Dr. Yonatan Mendel

German Orientalism and its Influence on Oriental and Arabic Studies in British Mandate Palestine

Yonatan Mendel completed his doctoral studies in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2012. His doctoral thesis focused on the political history of the study of Arabic in Jewish schools in Israel, and it contained an analysis of the political and security networks that shaped the study of Arabic in the country. His book The Creation of Israeli Arabic: Political and Security Considerations in the Making of Arabic Language Studies in Jewish Schools is based on his PhD research, as well as his definition to “The Arabic Language” publised in Tel Aviv University’s Mafte’akh: Lexical Review of Political Thought. Upon his return to Israel he received a post-doctoral fellowship at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research in the Minerva Research Center focused on the beginnings of Arabic-language instruction in the Jewish education system during the British Mandate period (1920–1948) focusing on the unique and telling case study of the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa. His article “From German Philology to Local Usability: The Emergence of ‘Practical’ Arabic in the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa” is based on his research at the Minerva Center.

As post-doctoral fellow at Da’at Hamakom, he will focus on the influence of Jewish-German scholars, as well as Jewish gradutaes of German univerisiteis and research centers, on the study of Arabic and Oriental studies in British Mandate Palestine (1920-1948). His research, which will be published as a book in Van Leer’s Theory and Criticism in Context Series, will analyze the encounter between the German Orientalist tradition in philology and the field of Arabic-language study that was then developing in Palestine in light of political and social changes.

Mendel also serves as the director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute’s Center for Jewish-Arab Relations. In Van Leer, he focuses on projects connected to Jewish-Arab relations, the status of Arabic in Israel, Arabic-Hebrew translations, as well as projects relating to social and poltiical Middle Eastern studies through the unique perspectives of language and culture.

Selected Publications


  • Yonatan Mendel, The Creation of Israeli Arabic: Political and Security Consideration in the Making of Arabic Language Studies in Israel, Palgrave Studies in Languages at War (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
  • Yonatan Mendel and Ronald Ranta, From the Arab Other to the Israeli Self (London: Ashgate, forthcoming 2016)
  • Yonatan Mendel [in Hebrew] Arabic in Hebrew: On the Influence of German Orientalism on the Field of Arabic Language Studies in the Jewish Sector in British Mandate Palestine, Heksherei Iyun ve-Bikoret – Theory and Criticism in Context Series  (Jerusalem: Van Leer and Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Me’uchad, forthcoming, 2016).

Books Edited

  • Yonatan Mendel and Abeer al-Najjar (eds.) Between the Lines: Language and Politics in the Middle East Revisited (Edinburgh University Press, currently under revision)
  • Bruno De Nicola, Yonatan Mendel, and Husain Qutbuddin (eds), Reflections on Knowledge and Language in Middle Eastern Societies (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010)


  • Yonatan Mendel, “From German philology to local usability: The emergence of ‘practical’ Arabic in the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa”, Middle Eastern Studies (forthcoming, 2016)
  • Yonatan Mendel, Dafna Yitzhki and Meital Pinto [in Hebrew] ‘On Arabic in Israel: Seven Decades, Second Foreign Language, and One Distorted Status’, Gilui Daat (forthcoming, 2016)
  • Yonatan Mendel and Ronald Ranta, “Consuming Palestine: Palestine and Palestinians in Israeli Food Culture”, Ethnicities 14 (3), 2014, pp. 412-435
  • Yonatan Mendel, “A Sentiment-Free Arabic: On the Creation of the Israeli Accelerated Arabic Language Studies Programme”, Middle Eastern Studies 49 (3), 2014, pp. 383-401
  • Yonatan Mendel [in Hebrew] “Arabic Language in Israel”, Mafte’akh: Lexical Review of Political Thought 9 (2015), pp. 31-52
  • Yonatan Mendel, “Re-Arabising the De-Arabised: The Mista‘aravim Unit of the Palmach,” in A. Bernard, Z. Elmarsafy, and D. Attwell (eds.) Orientalism: Thirty Years Later, Palegrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 94-116
  • Yonatan Mendel, “New Jerusalem: On the Israeli Capital Metropolitan Disorder”, New Left Review 81, June 2013, pp. 35-56
  • Yonatan Mendel and Alexa Steinberg, “The Museological Side of the Conflict: Israeli Exhibition of Terror and the Palestinian Museum of Prisoners”, Museums and Society 9 (3) November 2011, pp. 190-213
  • Yonatan Mendel, “The Politics of Non-Translation: On Israeli Translations of Intifada, Shahid, Hudna, and Islamic Movements”, Cambridge Literary Review 1 (3) Easter 2010, pp. 197-206