The Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (IURS) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founed in 1969 and began accepting students in 1970. The IURS began as a collabaration between the Department of Geography and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, in order to develop a graduate program in urban studies and planning, and to advance the research in this field at the Hebrew University.
The late Prof. Arie Shachar, the forefather of urban geography in Israel, initiated the establishment of the IURS, headed it until 1994 and remained an prominant in the IURS until his passing in 2006. Among the sociologists who were involved in the institute’s onset were Prof. Arik Cohen, who penned the institute’s first piblication (The City in the Zionist Ideology, 1970), and Prof. Dov Weintraub.
The IURS offered a modest program in its early years, but by the 1980s and 1990s it evolved to be one of the two leading programs in urban studies and urban planning in Israel. The graduate program was expanded and the student body grew four-fold in the early 1990s, influenced by the global rise of the urban planning profession and its progress into a more interdisciplinary and social studies oriented field. The rising demand for urban planners, as a result of the massive immigration to Israel from the former USSR and the subsequent construction momentum, also contributed to this change. Prof. Shlomo Hasson, Prof. Daniel Felsenstein and Prof. Eran Razin led the IURS in those years, along with Prof. Arie Shachar.
In the second decade of the new millennium, the IURS has expanded further, the program was upgraded and the number of students increased. Starting in 2016/17, the IURS offers a graduate degree in Geography and Urban and Regional Planning, in addition to specializations in urban and regional planning / studies. The growing interest in urban studies and in the planning profession have also been linked to the prolonged housing crisis and the 2011 social protest, as well as to recent reforms in the planning and construction law.
In addition to teaching, the IURS was involved from its inception in research, publication of policy research and holding various events. The first publication came out in 1970. Floersheimer Studies, a framework for policy research on society, space and governance, was integrated into the Institute in 2007. It is a succession of Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies, which operated independently between 1991 and 2007, generously supported by Dr. Stephen H. Floersheimer, and directed since 2007 by Prof. Eran Razin.
In 2014, the Urban Clinic was founded within the IURS, initiated and directed by Dr. Emily Silverman, as an applied-academic body meant to create, mediate and implement knowledge in cooperation with professionals in the field in order to promote social justice through planning. Activity of the Clinic includes academic courses, joint projects, various events and international and local research.