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Freie Universität and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem collab on Joint Winter School on Digital Humanities emerges success

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) and Freie Universität Berlin strengthened their strategic partnership by jointly hosting a Digital Humanities Winter School in Jerusalem from February 27 to March 1, 2023. The event was made possible thanks to a grant from the German-Israeli Foundation (GIF) and the German U15 network. The winter school brought together young scholars, doctoral students, and master’s students from universities in Germany and Israel to learn about and explore digital methods and tools on HUJI’s Mount Scopus campus. Opening remarks were held by Professor Asher Cohen, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Professor Günter M. Ziegler, President of Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Michael Hoch, Vice Chair of German U15 and Rector of the University of Bonn, Professor Nissim Otmazgin, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at HUJI, as well as Dr. Jan Wöpking, Managing Director of German U15. On February 28, the participants had the opportunity to meet the German Ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert.

Digital humanities (DH) is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the use of computational tools (from established research software to specially tailored algorithms and artificial intelligence) in humanities research. In recent years, DH has evolved from a technical and methodological complement to existing humanities research into a distinct, cross-disciplinary discipline that uses knowledge and methods from computer science, mathematics, data science, and other related fields to pose traditional humanities research questions in novel ways.

The bilateral winter school provided participants from a wide range of disciplines – from archaeology and religious studies to literary studies and psychology – with an introduction to various aspects of DH. Participants were able to gain basic knowledge of software currently used in DH, learn about innovative projects from recent years, and gain a deeper understanding of how these projects were organized. The individual workshops, conducted by experts from Germany and Israel, were complemented by a series of productive interdisciplinary discussions between doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers from different universities in Israel and Germany who were interested in integrating DH into their research.

The German Ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, who was paying an inaugural visit to HUJI during this time, emphasized the role of science and research in forging strong connections between Germany and Israel during a brief visit to the event on its second day. Seibert emphasized that academic ties had provided the initial foundation for genuine contact between people of both countries long before diplomatic relations were ever established. He also highlighted the fact that there are currently more than 5,000 ongoing joint scientific projects underway involving German and Israeli researchers and scholars, proving that science has always been and will continue to be an important cornerstone of diplomatic exchange.

The joint DH Winter School was hosted by the Ada Lovelace Center for Digital Humanities at Freie Universität and the Center for Digital Humanities at the Hebrew University. Plans are already being made to offer the program again next year on Freie Universität’s campus in Berlin.