Haifa University 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In an effort to promote cooperation between Israel and the UK universities in the light of the defunct academic boycott, a delegation of senior British university heads visited Israel last week.
Prof. Prof. Rick Trainor, president of Universities UK, the umbrella organization of all UK universities, and vice-chancellor of Kings College London, said at the end of the visit that he was "struck by the tremendous academic strength of Israeli universities" and that Israeli academia is "something we want to interact with."
The group looked at ways of enhancing academic cooperation between Israel and the UK, and visited a number of Israeli and Palestinian universities to explore the possibility of joint research projects. The visit was organized by the British Embassy, the British Council in Israel and the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB).
Representatives met with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who said that "this visit symbolizes the desire to strengthen academic cooperation between the UK and Israel, a desire that we mostly welcome and definitely share."
"The visit serves as a counterpoise to the defunct academic boycott," said Prof. Yosef Yeshurun, IAB chair and Bar-Ilan University pro-rector. "Instead of threatening academic freedom, it represents a practical effort to generate academic cooperation for the benefit of all."
Ofir Frankel, IAB executive director, added that "the visit demonstrates the good relations between British universities and their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. They are interested in promoting and encouraging research, not in boycotting or silencing those whose work contributes to the alleviation of human poverty and the improvement of welfare."
"British and Israeli universities already demonstrate high level collaboration in the fields of medicine, biotechnology and the social sciences; now there is an opportunity to strengthen and deepen these links for the benefit of populations everywhere," she added.
Welcoming the visitors to the University of Haifa, Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze'ev commented: "I am pleased that the threat of a boycott has finally been removed; we now have to focus our efforts on research and scientific cooperation."
Trainor expressed his dismay with the boycott attempt and pledged to encourage future academic cooperation between the two countries.
"There is an absolute contradiction between academia and a boycott," he said.
"We have come to talk about the importance of deepening academic ties between England and this part of the world."
At Ben-Gurion University, deputy vice-president and Dean Prof. Arie Moran commented: "The willingness of the British academics to come to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and to see for themselves the cooperative work being done here is very reassuring.
"Because of our location and proximity to the desert, researchers at BGU are involved in a number of different collaborations with their Palestinian and Jordanian counterparts - in fields such as health care, genetics, environment and water management."