"Contact" is how the President of the Max Planck Society, Otto Hahn, at the time referred to the first attempts by German and Israeli researchers after the Holocaust to again find common ground at least in the scientific sector. Together with Feodor Lynen and Wolfgang Gentner, in 1959 he issued an official invitation to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and just two years later the first German Max Planck scientist spent an extended research residency in Israel. In 1964, the two institutions formalised their cooperation with the conclusion of the first Minerva contract, and in 1967 Israeli scientists were guests at Max Planck Institutes for the first time.
Attempts to forge closer links came at a time when Germany and Israel were understandably still finding it difficult to establish contacts on a broader level. Science was able to make the first moves towards a rapprochement easier, as basic research, which lies at the heart of the principles of nature, embodied something that went beyond any breakdowns in relations, and that was of equal concern for both sides; science helped to deal with a tragedy that seemed to insurmountably separate the Israeli and German peoples. Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt acknowledged this fact in 1973 when he visited the Weizmann Institute of Science with the words: "We started again to be like other peoples when professors not just from America and Russia, not just from France and Poland, but from your country too came to us to work together with us".
Today, the Minerva Foundation, founded in the 1960s as a subsidiary of the Max Planck Society, is the flagship of German-Israeli scientific cooperation. It is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and works closely with leading universities and research facilities in Israel. Research is promoted in and with Israel on three levels:
Minerva Research Centers were set up in the 1970s at Israeli universities and at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. They are financed by income from funding to the universities by the German government and work in all fields of research in the form of small Centers of Excellence. New Minerva Centers are in the meantime being founded on the basis of calls for applications at all universities in Israel.