking about the coexistence of different groups and people living in Israel. In the perspective of her narrative, there already is a multicultural society in Israel today, which is on its way to become a pluralistic one. It is one of Weiss’ great achievements to play an integral role in this process, so say the jury.

Furthermore the jury pointed out the impact of the methods used by Weiss to tell the story of her country, which encourages historical research as well as more involvement with the specifics of Israeli history and society by the public at large.

About the award winner

Yfaat Weiss, born 1962 in Haifa, is a professor at the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Judaism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. From 2008 until 2011, she led the university’s department of history. Currently, she is the director of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center.

In addition to Jewish history, Yfaat Weiss researches the past of Germany and of Central Europe. Through the course of her career, she was on numerous research fellowships in German-speaking countries, among others at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna, at the Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig and at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. Furthermore, she helped in establishing the Department of Jewish History at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich from 1997 until 1999. Her historical research on German-Jewish-Czech relations is funded by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF). From 2008 to 2011, Weiss participated in a research project by the Volkswagen Foundation about the History of Jews in Germany after 1945. In 2012, the German version of her book "Verdrängte Nachbarn. Wadi Salib - Haifas enteignete Erinnerung "(A Confiscated Memory: Wadi Salib and Haifa's Lost Heritage) was released.

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