Katharina Konarek is a German research fellow (CV) at the University of Haifa, in the Haifa Center for German and European Studies. She works closely with the German and European Studies master’s program. We hope this interview provides interesting perspective from a foreigner in the country. Read below about her experience in Israel as a native German. Enjoy!
Where are you from?
I was born in Germany but also having an Austrian citizenship as my father is from Vienna.
What is your background?
I did my Master Degree in Political Science, Intercultural Communication and Communication Science at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. In my Master thesis I researched the change of Fatah from a guerrilla group to a political organisation. Therefore I was a research scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Birzeit University of Ramallah. After completing my M.A. I worked for a German political foundation in the OpT and Poland. My PhD I started at the SAIS at the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna. My field of research is German foreign policy with a special focus on the Middle East.
How did you end up in Haifa?
I got to Haifa through a scholarship by the Israeli Embassy for participating in an intensive summer Ulpan to learn Hebrew. Here at the University of Haifa I got to know the Haifa Center for German and European Studies and the Bucerius Institute and applied for a position as a research associate. Today I have two PhD supervisors: Prof. Stephan Stetter from the Bundeswehr University in Munich and Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger from the University of Haifa.
What is your role at Haifa University?
Here at the University of Haifa I am a research associate at the Haifa Center for German and European Studies and the Bucerius Institute. I am in the third year of conducting my PhD in a Joint Program with the University of Haifa and the Bundeswehr University of Munich. At the HCGES I am involved in planing and conducting academic conferences, supervising our German interns and assisting our professors in their research.
What are some highlights of your time here in Israel?
Before I came to Haifa I lived in East Jerusalem. It was a very intense experience. Haifa I got to know as a very open, welcoming city. My personal highlights are the friends and loving people I found here. Especially the campus of Haifa spreads a spirit of coexistence where you can discuss also politically sensitive topics in a proper way. Therefore life on campus here is one of my highlights. I love joining Shabbat Dinner with the orthodox Rabbi at the dormitory club one night and listening to classical Arabic music on the tayelet on another night.
What are some challenges you experience in Israel?
I am still challenged by Israeli bureaucracy and spontaneity. It is not easy to find your way through all registration process and on the other hand to face cancelling or changing on long term planned events. I am also challenged by the nationalism. For me as a German it is still strange to see flags (no matter what kind of flags) and to sing the national anthem. This collective, sometimes even forced nationalism especially on all kinds of memorial or religiouse holidays is challenging as we are not used to this in Europe.
What is your experience with other Germans or Internationals in Haifa?
In Haifa I met some of my best German friends. What unites us is the love to the Middle East and the oriental culture. I am also very happy about the large amount of international students here. I was lucky to make friends with people from all over the world, an experience I never had before.
Favorite food in Israel? Favorite spot in Haifa?
My favorite food is definilty a fresh plate of hummus on Saturday mornings or a hot Falafel in Wadi Nisnas. One of my favorite spots is the roof of the main building of the university during sunset. It offers an amazing view all the way through Akko up to the Lebanese boarder. On clear days you could also see the snow of Mount Hermon. It is just a breath taking view.