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GIF hosts the Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK) for a reception on the occasion of their solidarity mission to Israel

GIF was delighted to host distinguished representatives from the Kultusministerkonferenz and Stateministers of Germany during a reception to mark their solidarity mission to Israel.

Prof. Tamar Hermann (Israel Democracy Insitute) and Idan Almong (Reichman University) joined the evening with insightful remarks.

Following to the remarks by GIF director Eric Zimmerman:

Good evening, ladies, and gentlemen. Your excellencies.

My name is Eric Zimmerman. I am the director of GIF – the German Israeli foundation for scientific research. It is my distinct privilege to welcome you to a short session before dinner. I know you have had two intense days and an early departure tomorrow morning.

  • Thank you to my dear friend, Mr Udo Michalik, for inviting us. We have much more to do together.
  • Thank you to the Ministry of Education for allowing us this opportunity.
  • Thank you, lastly, but certainly not lastly, to each of you for journeying to Israel this week.

The ongoing war in Israel is very difficult for all. Many of us have children, family & friends called up to immediate reserve and active duty. Many of us know victims of the October 7 pogrom; Israel is a country with zero degrees of separation. All of us live under daily sirens. We are attending funerals and making shiva house calls.

I myself come here today straight from burying a neighbor, the childhood friend of my youngest daughter. The mother is the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture. We are a small country. A close-knit family.

Since the war began, science in Israel has come to a halt. It has come to a virtual stand-still. Foreigners have left, Israelis are either called into reserves or must take care of their children at home. Our sadness is compounded by the antisemitic demonstrations we see world-wide. It is hard to comprehend how after the 7 October pogrom so many people cry for our elimination.

In ~75 days we in Israel have had few opportunities to raise a glass of wine. There has been too little to be happy about. Our young men and women are fighting in battle. Many are still held hostage. Friendship, though, is an opportunity to take a break from our sadness. Also, with the holiday season upon us, please, accept my very best wishes to you and yours, for happy holidays and a better, healthier, and safer 2024.

I wish to offer a toast to our partnership. To our personal and institutional relationships. Please, join me in raising a glass to us, to our joint future – in education, science, and much more. Also, we keep in our thoughts our soldiers, first responders, and hostages in Gaza. L’chaim. To life.

I am trying hard not to compare the Nazi atrocities of WW2 to Hamas. I do wish to share two thoughts, though: After studying the Shoah deeply for many years, I came to the realization that the more I knew, the less I comprehended how such evil was possible. This is true today as well, when thinking of the Hamas atrocities. Secondly, more importantly, I understand that when good people remain silent, atrocities occur.

My visits to Germany these past two months have shown me deep unwavering solidarity. 

  • There is strong identification with us, our successes, and challenges. 
  • There is an understanding unmatched by other nations.
  • Beyond that, I have felt a true sense of shared mourning. 
  • Indeed, our unique relationship is of a shared destiny. 
  • In our work at the Foundation, we see this every day.
  • We hear a clear, strong voice from the federal and state governments.
  • Thank you.

Israel is a country of immigrants. With so many voices these past 10 weeks calling for the cessation of Israel as an independent state I thought I would share my story. Recently, my wife and I marked 35 years since we moved to Israel from New York City, with our 4-month young first-born child in tow. On the plane (coincidentally) we sat next to a family who would become life-long friends (i.e., family). We left JFK on the eve of “Partition Day”. We landed on Partition Day. A very symbolic day to board a B747 to Lydda. We have raised our 5 children here. We are blessed with 4 children “in-laws”. Our 7 beautiful grandchildren are now growing up here. We know we made the right choice. It would have been easy to stay. We have never questioned our decision. There was no real choice. Has it been easy? Of course not. What in life is easy? Do we have regrets? Only as concerns leaving family. At the end of the day, Jews may live comfortably across the globe. But we have only one true home, where we can wear a kippah with pride and without fear. It has been our privilege to contribute to the new vibrant society. We have our share (and then some) of trying times. But we are strong. We not only survive each hardship; we thrive afterwards. We go from strength to strength. This has been our story for generations.

GIF – the German Israeli Foundation – was established in 1986 by both countries by a formal intergovernmental agreement. We were mandated to support bilateral science. This is what we do. It is not part of what we do. It is all we do. We are the only such structure that I am aware of, in any field or discipline. We have one purpose: to facilitate collaborative research between Germany and Israel.

  • 2000 projects
  • 300m EUR
  • Dozens of meetings and seminars

We have supported no fewer than 17 Nobel laureates, numerous other prestigious medals and prizes. Among our grant recipients are many highly cited scientists.

Over the past three years we have begun to develop significant partnerships:

  • With the Bundesländer : NRW, Bavaria, Saxony, BW, Rhineland Palatinate; my hope is for agreements with all 16 States.
  • With associations: U15, Helmholtz, Leibniz, Fraunhofer
  • With institutions: Charite, Clalit
  • With the private sector: this is under examination.

There is much we can and should do together.

There are changing attitudes in our countries towards one another. The unique special relationship cannot be taken for granted. This might be normal. It has been 80 years since the Shoah. Is Germany becoming a distinct migrant society with a diminishing shared ethnic memory? We are diverging on several issues, at least in perception. Is the future of our relationship witnessing challenges? Can we still be sustainable bridge builders? How do we ensure our future as science diplomats? We need to investigate this seriously. I have initiated such a discussion with several colleagues. The 16 States should be partners in this dialog. Please do let me know if I can engage you on this.

Our hard-earned freedom is not to be taken lightly. We cherish it.  With it, comes responsibility: to our citizenry. to world Jewry. to the global community of man. This is not the time to be silent. Good men must make their voices heard. Advocacy is not a job for professionals only. We each can use our personal networks and social media channels. 

Originally, I was planned to address you today from Yad Vashem. I very much wanted, and still believe, that the relationship between our countries, in science and academia, more than based on our shared past, must be based on futured shared interests and needs.

I do not for a minute minimize the importance of memory. We are biblically commanded to remember key events. But, for me, and for Israel’s founding fathers, looking ahead to the future is no less important than remembering the past. Indeed, as you know, our national anthem is entitled The Hope.

I welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation with you individually or collectively, in Germany, in your state capital or whenever you think best. I invite you to engage with us and support the binational partnership.

GIF is your natural facilitator in Israel.

For the next several minutes I have invited two colleagues to address you. Each brief talk is but a taste of what we can deeply discuss in the future. It will be my honor to work with you to develop seminars or research programs accordingly. There are no PowerPoints this evening. Just old-school conversation. Joining us are:

  1. Tamar Hermann is senior research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. She is a specialist in public opinion measurement and analysis.
  2. Idan Almog is the head of the Teaching Innovation unit at Reichman University, whose mission is to shape & realize RU’s vision regarding the future of learning. He will share some thoughts on innovation in education.

For now, I hope you enjoy the next two interactions, also the food and drink.


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Prof. Avi Rivkind

Hadassah Medical Center



Professor Avraham Rivkind, M.D., F.A.C.S. Professor of Surgery, former Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Head of the Shock Trauma Unit in the Department of the General Surgery at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in 1980. Personal physician to the late President of the State of Israel, Mr. Ezer Weizman, as well as advisor to the Surgeon General of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on general surgery, trauma and ethics. Professor Rivkind completed a Fellowship in traumatology and critical care at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System (MIEMSS), Baltimore, Maryland, and was a visiting Associate Professor in Trauma and Fore-gut surgery at the University of Southern California. He is Chairperson of the Israel Committee on Trauma, and Director of the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Program, Jerusalem, Israel.
Professor Rivkind was awarded the Karl Stoll Chair in Surgical Trauma and was recently honored by the State of Israel as a torchbearer for Israel’s 75th Independence Day ceremony. Professor Rivkind is a widely recognized expert in natural disaster management, motor vehicle accidents, and identifying and treating blast injury as a result of shock waves. His research interests include hemorrhagic shock, fluid re-suscitation and all aspects of trauma care; primary interests in fore-gut surgery, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal and stomach diseases and cancer.

Dr. Elke-Vera Kotowski

Moses Mendelssohn Foundation



Dr. Elke-Vera Kotowski studied political science, literature, philosophy and cultural studies in Duisburg and Berlin. She has been researching and teaching at the University of Potsdam since 1994 and was involved in the establishment of the “Jewish Studies” course at the University of Potsdam. Her research areas are European-Jewish literary, cultural, and social history with a focus on the history of identity and mentality of German-speaking Jewry in the 19th and 20th century. A special area of research that Ms. Kotowski has been conducting since 2012, in cooperation with the German Foreign Office and German embassies, among others, is the cultural heritage of Jewish emigrants worldwide. From 2009-2016, she was the academic coordinator of the Walther Rathenau Graduate School in the network of Berlin and Brandenburg universities. She has been a member of the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin Brandenburg since its founding (2011). She has also been chief curator of the Moses Mendelssohn Foundation and executive director of the Moses Mendelssohn Institute since 2020. She is currently developing a documentation center on the history of the Berlin deportation site “Platform 17” as well as a student living and working campus for the development of new concepts of commemoration and remembrance in the German-Jewish context (www.else-ury-campus.de).

Ms. Katharina Even

Germany Liaison and Program Manager



Katharina joined the German Israeli Foundation (GIF) for Scientific Research and Development as Germany Liaison and Program Manager in June 2024. In her recent position at the Free State of Bavaria – Israel Office (2019-2024), she oversaw the organization of cultural and educational collaboration projects promoting Bavarian-Israeli relations and cooperated with various institutions in the field of youth exchange. During her work at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel (2017-2019), Katharina managed a range of projects focusing on European-Israeli relations as well as Israeli public opinion polls. Katharina obtained her university degree in Latin and French Studies at the University of Regensburg, Germany. With a background in cultural diplomacy and international relations, Katharina is passionate about fostering the scientific cooperation between Germany and Israel.

Dr. Meital

Senior Scientific Manager



Meital obtained her BSc in chemistry (Bar-Ilan University). Fascinated by the world organometallics, she joined the lab of Prof. Milko van der Boom (Weizmann Institute of Science) and pursued her PhD in Chemistry. Meital then performed two postdoctoral studies: the first with Prof. David Milstein (Weizmann Institute of Science) and the second with Profs. Eli Lebowitz and Wendy Silverman (Yale University). Meital joined the German Israeli Foundation (GIF) for scientific research and development as Scientific Manager in 2021. She hopes to contribute her passion to science and academic experience to enhance the collaboration ties between scientist from Israel and Germany.

Dr. Eric

University Research Management



Prior to his appointment as GIF Director, Eric spent 27 years in university research management: 13 years at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya and nearly 14 years at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan.

Working together with the President and Provost of IDC Herzliya, Dr Zimmerman established and directed the Academic Affairs, International Engagement and Research Support Offices. His portfolio included responsibility for all competitive research and program grants and the protection of the institutional intellectual property; developing global partnerships and managing all institutional internationalization agreements, including student exchange, summer and study abroad programs; managing the development of double degree MA-level programs; and the development of joint doctoral programs.

Dr Zimmerman has been a member of several national and international committees, most recently a Higher Education Reform Expert (HERE) of the European Commission, and was a past leader of a task group within the largest European professional association of research administrators (EARMA), a founding board member of a European-based association on research information management (euroCRIS), the force behind the development of the Israel National Database of Academic Research and Development (INDARD), and party to other national and global initiatives. He regularly writes and lectures on internationalization, entrepreneurship education, research management, academic productivity and Israel, and advises organizations on information management and work flow practices as they effect academics and administrators at institutions of higher education. Finally, Dr Zimmerman is an experienced grants proposal reviewer.

Eric, born in New York City in 1962, is married to Sharon (an economist and European projects manager), has five grown children and six grandchildren.

Prof. Yehuda

Tel Aviv University



Born in Israel Board certified surgeon since 1978.

Served in IDF as chief surgeon of The Army Frontline Field Hospital.

Basic Research at the Membrane department of the Weitzman Institute of Science (1978-1980).

Visiting Scientist at the Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Health (NIH) Bethesda Maryland, USA 1980-1982, 1988.

Full Professor of Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. Served as the head of Surgery Department at the Tel Aviv Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital).

Former President of Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israel Pre-hospital emergency services.

Currently, board member of the friend organization of MDA.

Active in the “Advanced Surgery Group”, Assuta Medical Center, Tel Aviv.

Served as the Chairman of the Committee for the Early Cancer Detection at the Israel Cancer Association.

Served as member in the Research committee of the Israel Cancer Association and at the Research committee of the Israel Ministry of Health.

Member of the American Society of Surgical Oncology.

Member of the Board of Trustees, The Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan.

Board member of the Israel Opera. Board member of the Israel Culture and Art Council and chairman of its Music Section committee.

Publications: More than 150 original articles published in international professional journals and as chapters in books.

Active participation in more than 400 international scientific conferences.

Prof. Ingrid

Martin Luther University



Academic Education

  • 1974-1979 Studies in physics, TU Dresden, Germany
  • 1979 Diploma Thesis in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden
  • 1982 Ph.D. Thesis in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden
  • 1985-1990 Postdoc, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Russia
  • 1995 Habilitation in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden


Academic Education

  • 1982-1985 Assistant Professor, TU Dresden, Institute of Theoretical Physics
  • 1985-1990 Senior Scientist, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Russia
  • 1990-1995 Regular Guest Scientist, Research Centre Jülich, Germany; collaboration with P. H. Dederichs
  • 1996 Guest Professor, New York University, USA; collaboration with P. Levy
  • 1998 Guest Professor, University Paris-Sud, France; collaboration with A. Fert
  • 1999 Guest Professor, University of Nagoya, Japan; collaboration with J. Inoue
  • 2001- C4/W3 Professor, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany 2006 Sabbatical, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, USA
  • 2009-2011 Guest Professor, Bristol University, Great Britain; collaboration with B Györffy
  • 2013 Sabbatical, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, USA
  • 2016 and 2018 Guest Professor, Riken Center for Emergent Matter Science, Tokyo, Japan; collaboration with N. Nagaosa


Professional Activities

  • 2001-2007 Spokesperson of the DFG Research Unit “Oxidic Interfaces”
  • 2001-2007 Elected Reviewer of the DFG
  • 2003-2009 Member of the Nomination Committee of the Gottried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme
  • 2005- Advisory Board: Fraunhofer Institute IMWS, Halle
  • 2006-2014 Member/Chair of the International Union of Pure and Applied Science (IUPAP, C9)
  • 2008-2019 Spokesperson of the DFG CRC 762 “Functionality of Oxide Interfaces”
  • 2009-2017 Editorial Board Member Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
  • 2011-2017 Member of the German Council of Science and Humanities
  • 2012-2018 Advisory Board: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
  • 2018- Member of the Board of Governors RWTH Aachen
  • 2020- Member of the Committee of Senate of the Leibniz Community


Fellowships, Awards, and Honours

  • 1997-2001 Heisenberg Fellow of the DFG
  • 1999 Fellow of the Japan Society for Promotion of Science
  • 2007-2018 Max Planck Fellow

Research Interests

Quantum theory of Solids; Density Functional Theory; Transport Theory; Theory of Magnetism; Physics of Nanostructures; Spintronics; Topological properties of solids

Prof. Monika

University of Leipzig



Monika Wohlrab-Sahr was born in 1957. She studied Protestant Theology and Sociology from 1976 to 1985.

She holds a doctorate in sociology from Philipps-University Marburg (1991) and a Habilitation from Free University in Berlin (1998). From 1999-2006. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr has been professor of Sociology of Religion at the University of Leipzig, since 2006 she is professor of Cultural Sociology there. She was a research fellow at UC Berkeley, the European University Institute in Florence, the Centre for Advanced Study at JNU in New Delhi and at the University of Montréal. She has done research on conversion to Islam, Islam in Europe and – over many years – on secularity, at first related to the East German secularization process, and then expanding globally and historically. At present she is heading a big research project on “The Contested Legacy of 1989. Appropriations between Politicization, Popularization and Historical-Political Education”, and she is one of the directors (with Christoph Kleine) of the Centre of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences on “Multiple Secularities: Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” (funded by the DFG since 2016).

She has been on the Review Board for Social Sciences of the German Research Council (DFG) for 8 years, for 4 years she served as the spokesperson of this board. She also has been the director of the Leibniz-program at the University of Leipzig, and is member of several Scientific Advisory Boards and Editorial Boards.

Mr. Maximilian Metzger

Consultancy Activities



Professional Career

  • Since 01/2015 Retirement; Consultancy Activities
  • 08/2010 – 12/12014 Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Deputy Director General for International Cooperation in Education and Research
  • 08/2009 – 07/2010 Deputy Director General for Information and Communication Technologies; New Services at the BMBF
  • 06/2009 – 07/2009 Head of Division; Policy Issues of International Cooperation at the BMBF
  • 2004 – 2008 Secretary-General at CERN 2001 – 2004 Head of Division for European Research Organisations (CERN, ESO, ESRF, ILL. ETIN, DNW) at the BMBF
  • 1996 – 2001 Head of Division for Education, Science, Research, Technology and Nuclear Affairs at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU in Brussels
  • 1980 – 1996 Administrator and Head of Division in various divisions at the BMBF
  • 1978 – 1980 Judge at the Administration Court in Munich​



  • 1977 2nd State Examination in Law
  • 1974 – 1975 Research Assistant in History of Law at the Universities of Munich and Augsburg
  • 1974 1st State Examination in Law
  • 1969 – 1974 Studies in Law and Philosophy at the University of Munich

Dr. Jens

State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education



Dr Jens Brandenburg has been a Member of the German Bundestag representing the Rhine-Neckar region since 2017. In the Parliamentary Group of the Free Democratic Party, he was spokesperson on study, vocational training and lifelong learning as well as spokesperson on the Study Commission “Vocational Training in the Digital Work Environment” until 2021. In December 2021, he was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research. He studied political science and economics at the University of Mannheim and completed his PhD at the Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences. Prior to becoming a Member of the German Bundestag, he worked for a global management consulting firm.

Ms. Bettina Stark-Watzinger

Federal Minister of Education and Research



Personal details

  • Date of birth: 12 May 1968
  • Place of birth: Frankfurt am Main
  • Marital status: married
  • Religion: Roman Catholic


Education & training

  • 1989 Abitur school leaving certificate
  • 1989 – 1993 Studied economics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main 
  • 1994 – 2001 BHF BANK AG, Frankfurt am Main (incl. parental leave) 
  • 1997 – 2006 Career break including continuing education and residence abroad


Professional experience

  • 2006 – 2008 Academic Manager, Finance, Accounting, Controlling and Taxation Department, European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel 
  • 2008 – 2013 Executive Director, House of Finance, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main 
  • 2013 – 2017 Administrative Director, SAFE – Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe (research centre)


Political career

  • since 2004 Member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) 
  • 2011 – 2017 County Councillor, Main-Taunus 
  • since 2011 Member, FDP Executive Board of Land Hesse
  • 2014 – 2015; 2019 – 2021 Deputy Chair, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • 2015 – 2019 General Secretary, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • since 2017 Member of the German Bundestag 
  • 2018 – 2020 Chair of the Finance Committee, German Bundestag
  • 2020 – 2021 Parliamentary Secretary of the FDP Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag
  • since 2021 Chairwoman, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • since 2021 Federal Minister of Education and Research