The European Association of Israel Studies (EAIS) held its 8th Annual Conference in Prague from 8 – 10 September 2019

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The European Association of Israel Studies (EAIS) held its 8th Annual Conference in Prague from 8 – 10 September 2019. The conference took place thanks to the support of the Israel Institute and our hosts at the Centre for the Study of the Holocaust and Jewish Literature, Faculty of Arts, Charles University.

Charles University is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university established in Central Europe and continues to receive international recognition for excellence in teaching. Charles University is also one of the leading institutions in Europe promoting Israel Studies and recently opened the Herzl Centre for Israel Studies.

The EAIS conference ran alongside Charles University’s 5th Annual Israel Week. Israel week is an academic event that aims to identify the main subjects of Israel Studies, covered by Czech and international scholars, whilst also forging ties between the Czech academic world and Israeli / international institutions.

The conference was titled ‘Democracy in Challenging Times: Israel, Europe and the World’ and aimed to analyse the changing political landscapes currently seen in both Israel and Europe, whilst also focusing on common political trends that are challenging contemporary democracies worldwide.

The conference began on Sunday 8 September with a special opening ceremony. All delegates were welcomed by Prof. Lenka Rovná, CSc., Vice-Rector for European Affairs, Charles University, doc. Michal Pullmann, Ph.D., Dean of Faculty of Arts, Charles University, and Dr Joanna Dyduch, Ph.D., Chair of The European Association of Israel Studies, EAIS and Jagiellonian University. The ceremony was held under the auspices of Tomáš Petříček Ph.D., Minister of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic.

The conference opened with a keynote address from Professor Yfaat Weiss, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem / Leibniz- Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow. Prof Weiss spoke about the Wadi Salib Riots of 1959 in her keynote address, entitled: ‘Contemporary Archaeology: Wadi Salib’. She spoke about how “…the 60th anniversary of those events may open ways to different interpretations and a broader contextualization in time and space. [This lecture] will excavate the past of British Mandatory Palestine (1920-1948) and observe the wider global perspective of ethnic homogenization following World War II.”

The opening address was followed by a drinks reception, hosted by the Faculty of Arts at Charles University. As this was the 8th Conference of the Association, the opening reception allowed delegates to reconnect with friends and colleagues from conferences past, as well as make new connections and develop stronger networks with scholars from around the continent and beyond.

The next two days of the conference saw 144 scholars presenting their research on a number of topics, including literature, music, film, history, international relations, health, domestic policy, international policy and international law.

On Monday evening, after the panels had concluded, the Herzl Centre for Israel Studies (HCIS), celebrated its official opening. The director of the Centre, Dr Irena Kalhousová, welcomed all of the delegates to Prague and invited them to engage with the new centre. Following the HCIS opening event, Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger, University of Haifa and former Director of Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies, delivered a keynote address on ‘Israel and Europe: A Crucial Conversation in a Complicated Era’, which was co-hosted by Israel Week at Charles University. Following the second keynote, all delegates were then invited to the historic University Karolinum for an informal networking event.

During the conference, there were two plenary sessions held for delegates. The first was titled: ‘Israel Studies as a Discipline’. The panel included: Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger, University of Haifa, Prof. Ilan Troen, Brandeis University, Dr Marcela Menachem Zoufalá, Charles University, Prof. PR Kumaraswamy, the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Dr Dmitry Maryasis, Oriental Studies Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, and was chaired by EAIS President, Prof. Colin Shindler, SOAS University of London.

The second plenary took place on Tuesday 10 September, and was titled: ‘The relationship between Europe and Israel after 1989: through the lens of Czech Ambassadors’. The panel, chaired by Prof. Dina Porat, Chief Historian of Yad Vashem / Tel Aviv University, and included: H.E. Veronika Kuchyňová Šmigolová, H.E. Daniel Kumermann, H.E. Jiří Schneider and Prof. Joanna Dyduch, Jagiellonian University.

The conference concluded with a screening of the critically acclaimed film, King Bibi. The documentary explores Benjamin Netanyahu’s rise to power and is based solely on archival footage of Netanyahu’s media performances over the years: from his days as a popular guest expert on American TV, through his public confession of adultery, and his mastery of the art of social media. The film’s director, Dan Shadur, then took part in a lively Q&A session with delegates.

All of the keynotes and plenary sessions from the 8th Annual Conference can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

The EAIS would like to thank the main organisers from Charles University, Dr Marcela Menachem Zoufalá and Prof. Jiří Holý, as well as the entire Conference Organising Committee:

Dr Joanna Dyduch

Dr Marcela Menachem Zoufalá

Ms Anna Godfrey

Prof. Lior Libman, Co-Director of Literature and Culture

Dr Yonatan Sagiv, Co-Director of Literature and Culture

Prof. Aide Esu

Prof. Jiří Holý

Dr Olaf Glöckner

Dr Peter Bergamin

Dr Yair Wallach

Prof. Colin Shindler

Dr Alan Craig

Prof. Motti Gollani

Amb. Daniel Kumermann

Ms Jitka Pánek Jurkovj Msc

Dr Pavel Pšeja

Dr Zbyněk Tarant

Ms Anna Marie Hupčejová MA

Ms Dominika Zębala MA

Ms Patrycja Molko MA

Ms Scarlett Robinson