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Ray Schrire

Investigating the multifold interactions between environmental and national ideas and actions in the two different ecologies of Germany and Israel in the 20th century.

Biographical Note

I have completed my undergraduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Philosophy Department and in the Honors Program for Students in History. I am currently completing my M.A at the History Department and writing my master thesis under the supervision of Prof. Dror Wahrman on changes in thought on the threshold of Modernity. I am also affiliated with the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center and am taking part in the research and organization of the Heinrich Mendelssohn collection as part of the joint project of the Rosenzweig Center and the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, center. In addition, I serve as a teaching instructor for a methodological course in the History Department. I have recently researched the “exile” of Weimar Republic artists through the analysis of their self-portraits, and the semantics of the restitution proceedings of Jewish cultural goods.

Current Project

I am investigating the multifold interactions between environmental and national ideas and actions in the two different ecologies of Germany and Israel in the 20th century. As part of the joint project of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center and the Deutsches Literaturarchive Marbach, and together with Itamar Manoff and Netta Cohen from Tel Aviv University, I am researching the life and work of Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn, a German-Jewish zoologist and pioneer of the environmental movement in Israel. Mendelssohn serves as a gateway to the manner in which ideas and practices from early 20th century German environmentalism were transferred to the new habitat of Mandatory Palestine. Since the 1950′s the environmental movement needed to respond to, and interact with, the realization of the Zionist project with the establishment of the state of Israel. These relations evolved from direct confrontations regarding conservation or development of land, to working relations, and at times to a close collaboration. The developing relationship between environmentalism and nationalism, in both Germany and Israel, exposes the changing interaction of two worldviews towards place and space.

Thus the project works through the concept of Makom (place) in a dual way. On the first level of analysis it crystallizes the different position of two worldviews vis-à-vis land and landscape: An eco-system or a homeland? A nature reserve or a Biblical land? Natural or political borders or rather no borders at all? On the second level of analysis, with the transfer of knowledge from Germany to Israel it is possible to evaluate how environmental ideas in different national surroundings transformed and adapted to their new place while highlighting the uniqueness and similarities that each space had for this type of knowledge. This move allows the investigation to connect to broader histories: The histories of the Jewish people, of Europe and of the environment.