The short note below is taken from a description of the 6th International Seminar to Research Students at the Leo Baeck Institute for German Jewish History and Culture in Modern Times. Jerusalem, 15 to 20 March 2009. (To read the full report click on the link below)
What is The Leo Baeck Institute? The Leo Baeck Institute is devoted to studying the history of German-speaking Jewry from its origins to its tragic destruction by the Nazis and to preserving its culture. Dating back almost 2000 years, when Jews first settled along the Rhine, the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, and other German-speaking areas of Europe had a history marked by individual as well as collective accomplishments in communal organization and welfare, commerce, industry and politics, the arts and sciences, and in literature, philosophy and theology.
Please note, Mosche Zimmermann (Hebrew University), José Brunner (Tel Aviv University) and Gideon Freudenthal (Tel Aviv University) chaired panels of this seminar.
Afterwards we visited an Arab youth club in the neighbourhood of the archaeological site (Silwan). There we were told about social, political and economic problems resulting from the existence of this site, particularly for the Israeli-Arab and Palestinian inhabitants of Silwan. The people who ran the youth club presented it as a neighbourhood empowerment project aimed at improving living conditions in Silwan and insisted on its political autonomy – e.g., by refusing any financial aid from Fatah or Hamas. The alternative archaeology project also appeared to be not purely archaeological fieldwork, but also a political opposition to the, as they described it, right-wing organization that runs the official archaeological site of the „City of David“.
The cultural program turned out to be an interesting contrast to general narratives, whether they are leftist, right-wing, or the official Zionist one. It was indeed an example of democratic courage to allow not only people who agreed with the received wisdom, but also people who were very critical of it, to guide a group of guests like us. You might not find the same in German official institutions, so special thanks for this courage to the Leo Baeck Institute.