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Benefactors boost Middle East studies at Sussex with funding for research in Israeli history

A new Chair in Modern Israel Studies has been created at the University of Sussex, with generous support from major philanthropists.

With this first professorial appointment based in its School of History, Art History and Philosophy, the University of Sussex is developing its research base in modern Middle Eastern history.

University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing says: “In this period of huge social and political change in the wider region, the development of our research in this area is timely.  We hope to play our part in aiding understanding and scholarship.  As an academic development at Sussex, it is part of our tradition of engaging with urgent and complex issues, in this case with a focus on the modern history of the region.”

Support for the new Professorship comes from leading philanthropic individuals and trusts including The R and S Cohen Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Atkin Foundation, the Pears Foundation, the Gerald Ronson Foundation and Lord Weidenfeld, who took the initiative in the establishment of the Chair.

Professor Matthew Cragoe, head of the School History, Art History and Philosophy says: “We are particularly pleased to welcome the support for this chair from such a distinguished group, with an outstanding commitment to scholarship and education. Their involvement and support is a clear signal of the important role which we believe Sussex can play in this field.”

The Chair will be named after Yossi Harel, a founding figure in the history of modern Israel.  Harel, who died in 2008 aged 90, commanded the ship Exodus 1947, which carried more than 4,500 displaced European Jews to Palestine.  The 1947 blockade of the vessel by Britain prompted the United Nations to vote in favour of the creation of the state of Israel.

The Chair will contribute to the Middle East studies programme of the University. Its remit will embrace teaching and research in all aspects of Modern Israel Studies, with particular reference to the politics, history and society of contemporary Israel and the Middle East. The Chair will also promote and develop links between Middle Eastern and British academics.

Along with the Chair appointment, two further lecturer posts are proposed, dealing with the history and culture of the Middle East more broadly.

The University of Sussex already has leading research in closely related areas within the School, such as within the Centre for German-Jewish Studies, and in related fields across other schools in the University. 


Notes for Editors

Yossi Harel

Yossi Harel’s story was told in Leon Uris's best-selling novel Exodus, then in the Otto Preminger film Exodus, which starred Paul Newman as Yossi Harel. 


Blavatnik Family Foundation

The Blavatnik Family Foundation (the “Foundation”) is an active supporter of many leading educational, scientific, cultural and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and throughout the world.  Recipients of Foundation support include Oxford University, Harvard University, Tel Aviv University, The Royal Opera House, The Hermitage, The National Portrait Gallery, The British Museum, The National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Academy of Science, The White Nights Foundation, numerous Jewish charitable organisations and countless other philanthropic institutions.

The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist.  Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, and real estate.

Pears Foundation

Pears Foundation is a British family foundation rooted in Jewish values. Its work is concerned with positive identity and citizenship. Pears Foundation is building the capacity of Israel Studies as an academic discipline in British and continental European Universities. Pears Foundation currently supports Higher Education posts in Israel Studies at Manchester University, Leeds University, SOAS and the University of Sussex as well as providing start-up funding and support to the European Association of Israel Studies. For further information, please see <>

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2012