The Hebrew University in Jerusalem is reaching out to diplomatic missions in
Israel with the aim of convincing their representatives to persuade universities
in their home countries to enter into research projects and student exchange
programs with the university.
Although diplomats frequently attend
lectures and seminars at the university, and sometimes participate as speakers,
such as on Sunday, when Liang-Jen Chang, the Taipei economic and cultural
representative, will present his perspectives on Taiwan in 2012, there are
relatively few events specifically geared to diplomats.
There was an
exception on Monday, when the Hebrew University in coordination with the
Ambassadors Club hosted an Ambassadors’ Round Table at the university’s Mount
Scopus campus, to explain why this facility of higher education is among the top
60 universities in the world, and how it would benefit other countries to send
their students and their researchers to the university.
attending were ambassadors, consuls and attachés from the embassies of Ethiopia,
Kenya, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Thailand, Angola and France, as well as
the director of the American Center in Jerusalem, and Yitzhak Eldan, founding
president of the Ambassadors’ Club and former chief of protocol at the Foreign
In his welcoming address, HU President Prof. Menachem
Ben-Sasson told his guests that they were sitting in an historic place, meters
away from where the cornerstone of the university had been laid in 1918, a year
after the British conquest of the region.
The university was the
beginning of the State of Israel, Ben- Sasson said.
“If we talk of the
State of Israel as a start-up nation, we can talk of the Hebrew University as
the start-up of the startup nation,” he added.
In 1948, during the War of
Independence and for 19 years afterward, the university became an island, in
that the Jordanians recognized that the land on which it stood was Israeli
territory. But it was inaccessible and for 10 years the university was scattered
in rented premises in different parts of Jerusalem until construction of the
campus in Givat Ram in 1958. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Mount Scopus
campus was revitalized.
“This part of Jerusalem is beyond dispute,”
Ben-Sasson said, boasting that leaders of the Palestinian Authority had been
there as well as the ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan.
A third Jerusalem
campus, the medical campus adjacent to Hadassah Medical Center, is located in
Another campus in Rehovot, near the Weizmann Institute of
Science, is home to the country’s only Faculty of Agriculture and sole
There is also a Marine Biology Institute in Eilat that
the Hebrew University shares with other universities.
Hebrew University as “the mother university,” Ben-Sasson said that for many
years it was the only university in Israel, and was subsequently the mother to
Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of
Although the university has gone through many changes, he said,
its mission was still the same as that decreed by its founders Albert Einstein,
Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann.
First and foremost it is a research
university specializing not only in basic sciences but also in applied
Vice Rector Prof. Yaacov Schul emphasized the importance of
linking faculty members from different universities to strengthen joint
research. “If they don’t work together, research will become mediocre,” he
warned. He also stressed the importance of students learning to live in a global
community through student exchange programs.
The Hebrew University offers
a large number of courses in English, Schul said, and will even switch to
English for the sake of those students who don’t understand Hebrew. The
university also has a support system to help foreign students to feel at home in
an alien culture.
There are some 2,500 foreign students out of a total
student population of 22,500 at the university, but the powers that be would
like to see many more students from abroad.
Prof. Shy Arkin, vice
president for research and development, was proud that over the past decade,
seven Hebrew University graduates have been Nobel Prize laureates.
also proud that the HU is one of the top five universities in Europe, receiving
generous grants from the European Research Council whose main goal is to
encourage high quality research through competitive funding.
for research comes from outside Israel, said Arkin, adding that 4,500 research
projects are taking place at the HU.
Even though Israel is isolated
geo-politically, he said, there is a very strong scientific cooperation between
Israel and other countries, including some of those in the region. “Science is
the best pathway to peace because it is the only universal language,” said
Yissum, the HU’s research development company that works closely
with industry, was established 47 years ago, long before similar models at
Cornell, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford, said Arkin, boasting that Yissum has
7,077 patents and is ranked 12th in the world for patents that are
Cherry tomatoes, which didn’t exist 20 years ago, and have become a
delicacy on tables around the world, were invented by Nahum Kedar and Chaim
Rabinovich from the HU’s School of Agriculture, said Arkin, who produced a long
list of inventions, some in the field of medicine, some in computer sciences and
some in other areas such as criminology.
The majority of Supreme Court
justices are graduates of the Hebrew University, Arkin added.
Ambassador Rodrigo Carreras was happy to report that 14 Costa Rican doctors are
currently studying at the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Medicine; another
Costa Rican is studying music, another computers and yet another is due to begin
studying political science.
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