With young people in the Far East becoming a powerhouse in the sciences, Israel
excelling as a start-up nation and each side not knowing much about the other,
the Asian Science Camp (ASC) is being hosted in Jerusalem by the Foreign
Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry, among others.
brilliant university students and senior high school pupils, from Asia, aged 17
to 21 have joined nearly 40 Israelis counterparts for the week-long program of
lectures by world-class Israeli researchers, including Nobel Prize winners and
their counterparts from Asia.
The opening event took place at Jerusalem’s
Hebrew University Givat Ram campus on Sunday. Among the laureates are Prof.
Aaron Ciechanover, Prof. Robert Aumann and Prof. Roger Kornberg, Prof. Lee
Yuan-Ti (chemistry, from Taiwan) and Prof. Makoto Kobayashi (physics, from
President Shimon Peres addressed the participants at the
The foreigners come from Australia and New Zealand, China,
India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri
Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Taiwan, Georgian, Myanmar, Turkmenistan,
Armenia and the United Arab Emirates. The Israelis include Arabs and Jews. Some
of the countries represented have no diplomatic relations with Israel and are
The idea of ASC was co-proposed seven years ago by Prof.
Yuan-Tseh Lee from Taiwan, who received a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1986, and
Prof. Masatoshi Koshiba of Japan, who became a physics Nobel laureate in 2002.
This year was the first the ASC is being held in Israel, where very few of the
foreign participants had been before.
Many had never met a Jew – or an
Israeli – before and thought it was a “dangerous place” to visit – a
misconception they said became apparent within hours of their
The Foreign Ministry has dubbed 2012 “The Year of Asia” in
Israel, and the government has allocated NIS 4 million for the event, which is
to include tours of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The organizers said they wanted to
“create a platform for identifying the next generation of Asian scientists and
create ties of friendship through the universal language of
Foreign Ministry directorgeneral Rafi Barak said “it was
important for the State of Israel to create participation by as many countries
as possible. The ASC conference here has more delegations and
participants than ever before.”
HU president Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson
said the science camp gave his university the opportunity to host the event and
deepen the positive image of Israel in academia and science and to make ties
with young people who are sure to lead scientific research in their
Kaito Ogiyama, an 18-yearold biology student from Tokyo
Metropolitan University, said he had already begun his studies, as universities
begin their first semester in April.
“All I knew about Israel was Jews
and war, but nothing else. I already like the food.
We will hear what
Israeli Nobel laureates have done,” he said, eating lunch at Givat Ram that
included meat, vegetables and rice, served quite differently from what he was
Htoo Zaeni Oo Mg, a 20- year-old electrical engineering student
from Myanmar said his father is an official in his country’s department of
“I know that Israel is very good at designing and building
aircraft,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country. I had been afraid to come; some
friends said Israel is dangerous. But it isn’t,” said the citizen of Myanmar,
which has a population of 60 million.
Aia Bowirrat, a Hebrew-speaking
Israeli Arab from a village near Um el-Fahm, has completed high school with high
marks and wants to apply to the medical school at the Technion-Israel Institute
of Technology in Haifa. Her father has a doctorate in
“He works in Nazareth and does research articles, and I help
him,” said Aia, who has four sisters.
“The human body is
fascinating. I want to be a brain surgeon,” she said. She heard about ASC
two months ago, when her physics teacher recommended her.
feel discrimination here, but I am not angry at Israel. Sometimes it’s
frustrating, especially for Arab students. Medicine is hard enough. There are
many obstacles. But I believe in myself and what I can do. I prefer to
study medicine here and not go abroad,” she said.
“I have met wonderful
students here; there is such a variety of cultures, but we all speak science.”