Peres at his 90th birthday 370.
(photo credit: Koby Gidon/GPO)
Not everyone has to necessarily serve in the army, President Shimon Peres told students at Bar-Ilan University on Monday.
Peres was responding to a question about sharing the burden
Everyone should serve in accordance with national needs, he said, but not necessarily in the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF itself says that it doesn’t want everyone he commented, “But everyone has to serve society in some way.” As far as haredim are concerned, said Peres, this does not have to mean abandonment of prayer and study.
The conclusions reached by the Shaked committee constitute an important principle, he said, but a decision still has to be made about how to best implement it.
BIU President Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz boasted that BIU has the highest percentage of students of any university serving in the IDF, noted that the character of the university is a good blend of academic studies and Jewish values. Serving in the IDF is not a burden but a privilege, he clarified.
He was also proud of how BIU has grown from a higher education facility of four faculties with 70 students in 1955, to its present size of eight faculties with 33,000 students, including the medical faculty in the Galilee for which Peres secured a large slice of the initial funding, and which now has more than 500 students, including 170 who returned from abroad; and is affiliated with six hospitals.. “It has succeeded beyond all expectations”, said Hershkowitz.
Peres, who in former years received an Honorary Doctorate and a Life Achievement Award from BIU, has a special affinity with BIU, not only because of the medical school, but also because of BIU’s ground-breaking achievements in nanotechnology for which he was a prescient advocate, and its progressive work in brain research which is the subject that most fascinates him today.
Before visiting BIU’s Biological Design Lab at the university’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Peres was privy to a demonstration-cum-experiment at the University’s Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center performed by students Rani Barbara and Shira Bar Or of the Cognitive Brain Lab headed by Prof. Moshe Bar. Hershkowitz willingly agreed to be the guinea pig, and sat patiently while he was fitted with an EEG bonnet to which eight electrodes were attached. Two additional electrodes were placed in his ears. The idea was to show Peres what can be learned from a person’s brain waves. Hershkowitz was asked to close his eyes, to open his eyes, to relax, to visualize his earliest childhood memory and then to think of his vision for the future a decade from now. The brain waves shown on a large illuminated screen that also showed the monitoring of emotion, formed a pattern that when analyzed indicated that Hershkowitz has a well balanced brain.
The Center’s founder, Professor Moshe Abeles told Peres that there are 40,000 brain researchers in the United States and only a few hundred in Israel, but that brain research is actually more expensive in Israel than it is in the US. He also spoke of the large sums of money made available to American researchers. Peres assured him that for scientific purposes both American and European research budgets are also available to Israelis.
Abeles emphasized that before founding the Center, he had given much thought to where Israel has a relative advantage so that it can make an impact and had decided that it was through interdisciplinary studies, where students of different disciplines would study together and learn to understand each other’s scientific language. “We can’t solve the mysteries of the brain without cooperating with other disciplines,” said Abeles.
Peres, who had paid close attention to the demonstration declared brain research to be a top priority which shows researchers where they lack knowledge while simultaneously supplying them with fresh knowledge.
At the Laboratory for Bio Design, Peres met Dr. Ido Bachelet who enthused about the benefits to nanotechnology by students of physics, chemistry, biology and engineering all studying together and engaged in multi-disciplinary research. Bachelet showed Peres an example of robotics made from molecular DNA which can help epileptics, can check when people with diabetes need insulin and how much, can identify twelve types of cancer and can kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.
Bachelet has given three demonstrations to the US Food and Drug
Administration and is hoping to be able to start clinical tests within a year. Initially the FDA was incredulous he said, but after seeing proof of what robotics can do, asked Bachelet to focus on illnesses which are thus far incurable such as schizophrenia and alzheimer’s.
Bachelet has many interests related to nanotechnology including music, but what he is currently pushing is for all high school students from Grade Eight upwards to study nanotechnology, so that they can begin working on robotics at an early age.
In fact, he has already started such classes on a small scale.