German Antecedents

German Antecedents of the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: Historical Perspective

Yoram Bar-Gal

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded in 1925, during the early years of British Mandate period in Palestine, and an important symbol of Zionism, reflecting the Jewish People’s aspiration for political independence. According to Zionist historiography, the idea of a university for the Jews originated in articles published between 1882 and 1884 by Zvi Herman Shapiro (1940-1898), who was a professor of mathematics at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Discussions, decisions, and fund-raising efforts continued for several decades, until the Hebrew University was officially opened. However, the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, which was the first of five geography departments existing at universities Israel, did not open until 1949/50, an entire generation after the Hebrew University was founded. In honor of the 50-year jubilee of geography as an academic discipline in Israel, the current paper explores the development of the geography department in Jerusalem, and reveals its German antecedents. The paper presents a historical survey of the founding of the geography department, without discussing the development of Israeli geographic thought, which is a topic in itself (Bar-Gal, 1999).
We will begin by providing background on the establishment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which sheds light on the academic decisions taken from 1925 to 1950. In the initial years, the Hebrew University focused on research rather than on teaching. At that time, the president of the Hebrew University was Dr. Judah Magnes, who immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1923. The first research institutes included the Institute of Jewish Studies, the Institute of Chemistry, the Institute for the Study of the Nature in Palestine. Following political debates on the nature of the Hebrew University, i.e., whether the University should focus on research or teaching, the first faculties were established: The Faculty of Humanities (in 1928), and the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (1935). Both faculties engaged in teaching as well as in research (Hebrew University, 1948).
From an ideological perspective, there was an intense conflict revolving around the mission of the university (“which should not be like other universities”). The founders of the Hebrew University wanted research and teaching to focus on the Hebrew aspect, as reflected in the University’s name. Therefore, they concentrated on teaching Hebrew, and gave priority to Jewish studies, i.e., Bible and Hebrew literature, as well as to the country’s natural resources. Of course, there was also the universal scientific aspect, i.e., chemistry, physics, and medicine. It should also be noted that during that period the academic and personal atmosphere at the Hebrew University was strongly influenced by German institutions, to the point that the University became, in effect, an overseas extension of German higher education. In various disciplines (e.g., history, natural sciences, and math), the scientific language and professional world view of the teachers and researchers during the 1920s and 1930s was oriented toward the German world (Katz & Heyd, 1997).
Since the founders of the Hebrew University understood the importance of crystallizing a national identity, they were careful to develop fields that promoted Zionism and the Zionist enterprise besides focusing on basic research. Therefore, there were those who advocated a universal approach toward research, while others advocated local and particularistic research, which played an important role in strengthening national identity. Apparently, this ideological tension affected the nature of geographic research and influenced the department, besides the personal and organizational issues involved in the development of the discipline in Jerusalem.

Attempts to Establish Geographic Research Institutes, 1925 to 1945

Until the establishment of the Department of Geography in 1950, a few courses in geography were offered occasionally in various settings. The first lessons were taught by Prof. Shmuel Klein (1886-1940), who was among the founders of the Hebrew University. Born in Hungary, Klein attended university as well as a rabbinical seminary in Berlin. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1910, and his research focused on the relationship between Jewish historical sources and Palestine. Essentially, those studies were toponomic in nature, i.e., they attempted to identify names of ancient places, mainly through historical and linguistic interpretation. Klein, like other scholars in the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University in the 1920s and 1930s, considered geography a tool for describing and explaining the texts of the Bible and the Talmud. Therefore, the founders of the Hebrew University perceived Klein as a geographer-historian, and he taught courses such as “The Land of Israel in the Biblical Period,” and “The Land of Israel in the Hellenistic-Roman Period” (Hebrew University, 1942, pp. 30-31).
During the 1930s, Shmuel Klein was among the senior professors at the Hebrew University. Therefore, he was on all of the committees that dealt with planning study programs in geography at the Hebrew University. Klein and his colleagues in the Faculty of Humanities did not consider geography an independent discipline, but rather a scientific branch that must serve other fields. This perspective is reflected in a protocol written in 1931, which discussed the possibility of inviting Dr. Abram Jacob Brawer to teach a course on the Geography of Palestine. Brawer (1884-1975) was the first Jewish geographer to arrive in Palestine. Born in Galicia, he immigrated to Palestine in 1911 and began teaching at the Teachers’ College in Jerusalem. He received his training in geography and history at the University of Vienna, where he also attended a rabbinical seminary. During the first decade of the 20th century, the geography department at the University of Vienna was one of the most prominent in Europe, and its faculty members included some of the founding fathers in the field in Germany, such as Eugen Oberhummer and Albrect Penck. Brawer’s colleagues also included prominent geographers such as Hugo Hassinger and Norbert Krebs. In later years, his colleagues also had some influence on the development of Israeli geography (Karmon, 1984).
During World War I, Dr. Brawer stayed in Istanbul. After the war, he returned to the University of Vienna and collected a wealth of literature on Palestine. In the early 1920s, Brawer returned to Jerusalem and published his well-known book Ha’aretz (The Land of Israel) in 1927, which became the basic regional textbook of Israel. Concurrently, as mentioned, when the Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened, it looked as if Abram Brawer would be invited by the administration to establish an Institute of Geography.
Brawer did not wait for an invitation. Instead, he sent letters and documents to the Chancellor of the University, Dr. Judah Magnes, in which he proposed to open an Institute of Geography. In one of his letters, he wrote to the Chancellor: “I asked you to appoint me to a general Chair of Geography, focusing on the study of Eretz Israel [The Land of Israel] and its neighborhoods […] There is no need to further elaborate on the value of this discipline to you or to the members of the council. I believe I can make a considerable contribution, not only toward understanding the current situation, but toward advancing topics in the general field of history, and particularly in the area of biblical and Talmudic topography …”. The document indicates that even though Brawer had the field of general geography in mind, he intended to develop a regional geographic approach, which he adopted from his teachers in Vienna. He based his book on that approach, which he adapted to the special situation of the Hebrew University from two perspectives: The particularistic orientation toward research on Palestine and the Near East as a supplementary field of biblical history and topography.
About three years after Brawer sent his proposal, the “Teachers’ Council” of the Faculty of Humanities discussed it. . That academic group was the first forum to decide on opening new courses, and recommended those courses to the heads of the University administration. Brawer did not wait for the results of the discussions at the University. He immediately initiated efforts to raise funds for the establishment of the Institute, and asked for letters of support from prominent scholars at universities in Europe and the United States. These initiatives angered the heads of the Faculty of Humanities, as evidenced in the above-mentioned discussion. The minutes of the meeting held by the “teachers’ council” reveal their approach toward the discipline of geography. No mention was made of geography as a general discipline, but rather as a supplementary field of Eretz Israel Studies. They argued that the proposed course could be offered once every three years. In addition, it was clear personal that some of the participants in the discussions harbored personal antipathy toward Brawer, including Chancellor Magnes. Even though they ultimately decided to recommend inviting Brawer to teach the course on the “Geography of Eretz Israel,” the recommendation was vetoed by the other academic groups at the University.
Beyond the personal considerations for rejecting Brawer, the nature of his work and publications, which focused on a broad range of geographic and historical topics, also affected the decision. Besides publishing scientific papers in journals, Brawer published articles in the daily press, as well as popular articles and textbooks (Brawer, 1984). Therefore, the university elite believed that he was not a serious scientist, and was worthy of a position in an academic institution. The same views were expressed about another geographer, Dr. Nathan Shalem, who dreamed of establishing an Institute of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and even made a concrete proposal along those lines. Unlike Brawer, who was affiliated with the Faculty of Humanities, Shalem tried to establish the Institute of Geography at the Faculty of Natural Sciences – but his attempt failed.
Dr. Nathan Shalem (1897-1959) was born in Saloniki and immigrated to Palestine in 1914. After World War I, he traveled to Italy and completed his doctoral studies in geology at the University of Florence. Shalem continued specializing in geomorphology and geography at universities in Italy and Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. In Palestine, taught at the Gymnasia High School in Jerusalem and elsewhere. At the same time, he conducted research focusing on physical as well as on human aspects of geography. Shalem was an intellectual, who took an interest in various issues and was well versed in the historical texts, which he read in their original language. His aspiration to be a geographer of the Land of Israel affected various aspects of his research and publications. That is, he wrote about local issues, investigated the natural resources of Israel, the country’s landscape, and its non-Jewish population. He based his studies on literature in Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Latin in order to reconstruct the country’s geographic history. In addition, he published his own work in Hebrew, and contributed toward coining new scientific terms in the language, which he considered an intellectual challenge and moral obligation (Bentor, 1960; Shalem, 1973).
Various committees at the Hebrew University discussed the issue of establishing a Department of Geography, and particularly the candidacy of Nathan Shalem. However, they were unable to accurately evaluate his complex, pioneering work and his unique worldview. Unfortunately for him, he attended a university in Italy rather than in Germany, and he published in Italian, French, and Hebrew during the 1920s and 1930s. One of the main people to determine the future of Nathan Shalem and affect the establishment of the geography department at the Hebrew University was Prof. Judah Leo Picard (1900-1996), who studied geology in Freiburg and immigrated to Palestine when the Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened (Picard, 1996).
Picard met Nathan Shalem in Florence, and they developed a complex relationship. Picard advanced at the university, and in the 1930s he became a member of committees that discussed issues related to geography. Apparently, he hesitated to recommend Shalem, for reasons related to differences in their academic, social, and cultural backgrounds:
Shalem attempted to link humanities and natural sciences. Thus, for example, he examined historical evidence of geological and geomorphological processes in Palestine and the vicinity, and earthquakes from the biblical period to the present. Picard, who specialized in the natural sciences, rejected research approaches that were not based on empirical measurements in the field.
Like others who came to the Hebrew University from Germany, Picard preferred familiar scientific approach, and searched for candidates from the same cultural background. Thus, he “rejected that which is unfamiliar,” i.e., university candidates who were not from the “right background”. In fact, on two occasions Picard even prevented the Lithuanian historical geographer and Holocaust survivor, Prof. Avram Melzin, from entering the Hebrew University.

Immigration of the “German Group” to Palestine during the 1930s
In addition to Prof. Picard, who lived in Jerusalem and influenced decisions related to geography, there was another highly esteemed scientist at the Hebrew University, Otto Warburg (1859-1938). Wurburg was a professor of tropical botany in Berlin, and involved in Zionist activity in Palestine. With the inception of the Hebrew University, he was appointed professor and director of the Institute for Research on Natural Resources in Palestine”. During the 1930s, he continued working in Berlin, and also participated in making academic decisions at the Hebrew University (Katz, 1997).
After the rise of the Nazis in 1933, when it became clear that Jewish scientists were losing their university positions, many Jewish scholars immigrated to Palestine, and some found positions at the Hebrew University. In light of these circumstances, the standing committee met in February, 1935, and decided to try and find an appropriate candidate from the German Jewish community to found the Department of Geography. Prof. Otto Wurburg was informed of this decision in Berlin, whereupon he sent a letter to a well-known Jewish geographer at Bonn University, Prof. Alfred Philippson (1864-1953) (Boehm & Mehmel, 1996; Mehmel, 1999).
Philippson’s response indicates that he had been asked to express his view about establishing a Chair of Geography in Jerusalem, and to recommend candidates for the position. He claimed that there is an urgent need to open a department of geography focusing on research into the natural conditions in Palestine, and that such research would contribute toward the effort to absorb Jewish immigrants there. He further indicated that he did not know many Jewish geographers in Germany, since most of Jewish scholars there specialized in medicine and law. However, he did mention the names of three young scientists, whom he recommended that the Hebrew University consider for the position. One was Alfred Lohnberg, who specialized in discovering ground water and had already immigrated to Jerusalem. Another was Fritz Loewe, a meteorologist from the University of Berlin who specialized in polar regions and lived in England; and the third was Dr. Friedrich Leyden, a geographer who had worked at in the German foreign service.
It should be mentioned that from a historical perspective, the context of Philippson’s letters to Wurburg reflects the fate of the Jewish scientists in Germany after 1933. Some of the scientists, such as Fritz Loewe, immigrated to Anglo-Saxon countries and carried on with their scientific work. Others, such as Friedrich Leyden, remained in Europe and perished during the Holocaust; and a few, such as Alfred Lohnberg, immigrated to Palestine.
The Jewish immigration from Germany to Palestine from 1933 to 1936 was significant not only in quantitative terms but also in qualitative terms. Many of the immigrants were professionals with academic education, who sought to advance in the country’s economic and social system. The Zionist institutions and those of the British colonial regime offered a unique opportunity to absorb these scientists. Indeed, the immigrants from Germany included experts in earth sciences, hydrologists, meteorologists, and geographers (henceforth the “German group”). Prominent members of this group included meteorologists who kept abreast of geographic research: Rudolf Feige, Martin Guttfeld (Mordechai Gilad), Edgar Rosenau (Naphtali Rosenan). The same group included two geographers: Dr. Horst Kallner (David Amiran) and Dr. Isaac (Yitzhak) Schattner. As will be shown below, in 1949/50 Amiran undertook to establish the Department of Geography at the Hebrew of Jerusalem. Several years later, he brought Schattner to the department.
When David Amiran arrived in Israel in the summer of 1935, Picard recruited him for a temporary job at the geology library. As mentioned, during that period various university institutions discussed potential candidates for the establishment of the Department of Geography, and Picard played a dominant role in those sessions. Besides the two senior candidates, Abram J. Brawer and Nathan Shalem, David Amiran was also being considered for this position. In the meantime, Amiran and Picard developed a close and abiding friendship based on their common language and culture of origin. Since Amiran was a young scientist and only had a few publications to his credit, he could not receive an immediate appointment as lecturer at the Hebrew University. Picard, who was already a well-known geologist, discovered ground water in various areas of Paletine and helped Amiran raise funds for research from 1937 to 1940. After World War II broke out, Amiran enlisted in a survey unit of the British army, which was stationed in Egypt and Palestine. At the end of the war, Amiran found employment with the help of colleagues from the German group who already held senior positions at the Survey Department and the British Meteorological Service.
A review of decisions related to personnel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1937 to 1947, including decisions about the candidate for founder of the Department of Geography and study program in that field, indicates that Amiran had already been targeted for that position. Picard manipulated the decisions so that the position was reserved for Amiran during the World War II and the War of Independence (1947/48), while he served as an officer in the army. As a result, Abram J. Brawer and Nathan Shalem were constantly rejected as candidates, even though they had lived in the country longer, acquired more teaching experience in the field, and published more than Amiran.

David Amiran and German Heritage in Israeli Geography
David Amiran (Horst Kallner) was born in Berlin in 1910. In 1929, after graduating high school, Amiran decided to study geography at the University of Freiburg. At the time, two teachers taught geography courses there – Hans Schrepfer and Hugo Hassinger. Amiran was strongly influenced by Schrepfer’s lectures, field trips, and research, while Schrepfer was impressed by his student’s diligence. It is not surprising, therefore, that after Amiran’s [Kallner’s] first year the University of Freiburg, they published a collaborative project (Schrepfer & Kallner, 1930). Following changes in the staff at Freiburg and Frankfurt universities from 1930 to 1931, Schrepfer moved to Frankfurt and replaced Norbert Krebs, who transferred to the University of Berlin. Subsequently, Amiran transferred to the University of Frankfurt, and in 1931 he attended the University of Berlin for one semester and took a course from Norbert Krebs. At the end of 1932, Amiran went to Moscow to participate in a geomorphological survey of the southern Ural mountains. After Hitler rose to power, he didn’t want to return to Germany, and moved to Switzerland, where he attended the University of Bern and wrote a doctoral dissertation dealing with river terraces in Italy. He had been introduced to that topic several years earlier, during his travels with Schrepfer. After submitting his doctoral dissertation in summer 1935, Amiran arrived in Jerusalem. .
Since 1937, Amiran’s status as research fellow had been established at the Hebrew University. By the time he enlisted in the British army he had collected material to prepare the Atlas of Eretz Israel, with funding from the Zionist movement. In addition, he wrote several papers with colleagues from the German group, such as the English language article that about the physiographic division of Palestine (Kallner & Rosenau, 1938).
Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the academic committees at the Faculty of Natural Sciences continued their deliberations. Eventually, the committees recommended to the Senate of the Hebrew University that the Department of Geography be opened in 1949/50. Following this decision, David Amiran was invited to present the curriculum and other demands, e.g., for a library, equipment, and rooms. Before discussing the significance of these programs, it should be mentioned that in 1952 Amiran requested approval from the University administration to include Dr. Yitzhak Schattner on the faculty of the department. In that way, Amiran and Schattner could share the responsibilities of research and teaching. Amiran’s letter of recommendation reflects profound esteem for the world of German geography, which he had left 20 years earlier, as well as his regard for Schattner.
“[Yitzhak Schattner] is a disciple of one of the finest geographic schools in Europe, the Institute of Geography at the University of Vienna. At the university, he studied under teachers such as Machatschek, one of the finest geomorphologists in our generation, as well as Oberhummer and Hassinger, who are both among the top German anthropogeographers. Dr. Schattner’s superior but stringent educational background comes through clearly at our Department of Geography…”
It is beyond the scope of the current paper to deal in depth with the geographic approach and political perspectives held by scholars who taught Amiran and Schattner. However, as Amiran indicates, the German teachers clearly shaped the professional image of their disciples. It can therefore be assumed that the German heritage left its mark on Israeli geography. In this vein, the current paper demonstrates how German scholars influenced certain aspects of the field in Israel. This influence is reflected in the curriculum of the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as in the Atlas of Israel, which was the main research publication produced by the Geography Department at the end of the 1950s.

The Initial Curriculum
The curriculum of the Hebrew University’s Department of Geography, which was designed by Amiran, did not change in content until the mid-1960s. Like the programs at the University of Vienna, where his teachers’ teachers (Krebs and Hassinger) were educated, or at the universities of Freiburg and Frankfurt, where he was educated, geography was based on two foundations: Thematic (physical and human) geography, and regional geography. Geographers who were trained according to this approach moved freely between the two areas of research. Therefore, many of their studies and publications were more diverse than the work conducted today. The courses Amiran took at the University of Vienna included: “The Landscape of the Alps,” “Geography of Settlements and Cultural Geography,” “Theory and Practice in Applied Mapping,” and the “Regional Geography of Germany”. Besides these courses, the curriculum included weekly field trips, as well s long trips held during vacations, which were often outside of Germany.
It is not surprising that Amiran designed the first curriculum in Jerusalem on the basis of his academic experience, which focused on the following areas:
Physical geography: Cartography, climatology, geomorphology, and hydrology.
Anthropogeography: Human races, localities, the impact of landscape on man.
Regional geography: The Land of Israel, the Middle East, all of the continents, the poles, and the oceans.
Field trips: Bi-weekly field trips, and field trips lasting several days during vacations.

This was the basic curriculum taught at the Hebrew University’s Department of Geography until the mid-1960s. Afterwards, the curriculum was adapted to the American context. For example, the basic course in Anthropogeography (the German term) became known as “Human Geography” (the English term). Moreover, the program was based on an approach that considered regional geography the epitome of research. In line with this perspective, emphasis was placed on regional courses, which all students were required to take. Of these courses, the main one was “Regional Geography of the Land of Israel”. That course was offered in the third year of the program, and it was portrayed as one of the peak points of the program. An attempt was made to introduce the possibilist approach, which conformed with the national perspective of Zionism. Specifically, the Zionist settlers were portrayed as culturally, socially, and economically superior to the local inhabitants (the Arabs). The settlers were capable of developing the land and controlling natural conditions. This perspective provided the basis for the first doctoral dissertations written at the Department of Geography under the supervision of Amiran and Schattner. This perspective of the region was criticized later, however, on the grounds that it is based on ideas of European superiority, which also focused on the superiority of man over nature in general (Godlewska & Smith, 1994).
At the Department of Geography in Jerusalem, considerable emphasis was placed on field work and field trips. Every student had to spend several days in the field in order to study the landscape and observe changes. The accepted pattern was the regional field trip, which included a presentation of physical and human aspects of the region at one and the same time. These kinds of tours were not only based on educational objectives, but also aimed to instill values. Specifically, the field trips helped strengthen the students’ connection with the land, and enhanced their national identity (Bar-Gal, 1999; Ben-David, 1997). From an educational perspective, the field trips made it possible to present the “order,” “organization,” “scheme,” or “dynamics” of the landscape. Field surveys continued in the context of classroom instruction, and followed the positivist scientific approach. This approach was reinforced through an essential methodological tool used in geography, i.e., maps, which were presented as an objective tool reflecting the essence of scientific truth. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most important research project during that period, i.e., The Atlas of Israel (1956), was based at the Department of Geography in Jerusalem. The Atlas reflected the Geographic Manifesto of its editors, i.e., Amiran and the German group.

The Atlas of Israel
As mentioned, about two years after Amiran arrived in Israel, Picard arranged a research grant for him to prepare maps for the Atlas of Eretz Israel. Since Amiran enlisted in the British army, work on the Atlas was suspended, and only resumed in the 1950s, after the Department of Geography was established. The scientific editorial board of the Atlas consisted of Amiran and members of the German group, who believed in imparting geographic knowledge for the benefit of the state. With funding from the State of Israel and the Jewish Agency, they were able to publish a handsome atlas. In this connection, it is possible that such cooperation aimed to promote national causes (“achievements of the state”, “the heritage of the fathers”). Thus, the Atlas of Israel is indicative of a symbiosis between the governmental and academic establishments. Members of the academic establishment contributed scientific methodology and classic research instruments that were appropriate for the task, and the governmental establishment provided financial support for research and publication. In this way, the Atlas of Israel continued the trend of conveying political and ideological messages in maps and textbooks that emphasized Zionism (Bar-Gal, 1993, 1996).
Apparently, the name of the Atlas and boundaries of its maps reflect one of the outcomes of internalizing German national heritage in Israeli geography. In order to examine this hypothesis, it is necessary to revert to the post-World War I period. Following the Versailles Treaty (1919), Germany lost territories that had clearly been within the domain of national consensus, such as Alsace-Lorraine or Poznan. The ensuing political tension led some German geographers to become actively involved in efforts to explain the significance of the new arrangements that were made in Central Europe. One of the ideas raised during that period was to distinguish between three types of regional boundaries: natural, historical-cultural, and political. Among the German geographers and educators, the idea took precedence and became an inalienable principle of geographic thought, particularly after the 1921 Geographic Congress in Leipzig (Fahlbusch et al., 1989; Schultz, 1989; Sander & Rossler, 1994).
During that same period, Abram Jacob Brawer lived in Vienna. He adopted the idea, and in his book Ha’aretz (1927) he publicly distinguished between three types of boundaries: Broad historical boundaries of the Land of Israel (“the boundaries of the ‘Divine Promise’); natural boundaries of the Land of Israel (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian Desert), and the political boundaries of Palestine (the British Mandate) determined as a result of historical circumstances (i.e., the establishment of the Kingdom of Jordan). This division became a model that was accepted by the Zionist movement because it strengthened the political claim to a national home in the territory of “Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel)”. Therefore, when Amiran began preparing the Atlas with the German group in 1938, he believed it was perfectly natural to produce the Atlas of Eretz Israel within four natural and historical longitudinal axes (from West to East: The coast, the mountains, the Jordan Valley, and the East Bank). It can be assumed that in so doing, he applied what he had learned from Schrepfer about the national atlas of Finland (Schrepfer, 1931). That atlas was compiled before Finland gained political independence, and aimed to facilitate crystallization of national identity and territorial claims.
Following the establishment of the State in 1948, the political area controlled by Israel generated tension between the “natural boundaries,” “historical boundaries,” and “political boundaries”. Therefore, there was an inherent contradiction in the Atlas of Israel. The name of the Atlas indicated where it was published. However, it essentially reflected the perspective of political Zionism, which was based on Jewish history. The maps in the Atlas also included some of the area of the Kingdom of Jordan and the “West Bank,” which were part of an independent political entity. Brawer’s trilateral model (i.e., natural, historical, and political boundaries) seemed to Amiran and the German group to be the sole geographic truth. They did not see any need to explain the distinction between the name of the atlas (i.e., “the Atlas of Israel,” bearing the name of the state), and the areas of the maps that it presented (i.e., “Land of Israel,” or the historical region). . In that way, they strengthened the ideological perspective that the political boundaries of 1948 are temporary, whereas the natural boundaries are permanent and objective.

The paper presented the historical developments that led to the founding of the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1949/50, 25 years after the University was established. During the first years of its existence, the character of the Department (i.e., the curriculum and research programs) were inspired by the German environment where the founder, David Amiran, was born. The scientific ideas that Amiran brought with him from Germany were consistent with the national crystallization of the Zionist Movement and the establishment of the State of Israel. Since the inception of the first Department of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 50 years ago, geography departments have established at four more universities in Israel with about 100 teachers. Contemporary geographic research in Israel is more pluralistic, and draws most of its ideas, concepts, and principles from the American academic world.
Interpretative research on the development of geography in Israel during those 50 years will necessarily have to consider the transformation from the German world to the American world. It can be assumed that the change in attitudes toward Germany following the Holocaust expedited the shift of Israeli geography toward the Anglo-Saxon world during the 1960s. It can be also assumed, however, that some of the ideas expressed by the founders of the Department of Geography in Jerusalem, such as the relationship between nationalism, Zionism, and geography, were expressed in contemporary Israeli geographic thought.

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