Grapevine: Brain-drain warning

Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson warns budget cuts in education will not only be harmful to education system, but will be especially detrimental to university students who were called up for Gaza op.

Students at Hebrew University (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Students at Hebrew University
HEBREW UNIVERSITY president Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson, who is also chairman of the Committee of University Heads, has warned that budget cuts in education will not only be harmful to the education system, but will be especially detrimental to the hundreds of university students who were called up for army service during Operation Protective Edge. The cuts will also have a negative effect on the ability of universities to attract foreign students.
In an interview on Israel Radio, Ben-Sasson observed that, in the past, many participants on Taglit-Birthright and similar programs returned to the Jewish state to study at its higher-education facilities.
But if the standards in such facilities drop for lack of funding, these foreign students – who are so vital to Israel’s public diplomacy efforts – will not come.
Ben-Sasson was referring primarily to Jewish students, but it has also been noted on previous occasions by heads of other institutions of higher learning, that the non-Jewish students who come to study here subsequently become Israel’s best ambassadors when they return to their home countries – especially if they become influential in politics, journalism, business, science or technology.
The Hebrew University president was one of the signatories to a letter addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Shai Piron and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Planning and Budgetary Committee of the Council for Higher Education, in which the writers, on the basis of past history, warned of the dangers of yet another brain drain if the proposed cuts to the education budget are implemented.
EVERY ORGANIZATION with a network of facilities around the country organizes tours for its overseas supporters. Usually, such tours include visits to only one or two of the facilities with perhaps a pit stop on the way, which also offers the opportunity to buy refreshments.
But Amit, which runs a network of schools, is taking such a visits a step further and has opened a tourist center at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem – from where it will offer tours to a series of Amit schools in different parts of the country. For those who are interested, the tours can also be a hands-on experience in volunteerism.
At the launch of the Amit Tourist Center last week, Amit president Debbie Isaac said the center will give tourists the chance to not only visit the schools, but to join in volunteer programs such as helping with English homework. Amit vice president Judith Schwed-Lion said the idea behind the center was to get European and American tourists staying at the hotel better acquainted with Israeli society and various Israeli educational programs.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who attended the launch of the center, said education is the most important issue pertaining to the country’s existence. The connection between education and tourism was a welcome concept, he said, as he gave the initiative his blessing.
Organizers believe that over the next few months tour participants will be most interested in visiting schools in the South, to learn from students and teachers how they were affected by rocket attacks over the years and what Operation Protective Edge meant to and for them.
SOME 200 business people and politicians showed up at Beit Mazia in downtown Jerusalem, not to watch a performance but to pay tribute to Uri Scharf, the outgoing founding CEO of MATI Jerusalem, which promotes and encourages small business initiatives. Scharf, who established MATI 23 years ago when the legendary Teddy Kollek was still mayor, previously headed his family’s fur and leather company, Scharf Furs – which was headquartered in Jerusalem and whose premises are now occupied by the Jerusalem Foundation.
Among the people who came to thank Scharf for his endeavors and to wish him well were Mayor Nir Barkat; Scharf’s successor Golan Tubi, who was his deputy for several years; businessman Rami Levy, who is also a member of the MATI executive and came with his wife, Adina; JDC director-general Yossi Tamir; outgoing MATI chairman Dan Halperin; MATI Forum chairman Mickey Cohen; veteran journalist Gideon Reicher, who started Scharf on a career in the field before he entered the family business; and many others.
Scharf is not leaving MATI. He will continue to be associated with it but in a different capacity, replacing Halperin as chairman.