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Moshe Amirav

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Moshe Amirav is a professor of political science at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School (RIS) and a world expert on the conflict in Jerusalem. He is the author of several books, including “Jerusalem Syndrome: The Palestinian-Israeli Battle for the Holy City.” Prof. Amirav holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Jewish history, a master’s degree in urban administration and a doctorate in political geography.

Personal Perspective

The subject Prof. Amirav teaches is a personal one – “my beloved city of Jerusalem,” he calls it, where his own story began. At 18 years of age, he served as a paratrooper in the Six-Day War and was wounded in the battle for Jerusalem, and he has served in various government positions in the decades since. In 2001, for example, Amirav attended the Camp David negotiations as an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, leading a committee that envisioned a political settlement in Jerusalem, with the city serving as a dual capital for both Israel and Palestine.

“I tried in all these conversations to bring peace to this city that is called in the Bible the City of Peace, but is really a city of war and conflict,” he says. “For me, Jerusalem is not just an academic subject. It’s something that I live, that I hope.”

That hope, Amirav says, is what sets him apart as a teacher: “I love the city, and I am the only optimist who is actually in Israel … I always say that what makes me special is not that I’m a great lecturer. It’s that I am part of the story of Jerusalem.” Much of what he shares in his classes comes from his own experience. “In the end of our course, I give a lecture which is a very personal one – how do I see the future of Jerusalem?”

Conflict in Context

To help students understand the story of – and problems facing – Jerusalem, as well as his own love for the city, Amirav takes them out of the classroom for multiple tours.

“I’m taking them to the place where the city was divided … and I’m telling them, ‘As a young paratrooper, as I was standing right here, 30 meters from me was a Jordanian legionnaire, and we were guarding the same city. He was guarding the Jordanian part, and I was guarding the Israeli part,’” he says. “Later on, I take them to the place where I was fighting … and tell them the story of the 1967 big victory of Israel.”

Amirav divides these class trips into what he calls the “three cities that are hidden in Jerusalem. One is my city, the Zionist and secular city … Then I take them to the Jewish Orthodox part of Jerusalem, which is like another world … And then I take them to the Arab city in Jerusalem.”

After each tour, Amirav and his students return to the classroom to discuss what they’ve seen – and put it in context. “We compare these three cities that we just saw in one city, and then compare it to other cities in conflict … I’m trying to give my students the feeling that actually, all the conflicts are the same.”

From there, they translate what they’ve learned into conflict resolution: “What’s the solution? How do we solve it?” Amirav says he offers his students the same example he once gave US President Bill Clinton: “In the middle of Rome is another country, another flag, of the Vatican … And it’s peace in Rome. It can be peace in Jerusalem, and that’s my vision, that’s my dream.”

Amirav also takes students outside of Jerusalem – to the Dead Sea and the Jordan River, as well as on a tour of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The goal, he says, “is more than just learning; it’s experience … Knowledge is important, but it’s not the most important thing. If they come all the way to Jerusalem, I want them to go home with the experience.”

International Environment

The fact that his students come to Jerusalem from all over the world, Amirav says, makes teaching at RIS particularly special. “They come from Tokyo, San Francisco, Spain, you name it … When they speak in the class, they tell about themselves and the places which they come from, so this brings immediately a kind of different feeling in the class – that we are international.”

Amirav says that global perspective adds fascinating layers to class discussions – and to group assignments as well. “I take two students: one is from Toronto and one is from, let’s say, Paris, and I like them to together do a paper … comparing these three cities – Jerusalem and their cities.” The result helps his students gain new insight into not only Israel, but their home countries and the world at large. “I feel I am doing something which is very, very meaningful … and I have a lot of satisfaction. I love my students.”


  • Doctorate in political geography, London School of Economics (1994)
  • Master’s degree in urban administration, New York University (1973)
  • Bachelor’s degree in political science and Jewish history, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1971)

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  • Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler

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    Alexandra Herfroy-MischlerProf. Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler lectures on the topics of counter-terrorism, new media, and Jewish history at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School (RIS). She is also a research fellow at HebrewU’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and has twice been honored with the university’s Highest Teaching Distinction. Prof. Herfroy-Mischler holds doctoral and master’s degrees in media studies, as well as a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

    Digging Deeper

    Prof. Herfroy-Mischler’s involvement in media began as a practitioner: she worked in broadcast and print journalism in her home country of France, and completed an internship with the Swiss Press Agency. Her experiences eventually led her to dig deeper – and investigate not just the news itself, but how the news is made.

    “That’s where the whole Ph.D. started … my doctorate was about comparing media coverage in French, German, and English about Holocaust transitional justice in Europe,” she explains. Her dissertation assessed how news agencies covered the story of the World Jewish Congress lawsuits filed against Swiss banks – over dormant bank accounts that held the funds of Holocaust victims.

    Though she maintains a busy teaching schedule, Dr. Herfroy-Mischler’s research has continued since she joined the faculty at HebrewU. One recent project began in a classroom at RIS – with one of her students, Andrew Barr. She helped him develop a seminar on how ISIS uses execution videos as media strategy – and after his semester ended, they continued the study as partners, publishing two papers in the top-ranked journals “Studies of Conflict and Terrorism” and “Visual Communication.”

    Prof. Herfroy-Mischler’s latest project focuses on how the language used in media coverage of peace negotiations influences outcomes. Often, she says, “it’s basically saying … ‘We need to wait until someone else comes along and saves the situation,’ or ‘We need to wait until the actors change.’ It’s done a lot in despair.” She believes such coverage can be dangerous “because it puts us in a situation where we have this nihilistic way of looking at conflict … But we believe what makes us human is that we want to fight for peace and resolution.”

    In the Classroom

    Prof. Herfroy-Mischler credits her interest in academia to one of her own teachers. “She changed my life … she believed in me, and she saw in me what I could never see,” she explains. “I wanted to pay this back to students … So if one or two have been challenged and want to study more, then I think I won.”

    And, she says, she learns from her students as well – particularly in her class on blogging and social media. “Some of them already have a blog that is quite impressive, and they will teach me some technical tricks and new media things that happen.” She also encourages students to raise questions about what they study in class. “That’s why they came here, and that’s why I’m here … I might ask them to look for examples of things that contradict what we’ve studied, or things that illustrate what we’re saying … There is a lot of discussion, a lot of debate … Sometimes I feel like I’m more like a mediator of knowledge than teaching straightforward theory.”

    Prof. Herfroy-Mischler says helping her students learn and explore is a “joy” – and she believes education is a gift. “We need educated people in the world, and … we live in a generation where it’s kind of easy to get an education. It’s open to everyone, more or less,” she says. “We should really enjoy that.”

    Teaching at RIS

    Prof. Herfroy-Mischler says it’s particularly special to be teaching at RIS. “It really feels like home, because I was a student at RIS during my doctorate,” she explains. “I got to know the faculty, and I thought to myself, ‘This is the place where I can see myself teaching.’”

    Part of what she enjoys about the school is the international community – her classes are made up of students from all over the world, from China to Belgium to Turkey. That diversity of experience helps Prof. Herfroy-Mischler and her students better understand cultures beyond their own. For example, she says, “I once had a student ask, ‘What is YouTube?’ on the first day of class.” She used the question as an opportunity to teach the class about censorship on the web.

    RIS, Prof. Herfroy-Mischler says, is different from everywhere else she’s been as a teacher or as a student – and she hopes to stay for “a very, very long time … There is nothing like feeling that you are in the right place and you’re doing the right thing in life, and that’s a blessing I have every day I pass the door at Rothberg.”


    • Doctorate in media studies, Sorbonne Nouvelle University (2008)
    • Master’s degree in media studies, Sorbonne Nouvelle University (2005)
    • Bachelor’s degree in journalism, Sorbonne Nouvelle University (2003)

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    David Mendelsson

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    Prof. David Mendelsson is a senior lecturer at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School (RIS), teaching History of the Modern State of Israel and The Arab-Israeli Conflict: From Its Origins to the Present. He is also the director of the Year in Israel program at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Prof. Mendelsson holds doctoral and master’s degrees from the Department of Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University, and a bachelor’s degree in politics and modern history from Manchester University.

    From England to Israel

    Though he grew up in the UK, Prof. Mendelsson’s interest in Israeli politics and history began early in life. He joined the youth movement at age nine, and traveled to Israel for the first time at age 16. A few years later, as a student in the Institute from Youth Leaders from Abroad, he was introduced to some of the educators who would become his mentors at Hebrew University.

    After completing his undergraduate degree, Mendelsson returned to HebrewU – drawing in part on his own experience as his continued his studies. “I wrote my master’s thesis on the history of pioneering youth movements, and then, a few years later, I decided this wasn’t enough,” he says. He continued on to a doctorate, writing his dissertation on the history of Anglo-Jewish education from 1944 to 1988. “It was using the prism of education to understand the Jewish community … Of course, I’d lived through part of that story,” he says. “I went to Sunday school, and I went to day schools, but I was very conscious of the debate that was going on about expanding the number of Jewish day schools, and the story behind them.”

    History in Context

    Today, most of Mendelsson’s teaching is focused on the history of Israel and contemporary Israel. One particular area of interest is Mount Herzl – Israel’s national cemetery, which is named for Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism. Mendelsson takes all his classes on tours of the site.

    The trips, he says, are “not a pilgrimage visit, which people typically do when they go to the grave of Herzl. It’s much more an opportunity to say, ‘Oh, this is how Israel self-identifies using sacred space and sacred time.’” Mendelsson guides students down the mountain, stopping at the burial sites of key Zionist and Israeli leaders, including Herzl and prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Then, they visit the military cemetery.

    “Typically, when you go to military cemeteries, it’s all very uniform … But here, what’s happened over the years is a breakdown of uniformity,” he explains. “People bring in pictures, souvenirs … You realize that Israeli society is going through some type of change, from a very high degree of collectivism to an increasing degree of personal statements of individualism.”

    Even students who have visited before, Mendelsson says, often see the place in a new light. “They’ve talked about the individuals … But they’ve never really done what anthropologists might call the deconstruction of the site.”

    “The site becomes the text … And that’s always wonderful, you know? Rather than being in a classroom, you’re outside and you’re appreciating Israel,” he says. “And I think the students, they love it.”

    Exchange of Ideas

    Whether in or out of the classroom, Mendelsson says, the most rewarding part of teaching is sharing ideas with his students.

    “I really get a kick out of students being reflective about where they come from and what they see in Israel,” he says. “Very often they come to class and it’s clear they don’t quite understand how this place works. I feel as though I can give them tools to understand better, and it’s very exciting to see that.”

    Mendelsson says his students teach him as well. “One of the major things I learn is where they come from – not just in the geographic sense of the term, but in how they understand the world. What are the issues that concern them? They keep me abreast of some of the developments and experiences that young people have today.”

    International Community

    The exchange of ideas, Mendelsson says, is made richer by the diversity of the RIS student body. “I have students from all sorts of wonderful places around the world – America, Canada, Korea, Europe … It brings together people from all across a national divide, a geographic divide, a religious divide.”

    “I think it enriches the classroom … students are not only learning from the teacher, they’re learning from each other. That has to be one of the great things about the program.”

    Mendelsson says the RIS administration, too, is supportive of faculty and students alike: “They really care about our students … Some of them, this is perhaps their first time away from home, or for that matter in our part of the world. So to have a sense of caring and compassion, empathy, and support – that’s terrific.”


    • Ph.D., Department of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2003)
    • M.A., Department of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1987)
    • Bachelor’s degree in politic and modern history, Manchester University (1979)

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    Yiftach Ron

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    Yiftach RonProf. Yiftach Ron is a lecturer and researcher in social science at Hebrew University, with a focus on intergroup conflict, dialogue, and peace-building. He has been honored as an outstanding lecturer by the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences, and his doctoral dissertation, “Interrelations between Collective Narratives, Personal Narratives, and Continuous Involvement of Israeli-Jews in Dialogue Processes with Palestinians in Israel,” won the Tel Aviv University Walter Libach Institute prize for doctoral dissertations that advance equality and fairness among Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. Prof. Ron holds doctoral and master’s degrees in communication and a bachelor’s degree in history and education.

    Firsthand Experience

    When Prof. Ron teaches intergroup dialogue and peacemaking at HebrewU’s Rothberg International School (RIS), he is drawing on decades of firsthand experience. While his career began in education, as a high school history teacher, he also spent years as a facilitator, coordinator, trainer, and director with dialogue programs for Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

    “I started as a participant in one of the groups, then one thing led to another,” he explains. “It was a very significant process for me.”

    Ron says he’s seen such dialogues change the way people see not only each other, but themselves. He’s worked at the School for Peace, an organization that uses education to promote a more egalitarian society, and in the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace’s “Face to Face” program. As educational director of that program, Ron helped recruit, train, and support new group facilitators and helped them develop and design the models they used to lead dialogues. He also served as a liaison with schools and other partners, in Israel and around the world.

    While much of Ron’s work has focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has worked with groups from many other countries as well. Projects he’s led include a Holocaust studies program for Israeli, German, and Polish teachers and students; a joint food cooperative for residents of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem; and several youth exchange programs.

    Ron was also a team member and coordinator in the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East’s dual-narrative history project. Led by a team of Israeli and Palestinian history teachers, the project included the joint writing of a book on the twentieth-century history of Israel and Palestine. “The narratives of the two peoples … are presented side-by-side,” Ron explains. The book was published in several languages, and Ron has since been involved in efforts to implement a dual-narrative model in Israeli and Palestinian schools.

    He has also published research on how Palestinian historical narratives are taught by Jewish-Israeli teachers.

    In the Classroom

    In addition to his research and his work in the field, Ron is a passionate and accomplished educator. “I love teaching … and am constantly learning from the process,” he says. “More than anything else, I am a teacher.”

    And, he says, leading a class discussion has much in common with his work as a group facilitator. In both cases, he believes it’s about much more than the subject matter. “The main thing is not about the contents I give. It’s about enabling a … space for new experiences,” he says. “What I find most significant for me is … the processes that happen in the room.”

    At HebrewU, Ron teaches a course called Hostility and Recognition: Social-Psychological Dynamics of Intergroup Conflict. It’s designed to help students understand how factors such as intergroup bias, selective information processing, and resistance to change can lead to and affect conflict – and how psychological factors can be used constructively, to promote peace.

    “I think what I’m trying to enable most is self-reflection,” Ron explains. “To enable students to learn something new about themselves.” In a recent class, for example, he asked students to bring in a photograph or object that represents part of their identity – and then explain it to the class. “There were quite amazing things,” he says. “When it’s combined with other kinds of teaching, with theory … There’s some kind of integrative learning that I hope is transformative in a way.”

    For Ron, teaching doesn’t mean simply lecturing his students. “We teach and learn together. Of course I facilitate … but what I’m trying to create is a space in which we all go through some kind of learning process.” The fact that students at RIS come together from all over the world, he says, makes that process more special. “I’m trying to expose them … Again, not to teach them about Jerusalem or Israel or Palestine, but to expose them to the events, experiences, people, narratives of this place – this land I think is special. It’s part of the journey … part of the unique experience they’re having.”


    • Doctorate in communication, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2015)
    • Master’s degree in communication, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1998)
    • Bachelor’s degree in history and education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1993)

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    Celebrating 44 Years with Dr. Meron Medzini

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    Celebrating 44 Years with Dr. Meron MedziniAfter 44 years devoted to teaching the thousands of international students who have attended Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School, Dr. Meron Medzini is retiring.

    His dedication has been so longstanding that many recent international students were encouraged to take his courses by their parents, who also respect him as an educator and have fond memories of the stories he would tell about his personal connections to important figures in the founding of the State of Israel.

    In celebration of so many years dedicated to HebrewU and Rothberg International School, we would love for you, his former students, to send in any story or greeting you may have relevant to Dr. Medzini and your time spent studying with him.

    Please use this short form to share your fond memories of Dr. Medzini as your lecturer, mentor, and role model:

    Take a look at our pages for prospects, students, faculty and staff, alumni, and parents – or contact us!