Educational reformer Michael Gal dies at 74

Michael Gal, a pillar of the Israeli education community who founded and managed some of the most complex and successful projects in the history of Israeli education, passed away this week at the age of 74. Gal's was "the life of a reformer," remembered Prof. Chaim Adler, a friend of Gal's since the late sixties and the 2006 Israel Prize winner for research in education. "He was a man of real concern for the individual, with a vision of the good society," Adler told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "He was a highly intelligent person, a man of broad knowledge and extreme sensitivity to other human beings." Gal's educational work spanned decades and communities. In the early sixties he was among the founders of Midreshet Sde Boker in the northern Negev. In the early seventies, he was called upon by then-education minister Yigal Allon to convert the Division of Extracurricular Education in the Education Ministry to the Youth and Society Department, which he then headed for seven years. "Not only did he enlarge the scope and budget of the department," recalled Adler, "but he undertook responsibilities that heretofore had not existed in the ministry, such as responsibility for the operation of the youth movements." Following the completion of his Masters degree at Harvard University, Gal returned to Israel to found and run the IDF's "Raful Youth" project, which took youth from disadvantaged communities and helped to advance them personally and socially, through army service, often in combat units, in a much-lauded effort to rehabilitate them. He was soon appointed deputy commander of the IDF's Education Corps. In 1985, Gal was asked by legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek to found and manage Manhi, the Municipal Educational Administration of Jerusalem. His work as overseer of Jerusalem's educational system, a job he held for five years, led Kollek in 1990 to ask Gal to be the municipality's director-general. The move away from education was short-lived, however. By 1992, Gal was asked by renowned education expert Prof. Seymour Fox to help in founding the Mandel School for Educational Leadership in Jerusalem. Gal was the first director of the organization, through which he taught many educational leaders in all levels of the educational system. His many projects, including the work at Mandel, showed Gal's "deep emotional and intellectual concern for the welfare of the Jewish people," Adler emphasized. "If you're looking for a typical Sabra, though he was born in Berlin, that Sabra is Michael Gal." Gal retired in 1997 at the age of 65. He died Tuesday night in Kfar Vradim of an undisclosed illness.