Research Projects

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Building Visions for the Future of Jerusalem: A Bottom Up Approach

Management & Research Team: Dr. Timea Spitka, Prof. Dan Miodownik, Liel Maghen, Tareq Nassar, Sarah Abuarafeh, Dr. Jay Rothman and Noam Brenner
“Building Visions for the Future of Jerusalem: A Bottom Up Approach” is a three-year Leonard Davis Institute (Hebrew University) and Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI) collaboration.
The project engages residents of East and West Jerusalem, urban planners, students, women, youth and local leaders to work together to shape the current and future reality of their neighborhoods and the city as a whole. mural_image_two_girls.jpg
The project proceeded with the second stage this year, facilitating thematic groups of residents which discussed four of Jerusalem’s salient challenges: Youth and Education, Infrastructure, Safety and Political Representation. To discuss the issues in the groups, we used a visual community participatory method called Photovoice. In photovoice, participants are asked to voice their challenges, ideas and desires by taking pictures of their reality. Later, their pictures become their basis for the group discussion about the city. In the final stage of the process the participants are asked to imagine and create a picture based on their vision for change. The results from the thematic groups will culminate in policy papers and advice on national urban interventions, contributing to local input to short and long-term solutions for the city. 
During the coming year, we plan to advocate these policy papers through several channels. The papers will be presented at an international conference in November for the first time, accompanied by an exhibition of the photos. This exhibition will be moved around within Jerusalem in order to inspire residents and local activists. The output will also be published on the project website and distributed on social media. Through this approach we aim to engage and empower residents to work on local creative initiatives, increase knowledge of the complexities of Jerusalem and contribute towards a negotiated solution to the city. The project is funded by the EU with contributions from the Hebrew University. 

Management & Research Team

Dr. Timea Spitka, Prof. Dan Miodownik, Liel Maghen, Tareq Nassar, Sarah Abuarafeh, Dr. Jay Rothman and Noam Brenner
Building Visions for the Future of Jerusalem

Research and Policy Group: Israel in the Mediterranean Basin

Daniel Wajner, Dr. Roee Kibrik and Dr. Aviad Rubin
The research and policy group “Israel in the Mediterranean Basin” is a project established by the Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University, the Mitvim Institute and the National Security Institute at the University of Haifa. The directors of the group are Daniel Wajner, on behalf of the Davis Institute, Dr. Roee Kibrik, on behalf of Mitvim, and Dr. Aviad Rubin, on behalf of Haifa University. Among the thirty participants are leading researchers in the field, former MKs, former Ambassadors and officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, trade union officials, among others.  ישראל באגן הים התיכון.jpg
The group’s rational lies in the current development of political, economic, security and social processes in the Mediterranean basin, which have drawn increasing attention from regional powers and states. This process of crystallization of the Mediterranean region evokes many opportunities for Israel as well as considerable challenges. In order to assess the possible developments, identify the opportunities and plan the desired political steps, it is necessary to understand the arena, identify the trends, and map the different issues, actors and interests. Consequently, this two-year policy-oriented project aims to contribute understanding on the Mediterranean arena and Israel’s place in it, formulating policy principles and promoting political dialogue with key actors in the region. More specifically, the research and policy group focuses on geopolitical processes in the Mediterranean basin (changing relations between the countries of the region and the involvement of international powers in it); Israel’s foreign policy towards the Mediterranean; the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the reality in Gaza on the Mediterranean; how Mediterranean countries can help one another in promoting conflict resolution; the institutionalization of regional relations; as well as common opportunities and challenges in the area of democracy, energy, refugees, law, regulation and the environment. The research and policy group will hold six meetings over the coming year 2019-2020.

The Geopolitics and Energy Research Group

Dr. Lior Herman
The Geopolitics and Energy Research Group (GERG) mission is to promote and advance research on the interrelations between energy and geopolitics in a variety of directions, and from a multidisciplinary perspective. Led by Dr. Lior Herman, GERG brings together scholars at different stages of their academic career from several disciplines, ranging from international relations and geography to communication studies and conflict resolution research. The Group provides a platform for discussion, research and study aimed at advancing studies, as well as a conduit for the development of research grants promoting the funding of further research. It serves as a forum facilitating a professional network among Israeli and international scholars, as well as professionals working in this field. the_geopolitics_and_energy_research_group_3.jpg
2018-19 was a fruitful and intensive academic year for GERG. The group conducted extensive research activities, which resulted in several academic publications. Research focus areas were energy geopolitics, community and private sector initiatives and cooperation in renewable energy projects, challenges to the social acceptability of renewable energy projects and their solutions, religion and religious actors’ role in energy politics, and energy regionalism. The group also engaged in international research collaborations and held public activities, which included research and policy seminars with leading scholars and practitioners from Israel and abroad. Research and study activities were
furthered by two two-days field trips to study renewable energy projects in the Galilee and the Jordan Valley. GERG activities were supported by the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and competitive research grants won by GERG members. Throughout its public and research activities, GERG has created a growing international network of some 150 members in Israel, Europe and beyond. Members in this network include academics, professionals, civil servants as well as civil society and other interested members.

From STUXNET to ISIS: Exploring Cyber-Conflicts in the Middle-East

Dr. Amit Sheniak, Dr. Daniel Sobelman, Dr. Yehonatan Abramson

Governments around the world are recognizing and grappling with the manner in which cyber-attacks impact their national security and vital interests. This is true both for western democratic developed countries and for those who do not answer these criteria. Cyber-related activities are associated with a number of core security issues, including in areas that are of direct relevance to the conflict in the Middle East and the research agendas surrounding it. These include such topics as the competition for regional dominance and hegemony, and the stability of local autocratic regimes. However, cyber-conflicts in the Middle East have yet to receive proper attention in the social sciences. To date, no substantial academic attempts have been made to analyze the normative dimensions, the local discourses or the motivations of the primary middle eastern actors in the cyber domain. Moreover, there is no academic or scientific database recording the policy decisions, laws, statements and actions that are made in the Middle East in regard to the cyber domain. Moreover, absent are any studies of local statements, interviews and publications regarding cyber conflicts in the Middle East. Whatever research does exist tends to analyze the regional cyber conflict from a Western perspective. 

Against this background, in May 2018, we established a research group whose aim is to explore the effect of cyber conflicts and cyber weapons, on the forging of national security policy and politics in the Middle East, striving to highlight the different effects of cyber conflicts in different regional setting. The researchers in the group bring with them a range of relevant expertise; spanning from cyber-attacks and the effect of cybersecurity on national security policy in general, to experts on different middleeastern test-cases equipped with the necessary local language proficiencies (Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, and Turkish).
The group’s over-arching goal is to establish a database, comprised of qualitative analyses, with the capacity to identify trends that would add to the emerging study of cyber-conflicts in general, and shed light on the Middle East’s constant cyber conflict and its regional and international ramifications, in particular. We believe that the study of cyber conflicts has the potential to improve our understanding of the recent regional instability and its implications for deterrence, national coercion abilities,
international involvement and security regimes. Achieving this goal will enable us to narrow the gap between the existing research on cyber-security and the academic research on the regional implications of cyber-conflicts in the Middle East.
After a year of activity we are happy to report that we have managed to execute our plans according to the proposed plan: we forged a cohort of relevant talented researchers (assistant professors, post-docs, and graduate students);  we re-explored our research objectives and focused our joint investigation on specific unique issues in the study
of cyber-conflicts in the Middle East, such as the cyber-attacks between states and sub-state actors; most importantly we composed five specific research tracks, that will enjoy the seed money that we received from the generous contribution of the Polonsky Foundation, the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace. 

The Davis Index

Prof. Tamir Sheafer, Prof. Shaul Shenhav, Mr. Yair Fogel-Dror, Ms. Vered Porzycki, Mr. Dror Markus and Mr. Guy Mor
The “Davis index” aims to represent international media attention on the Israeli-Arab conflict and relations, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The index social-media.jpgaggregates a list of general categories, such as “Middle East Conflicts” and “Israel and the Arab world”; as well as specific categories, such as “Palestinian organizations”, “the BDS movement”, and interventions by specific governments or international institutions. The index is constructed through automated textual analysis, through a process combining topic modelling, deep learning and expert coding. The method incorporates topic models for its unsupervised component and deep learning for its supervised component. Both stages take the context into account, while focusing on the sentence as the desired unit of analysis. The result is a multi-label text classification method - attributing multiple topics to each sentence.
Throughout the 2018-19 year, we presented our results for the Davis Index Reports. We have produced the first report for the year 2010, and plan to release reports for the years 2011-2018 and onward. Our plan is to publish an updated report every three months, and an overall yearly report at the end of each calendar year.