Academia celebrates 50 years of German-Israeli relations

February 05, 2015

The Max Planck Society and the Minerva Foundation joined the Weizmann Institute of Science in inviting delegates to a two-day festive event to mark the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations. In keeping with the motto “Celebrating 50 Years of German-Israeli Diplomatic Relations”, top scientists from the two countries came together in Tel Aviv and Rehovot on 10-11 February. Germany’s Minister for Education and Research Johanna Wanka also attended. In addition to other guests from the worlds of politics and society, the presidents of leading research organisations were in attendance as well.

 

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During the symposiums at the Weizmann Institute of Science: Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka (left) and Max Planck President Martin Stratmann (second from right.)

The Minerva Foundation has been committed to scientist exchange between the two countries since 1964 and is now considered a flagship of German-Israeli scientific cooperation. More than 900 Israeli doctoral students and post docs have so far been given the opportunity to undertake a residency at a German university or research institute. Approximately the same number of young German scientists has been to Israel thanks to the Foundation, which is a subsidiary of the Max Planck Society, and as such is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Foundation also funds 20 Minerva Research Centers at Israeli universities and the Weizmann Institute. “I’m sure that no one could have foreseen this development 50 years ago. Given the special history between our two nations it is still a task of particular relevance to foster mutual understanding,” said Max Planck President Martin Stratmann in his celebratory speech. He went on to say that, as one of the world’s leading research and technology nations, Israel remains a highly attractive cooperation partner. The Max Planck Society has close scientific ties with Israel, and primarily with the Weizmann Institute of Science, with which the MPS shares a focus on basic research. Furthermore, Israel is the home of two of the world’s 14 International Max Planck Centers.

At the beginning of the scientific symposium at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot Federal  Research Minister Johanna Wanka announced the foundation of two new Minerva Centres. Headed by Prof. Maama Barkei, a Minerva Centre for probability-based decision-making will carry out research at the department for molecular genetics at the WIS. A further Minerva Center at Bar Ilan University will examine, under the leadership of Prof. Aren M. Maeir, the construct of autonomous decision making and independence in the case of Israel and Aram. "The Minerva Centers are the crown jewels of German-Israeli science relations and have becomeintegral part of the Israeli research landscape," said Wanka.

The Federal Minister also presented the ARCHES prize. This Award for Research, Cooperation and Highest Excellence in Science, which has been presented to outstanding German and Israeli young scientists for joint research since 2008 by the BMBF , goes to the team of Rebecca Voss, a professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Department of Jewish Studies and Maoz Kahana, Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University . The researchers are honoured for their joint project "Beyond the Borderlands: wandering concepts and the emergence of the Jewish and Christian self in early modern Europe."

The two-day meeting being which was held to celebrate the anniversary started on Tuesday afternoon with a keynote speech on the development of scientific cooperation between the two countries since the end of 1950s. Historians Jürgen Renn, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and Hannoch Gutfreund, Professor at the Hebrew University, used their speech at Tel Aviv University to emphasise the turning points that have been experienced over the course of scientific cooperation. On Wednesday, a scientific symposium at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot addressed some of the high points of research cooperation. Speakers included Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Ada Yonath from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Nobel Laureate in Physics, Klaus von Klitzing from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research. The human sciences were also strongly represented, for instance by Yfaat Weiss, Director of the Minerva-Rosenzweig Center at the Hebrew University, and Christian Wiese, scholar of religion and cultural studies. Wrapping up the event, postdoctoral students from Germany and Israel discussed the scientific systems, conditions for research and career opportunities in the two countries.

The Federal Republic of Germany and Israel officially entered into diplomatic relations on 12 May 1965 when Germany’s then-Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and Israel’s Prime Minister Levi Eschkol agreed to exchange ambassadors. A great many events are taking place in Israel and Germany in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary.

JE

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