Israel Studies Student Research

Ph.D. candidate Berkay Gulen explains her research and at a graduate research presentation

Students of Israel Studies engage critically with the histories, societies, cultures and politics of the State of Israel. Students have done research on a range of topics related to Israel since the program’s beginning in 2016.

Current Students

Portrait of Berkay in collar shirt, smiling, long black hair falling over her shoulder

Berkay Gulen, Ph.D. candidate, International Studies

Berkay Gulen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. She received her M.Sc. degrees in International Relations from the Middle East Technical University, Turkey, and in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Berkay’s academic interests led her to conduct research at the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University in 2013 and the Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv in 2018. Her doctoral research is on foreign policy decision-making and Turkey-Israel relations after 1991. She is the 2018-19 Robinovitch Family Fellow and was the 2015-16 Samuel and Althea Stroum Fellow in Jewish Studies.

Francis Abugbilla wearing suit jacket and tie

Francis Abugbilla

Francis Abugbilla, Ph.D. candidate, International Studies

Francis Mbawini Abugbilla is a Ph.D. candidate in international studies at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, where he was the 2017-2018 Henry M. Jackson Doctoral Fellow. He is also an associate researcher at Laboratoire de Sociologie Economique et d’Anthropologie des Appartenances Symboliques (LAASSE) at the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire. He researches conflict resolution and peacebuilding mechanisms in post-conflict societies, including in Israel and in Côte d’Ivoire, where he has studied the impact of religious organizations, including Côte d’Ivoire’s Jewish community. His dissertation focuses on how post-conflict peacebuilding mechanisms affect the prospects of reconciliation in Africa. His secondary research interests include human rights, governance, youth empowerment, and connections between Israel and Africa. He was the 2019-2020 Benaroya Israel Studies Fellow in Jewish Studies.

Past Students

Portrait of Hayim Katsman in T-shirt and jacket with mustache and goatee, looking thoughtful

Hayim Katsman, Ph.D., International Studies (in memoriam)

Hayim researched the interrelations between religion and politics in Israel/Palestine. Focusing on the Religious-Zionist movement and the settlement enterprise in the West Bank and Gaza, Hayim’s research shows how developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have affected religious Zionists’ theological interpretations of the Israeli state. He has written about current trends in Religious-Zionism and its complex relationship to radicalism. Hayim received his Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Washington in 2021. He received a B.A. in philosophy from the Open University of Israel and completed his M.A. thesis on the theology of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg at the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University. Hayim lived on a kibbutz (collective farm) on the Israel/Gaza/Egypt border, and was killed there by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023.

Portrait of Bret Windhauser smiling, wearing a shirt with a collar, tie and sweater, a tree and building in the background

Bret Windhauser, M.A., International Studies

Bret Windhauser received his master’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization in 2020. Before coming to Seattle, he double-majored in French and international and global studies at Sewanee: The University of the South. He has researched refugee movement and smuggling networks between Europe and the Middle East, based on time he spent in the jungle camp in Calais, France, where networks smuggled goods and people between France and the UK. His M.A. thesis focused on smuggling networks that operate between Israel and the Palestinian Territories and the issues they create for state-building.

Esra Bakkalbasioglu, Ph.D., International Studies

Esra Bakkalbasioglu received her Ph.D. in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in 2019. She was the Stroum Center’s 2016-17 Robert and Pamela Center Fellow and the 2013-14 I. Mervyn and Georgiana Gorasht Scholar in Jewish Studies. Esra received her M.A. and B.A. degrees in Political Sciences and International Relations from Bogazici University in Turkey. Her dissertation looked at the politics of infrastructure in the peripheral regions of Turkey and Israel. Read more of her publications.

Portrait of Eryk Waligora, wearing glasses, a button-up shirt and a suit jacket

Eryk Waligora, M.A., International Studies

Eryk Waligora was a graduate student in the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, where he earned an M.A. in international studies and also studied Mandarin Chinese. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Eryk grew up in sunny southern California and attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He has a strong professional background, having interned for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s small business council, worked for several international tech startups in market research, become a contract Associate Producer at NBCUniversal, and supported East Asia new business development for an international export company. When Eryk is not working or studying, he is volunteering for the Danny Woo Community Garden, as well as exploring his creative outlets in music and photography. Eryk was the 2019-2020 Robinovitch Family Fellow through the Stroum Center graduate fellowship, through which he researched connections between the national histories of Israel and Taiwan.

Sam Gordon, M.A., Political Science

Sam Gordon is from Florida and attained a bachelor’s degree in 2014 from Florida State University, majoring in History and International Affairs. After graduation, Sam moved to Jerusalem and worked as a research assistant at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He conducted research on topics including diplomacy and human rights in the Middle East. He also spent nine months living and working in Prague, where he absorbed a great deal of knowledge about Jewish communities in Central Europe. Sam’s research interests include Israeli foreign policy, geopolitics of the Middle East, and the intersection between technology and foreign policy. As the 2017-2018 Rabbi Arthur A. Jacobovitz Fellow in Jewish Studies, Sam investigated the role Israel plays in the newly forming international order, as well as the challenges and opportunities it faces on a global scale.

Robert Keener, Ph.D., Education

Robert Keener was born in Houston, Texas, where he attended St. Thomas High School and Texas Tech University. After college, he spent two years working in the oil and gas industry in Houston before academia came calling. He attended Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, where he took two courses on the history of the Middle East that sparked an interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The multi-sided presentation of the conflict by his mentor, Dr. Nikolas Trepanier, was far different than the single-sided polemics that he had previously heard. While at Ole Miss, Robert focused on studying systems of oppression such as apartheid, Jim Crow and imperialism. After earning his M.A. in history, Robert enrolled in the University of Washington’s Multicultural Education doctoral program, where his research centered on teaching controversial topics in social studies, global citizenship education, and the construction of knowledge. He was the 2017-18 Israel Studies Fellow in Jewish Studies.

Portrait of Mawa Maziad in business jacket

Marwa Maziad, Ph.D., International Studies

Marwa Maziad earned a Interdisciplinary Near and Middle East Studies, with a focus on comparative civil-military relations and regional security studies, from the Henry M. Jackson School in 2019. Findings from her dissertation “Oscillating Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East: Cases of Turkey, Egypt and Israel, A Dynamic Regional Order Approach” have been presented in a number of specialized conferences, such as the Association for Israel Studies (AIS); the European Research Group On Military And Society (ERGOMAS); the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society (IUSAFS); the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution (ISA-RC01); and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). Marwa’s regular commentary and analysis of Middle East Politics have been featured on BBC Arabic, Aljazeera English, CNN International, National Public Radio (NPR) and other Arab and international media. She is the recipient of an Israel Studies research scholarship in Jewish Studies.

Portrait of Pablo smiling, wearing glasses, in suit and tie

Pablo Jairo Tutillo Maldonado, M.A., International Studies

Pablo Jairo Tutillo Maldonado, who hails from Connecticut, earned an M.A. in Middle East Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in 2019. Pablo obtained his B.A. in international relations, with a minor in Arabic studies, from Connecticut College. Pablo has studied at Alexandria University in Egypt and at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. At the University of Washington, Pablo researched the intersection of history and politics in countries in the Middle East, particularly the political and historical narratives of Jewish refugees, Syrian refugees, and other forced migrants from the Arab world. He speaks conversational Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish. Pablo was the 2018-19 Richard M. Willner Memorial Scholar and was also the 2017-18 Mickey Sreebny Memorial Scholar in Jewish Studies. He currently serves in the United States Foreign Service.

Oded Oron, Ph.D., International Studies

Oded Oron was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. His doctoral research with the Jackson School of International Studies focused on the political mobilization of labor migrants and undocumented workers in Israel and the United States. Oded has a B.A. from Bar-Ilan University in political science and communications and an M.A. in politics and government from Ben-Gurion University. Prior to his graduate studies at the University of Washington, Oded worked in the Israeli media for several years, first as a junior editor for Ynet News and later as an editor at Ha’aretz newspaper; the Hebrew translator and editor of openGlobalRights on openDemocracy; and as a professional consultant for Israel’s Government Press Office. Oded also worked as a program coordinator and facilitator at UCLA’s Hillel and was one of the early organizers of an interfaith Muslim-Jewish dialogue group on campus. He is also an alumnus of YALA, an online movement of Middle East and North African young leaders. Oded was the Deborah & Doug Rosen Fellow in Jewish Studies from 2015-2016.