Visits: Bilateral Relations and Personal Encounters in Israel, Germany and Beyond- An International Workshop

International Workshop marking 50 Years of Israeli-German Diplomatic Relations 1965-2015
Activity Date: 
Sunday, Feb 1, 2015

Visits are key events in the establishment and maintenance of human relations. Visiting is a social practice of engagement that testifies to the importance and diversity of these relations. During visits we move out of our familiar and secure environment to encounter the unknown and the strange. Sometimes we also return to places of the past and revisit where we have come from. What awaits us are encounters whose nature is hard to anticipate and which require a certain degree of trust and faith in those who receive the guests. While they strive to present themselves as good hosts they can only hope that their visitors will feel welcome, appreciated and honoured.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, the Martin Buber Society hosted an international workshop organized by Dr. Stefanie Fischer, Lina Nikou and Dr. Kim Wünschmann. The Workshop brought together scholars of various disciplines who research the dynamics, rituals and representations of visits. In her paper, Dr. Francesca Fiaschetti (Jerusalem) spoke about diplomacy, power and cultural encounters under Mongol rule and demonstrated how the Empire used diplomacy as an important strategy of territorial expansion. Dr. Tawfiq Da’adli (Jerusalem) traced the late 17th-century journey to Palestine of the Muslim scholar and Sufi ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nablusi who visited places holy to the monotheistic religions and frequented by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. Through an illuminating close reading, Dr. Orit Gazit (Jerusalem) discussed Georg Simmel’s 1908 classic The Stranger as a way to understand physical space and social interaction. Prof. Gad Yair (Jerusalem) analyzed the unique style of Israeli diplomacy as reflecting the cultural trauma that underlies Israeli culture shaped by the experience of the Holocaust. The 1973 state visit to Israel by German chancellor Willy Brandt was the topic of the talk given by Jenny Hestermann (Frankfurt am Main/Berlin). Lina Nikou (Hamburg/Jerusalem) presented her research on organized visits for Jewish former citizens of major German cities by focusing on Berlin that initiated the largest invitation program in 1969 and welcomed more than 35,000 people until 2010. In her presentation Dr. Kim Wünschmann (Jerusalem) investigated the visits of Jewish emigrants from rural Hesse to their former hometowns as events that challenged the attempt of some locals to nostalgically celebrating their Heimat as an idyllic place without an antisemitic past. Dr. Stefanie Fischer (Potsdam/Berlin) explored the post-genocidal relationships of Jewish Holocaust survivors to their German former hometowns in the 1950s and 1960s by focusing on the dimensions of shame, guilt and new relations. The experience of German-Jewish refugees to Los Angeles, and in particular the literary works of female refugees were the topic of the paper of Alexandra Tyrolf (Berlin/Jerusalem) who introduced Marta Feuchtwanger, Salka Viertel and Victoria Wolff as mediators between European and American bodies of knowledge. Los Angeles as a site of “German-American crossings” was discussed also by Dr. Anne Clara Schenderlein (Washington DC) who spoke about Jewish refugees as tentative travelers finding identity through trips back to Germany, which from the 1960s on became both more affordable and more popular.
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