We are deeply saddened by the loss of Professor Gad Barzilai (1958–2023), who died on 10 April 2023. Gadi was an influential scholar in the fields of law and political science. He served as the president of the Association for Israel Studies (AIS) from 2011 to 2013. His leadership, exceptional scholarship, and vision helped shape the field of Israel studies and foster important intellectual debates on issues pertinent to Israeli society.
Gadi's academic trajectory was marked by excellence and scholarly rigor. His multidisciplinary background, provided a unique perspective to his research and writing. He authored and edited numerous influential books and published a substantial body of work, including approximately 170 articles, essays, chapters, and conference proceedings. His writings covered a wide range of topics, including law and society, politics of rights, comparative law, political power, national security, democracies and law, and Middle East and Israeli politics and law.
Gadi's academic odyssey took him from Yale to Tel Aviv University, where he co-founded and co-directed the Law, Society and Politics Graduate Program. In 2004, he accepted a position at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he served as a professor in the Law, Societies & Justice Program and in the Jackson School of International Studies. He returned to Israel in 2012 to serve as the dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa and later as vice provost (2016–2019).
Among his many other contributions to intellectual life, Gadi was co-founder and co-chair of the Israeli Association of Law and Society and president of the Israel Political Science Association (2022–23). He was the founding director of the internationally renowned Dan David Prize (1999–2002).
Gadi was also actively engaged with human rights organizations, advised policymakers, and participated in national and international initiatives dedicated to advancing justice and promoting the rule of law. Lately, he spoke and wrote on the risks of the proposed changes to Israel's judicial system.
His close friend and colleague at the University of Washington, Joel Migdal writes about him:
Gad Barzilai was the leading voice on the interplay of politics and law in Israel, especially issues pertaining to human rights. In 2023, he emerged as a prominent critic on Israeli television and radio, analyzing (and decrying) the proposed changes in Israel's judicial system. Beyond his roles as an academic and public intellectual, Gadi was a true mensch, helping colleagues and friends and mentoring countless students.
His former student Ayelet Harel, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, describes him as a teacher and as a fellow researcher:
Gadi was not only one of the most important researchers in Israel in the field of law and society, Gadi also had a good soul. He was kind, compassionate, and empathetic toward others. Gadi possessed strong moral values and strived to make the world a better place through his actions and words. That was evident in his academic writings, his activism, and his collegiality. He was my first professor at university; later, he became my PhD advisor and a close friend. I am grateful that I have had a person of such gentleness and wisdom in my path. He was always supportive and most knowledgeable. Gadi will surely be missed not only by his family but also by the many who knew him and read his insightful and brilliant scholarship, as well as generations of students in both fields of political science and law, who were inspired by his thoughtful teaching. May his memory be a blessing. I already miss him.
Gadi will be sorely missed.
Oded Haklai and Adia Mendelson-Maoz