“It's not that he was lying, but only telling half-truths.” For Nir Barak, it was hardly bearable that the tour guide presented such a one-sided image of Tel Aviv to the doctoral candidates in the German-Israeli research training group. Barak, an Israeli doctoral candidate, loves his city, so he started commenting on what the guide was saying. The students from Berlin asked questions, the other Israelis chimed in, and it was not until multiple voices joined in that a rich and multifaceted picture of Tel Aviv emerged, with its Hebrew and Palestinian history, its dark sides and its challenges.
“It was an excellent demonstration of our doctoral candidates’ ability to deconstruct history,” says Klaus Hoffmann-Holland, co-head and one of the initiators of the first German-Israeli interdisciplinary research training group, Human Rights under Pressure – Ethics, Law and Politics (HR-UP), which was launched in September 2014.
Hoffmann-Holland, a professor of criminal law and vice president of Freie Universität Berlin, is proud of the first twelve doctoral candidates in the program, who met in Israel for two weeks in the fall. Tomer Broude, the Israeli co-head of the project and a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, agrees with his German colleague: “The interdisciplinary approach has definitely already proven visible and useful.”
The research training group, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Einstein Foundation Berlin, brings together doctoral candidates from different countries and disciplines who want to explore the situation of human rights under the influence of crises, globalization, and cultural diversity. Forty candidates in all will be admitted to the program at the two sites over the three-year term, and some of them will even finish with a dual doctorate.
Each candidate has one Israeli professor and one German one as advisors and will spend four to eight months in the other country. “We are crafting an international network to enable innovative and interdisciplinary research on human rights,” says Hoffmann- Holland. The project is also part of the strategic partnership between the universities, in which Freie Universität and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem work closely together in the fields of research, teaching, and administration.