The recent announcement that two American-Israeli professors will share the Nobel Prize in chemistry has engendered some soul-searching among those who lament the state of the country’s cash-strapped academic system.
Prof. Arieh Warshel, who was born in Israel and now lives in California, and Prof. Michael Levitt, a South African native who made aliya and now splits his time between the US and Israel, are sharing the prize – and the $1.25 million – with Prof. Martin Karplus, an Austrian native who fled to the US before the Holocaust.
Warshel and Levitt are Israel’s 11th and 12th Nobel Prize laureates.
Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, the former minister of science and technology who left politics to take up the presidency of Bar-Ilan University, told Israel Radio that Israeli universities and colleges “simply cannot compete” with American institutions of higher learning that have the financial wherewithal to offer the country’s brightest minds better terms and salaries.
According to Hershkowitz, 20 percent of faculty members in the computer departments of leading American universities are Israeli.
Prof. Moshe Bar, he, too, of Bar-Ilan, believes that most Israeli scientists who are based abroad would prefer to return home, but are unable to because of the economic realities.
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