The story of the study of international relations in Israel dates back to the pre-state period of the British mandate for Palestine, before 1948. The instruction of international relations in Jerusalem started in 1932, eight years after the opening of the Hebrew University. Scholars such as Benjamin Akzin, Nathan Feinberg, Leo Kohn, Meir Verité, Vittorio Dan Segre, and Norman Bentwich taught courses on the history, philosophy, and jurisprudence of the nation-state and its foreign relations. After 1946 students were able to obtain an MA degree in international relations and after 1953 a BA degree. From 1959 to 1969 students were able to obtain an MA degree in international relations, whereas the undergraduate studies took place within the Department of Political Science.
In the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967, in view of the increasing importance of the field of international relations, an independent department of International Relations was established in 1969 as a teaching and research entity separate from the Department of Political Science, under the leadership of Saul Friedländer and Michael Brecher. The DIR was initially built around diplomatic historians (Saul Friedlander and Nissan Oren), IR theorists (Michael Brecher and Alan Dowty), and international lawyers (Nissim Bar-Yaacov, Ruth Lapidoth, and Michla Pomerance). In its initial years, prominent IR scholars taught at the department, including Janice Stein, Raymond Tanter, Thomas Schelling, Kalevi Holsti, and Robert Jervis. In 1972, the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations was created as an independent research institute, in close collaboration with the department.
Since 1969 the DIR has kept its pluralistic structure, bringing together a group of IR theoreticians, diplomatic historians, international political economists, and legal scholars in international law, at the intersection between the humanities and the social sciences, providing a unique background for the development of the discipline. The basic interdisciplinary nature of the field has been reflected in the number of joint appointments with other university Departments, including the Faculty of Law, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, East Asian Studies, Russian and Slavic Studies, and Political Science. Faculty members research issues of international political economy, international cooperation and conflict, theories of IR, diplomacy and negotiations, peace studies, international history, and public international law. This broad research perspective, in many ways, predates the current recognition of the need in our age of globalization to study IR in an interdisciplinary way. This would not have been possible within the confines of the pre-existing department of Political Science.
The current faculty members of the DIR are: Eitan Barak, Oren Barak, Galia Barnathan, Tomer Broude, Guy Harpaz, Moshe Hirsch, Piki Ish-Shalom, Arie Kacowicz, Oded Lowenheim, Dan Miodownik, Tal Dingot Alkopher, Yoram Haftel, Gadi Heimann, Lior Herman, Guy Laron, Or Rabinowitz, Daniel Schwartz, and Christian Tauer. Emeriti faculty members include Avraham Sela, Sasson Sofer, Alfred Tovias, Yaacov Vertzberger, Raymond Cohen ,Uri Bialer, Emanuel Adler, Nissim Bar-Yaacov, Joseph Heller, Ruth Lapidoth, Nissan Oren, Michla Pomerance, Norman Rose, and Amnon Sella. Deceased faculty members include: Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, Ellis Joffe.
There is a consensus among the current members of the DIR that the traditional separation among theory, history, and international law has been a rather artificial one. Hence, nowadays some scholars in international law adopt theoretical constructs and methodologies of social sciences. Conversely, IR theoreticians address major subjects of international law. Similarly, diplomatic historians and IR theoreticians produce work that is mutually informed by their counterparts. This coming- of- age beyond the traditional debates among historians, theoreticians and legal scholars of international law from the 1970s and 1980s indicates the maturation of the field of international studies.