On his visit to the Jerusalem College of Technology yesterday, President Shimon
Peres showed special interest in meeting and hearing the ultra-Orthodox students
who constitute about a third of the institution’s 4,500 students.
visit to the 44-year-old academic institution – which teaches engineering,
management, accounting and nursing to national religious and haredi young
people, with men and women on separate campuses – was the first by a sitting
president, though Peres had visited JCT years before he became
The modern Orthodox men on the Givat Mordechai campus join the
Israel Defense Forces before or after getting their degrees, while the haredi
men – most of them with wives and children and no scientific, mathematics or
English-language background – go straight from their yeshivot to a year of
preparatory classes to matriculate and then to their studies, without IDF
Women, both national religious and haredi, study nursing in the
capital’s Givat Shaul campus, while modern Orthodox women get degrees in
electronics engineering, computer engineering and other subjects. Haredi women
study various subjects, including accounting and business, at Machon Lustig in
Ramat Gan to prepare for supporting their families as their husbands study
It was announced by the new JCT president, Prof. Chaim Sukenik,
that the 44-year-old institution established by the late Prof. Zev Low (Lev)
would have a new name – the Jerusalem College of Technology/Lev Academic Center,
and the Merkaz Academi Lev in Hebrew.
Marketing research had shown that
while potential students and eventual employers who are modern Orthodox were
very familiar with the institution, secular employers knew nothing about it,
thinking it was a cardiac (lev) institute at the nearby Shaare Zedek Medical
Peres met in a small forum with haredi professors, including one
who has developed a molecule that can separate cancerous from healthy cells,
with the eventual possibility of using apoptosis (programmed cell death) to rid
the body of the tumor.
He also met haredi students who were working on
projects involving lasers and using computers to quickly emboss books in
gold-like print instead of working by hand.
JCT administrators said they
have launched special projects to teach immigrant men and women from France,
Ethiopia and even from Morocco.
Haredi male students – from Lithuanian
yeshivot, such as Ponevitch in Bnei Brak, and hassidim from Elad and Mea
She’arim in Jerusalem – told Peres that JCT was ideal for them as a way to learn
important professions in an atmosphere conducive to a Torah way of
Several of the haredi students complained that the ultra-Orthodox
community in the country had been “persecuted” by the authorities and lawmakers
in the past year in an effort to draft them into the military against their
Peres recalled that the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion,
appointed him to negotiate with the rabbis when only 200 or 300 yeshiva students
were seeking exemption. Today, there are many, many more, said Peres, but today,
the problem could be resolved by serious discussion and
“There has been a lot of extremism on both sides,” he
The president added that he saw no contradiction between Torah and
science, and some of the haredi JCT students agreed.
During his visit,
Peres called for a national program that would provide free nourishing food for
all children from birth through age three, English and Internet studies in
pre-schools and free education through the age of 18 for all, whether religious
He also suggested that all teens from 10th grade should be
allowed to work for two hours a day – at clean, intellectual jobs, if possible,
to integrate their studies with real life. New ways of teaching have made it
possible to learn the same amount in half the time, Peres said.