(photo credit: Courtesy)
This week, students from Bar-Ilan University will make their way to Cork, Ireland, home of the 2008 World University Debating Championship.
Amit Shuchnazky and Mor Yamin, both second-year students at the university's law school, are the first delegation ever to have been invited from Bar-Ilan, a major milestone for its young debate program.
The championship, known simply as "Worlds," is the largest debate event on earth, an exclusive, invitation-only affair. The main event, a parliamentary-style series of debates, is being held for the second time at University College Cork, with participants from more than 300 universities.
Bar-Ilan University spokeswoman Elana Oberlander described Worlds as "the crowning event of yearlong debate activities."
Shuchnazky and Yamin will each be given only a few minutes' notice of the topics for each debate round. The only certainty is that they will focus on international issues.
The director of Bar-Ilan's debate club, Rina Baumel, is optimistic.
"This is a good chance for us to learn," she said. "I just hope we'll make a good showing."
She could not help but crow, though, that the club had received an invitation in only its fifth year of existence.
Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, were also expected to compete, Baumel said. But she was adamant that there would be no intra-Israeli rivalry.
"When it comes to the European and worldwide competitions, we're all on the same side," she said. "If [the other Israeli schools] need something from us, or we need something from them, it's not a problem."
Past Israeli winners include Roy Weisner, who won the public speaking competition in 2002 on behalf of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a group award for the English-as-a-second-language contest, also won by the Hebrew University in 2002.