Science without borders – yet another expression of French-Israeli collaboration

The Jerusalem conference, under the heading of Science without Borders, was held at the Van Leer Institute.

President Reuven Rivlin  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the French Academy of Sciences have quite a long history of cooperation and collaboration.
A 1989 bilateral agreement for scientific cooperation has flourished through joint conferences, symposia, and significant joint research and scientific projects.
In honor of the 70th anniversary year of the State of Israel, the two academies convened joint scientific conferences, first in Paris in June of this year, and on Monday, in Jerusalem. Nobel Prize laureates were present at both conferences and delivered papers.
The Jerusalem conference, under the heading of Science without Borders, was held at the Van Leer Institute.
President Reuven Rivlin said when most people think of France they think of the Eiffel Tower, but when Jews think of France they think of Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, who in the 11th century authored a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, and to this day is considered one of its greatest interpreters.
Rivlin said that when he was presented with the title of the conference, he went to his Rashi compendium to see what Rashi has to say about borders, and saw that Rashi defined a border as a limit or an end. But science, said Rivlin, is infinite – without borders, without an end.
Science cannot be limited by political boundaries because science is wisdom, he said.
Rivlin said he was proud of what science and scientists have contributed to Israel’s development and creativity, calling science a part of the Israeli DNA that can bring a better future to all.
He made the point that two of his presidential predecessors were scientists. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s founding president was a chemist, and Ephraim Katzir, the fourth president was a biophysicist who remained a scientist and at the end of each week, on completion of his formal duties, returned to Rehovot to work in his profession. He knew that if you want to make a better world and a strong country that takes care of its citizens, you have to invest in science, said Rivlin.
Israel has become an international power thanks to Israeli science and scientists, said Rivlin, noting that some of them were in the auditorium.
When he travels abroad, Rivlin said he is always impressed by what science has done in terms of saving lives and improving the quality of lives.
Knowledge is not enclosed within boundaries and not attached to any particular place, said Nili Cohen, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Proof of this was Nobel Prize and Israel Prize laureate Ada Yonath who made her discoveries in Grenoble, France, said Cohen, emphasizing that “We need science without borders.” The language of science transcends cultural, religious and gender differences, and it transcends borders, she said, adding that science helps to build bridges between diverse societies.
As for cooperation with French scientists, “It enriches us,” she said, underscoring that it teaches freedom, tolerance and good values.
Prof. Catherin Brechignac, the permanent secretary of the French Academy of Sciences, said that Israel and France are countries that through the quality of their research advance knowledge.
She was pleased that a program exists in both France and Israel whereby Nobel laureates in science go to schools and speak to students with the aim of promoting interest in scientific studies. Science is a universal human adventure, and scientific knowledge is useful for predicting and creating, she said.
“But today, knowledge of genetics makes ethical questions knock at the door.”
She was also concerned that the gap between those who have vast technological knowledge, and those who don’t and are only interested in results – is growing.
French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal said the conference was a fitting conclusion to 120 events held from June until the end of November in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary and to illustrate excellence, creativity and innovation.