A good return for their money

A special scholarship fund encourages local Technion grads to come back to Jerusalem.

technion 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
technion 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Itamar Goldberger and Yair Ben-Ari both grew up in Jerusalem and both decided to study civil and environmental engineering at the Technion in Haifa. The pair seemed destined to be another statistic in the brain drain of young Jerusalemites leaving the city. But scholarship money received from the Eliahu Sochazewer Fund for Jerusalem Students at the Technion helped encourage the two to return to Jerusalem, where Goldberger now serves as the engineer of the Jerusalem Foundation and Ben-Ari as the Rehov Jaffa project director for the light rail. Goldberger and Ben-Ari are just two of 1,300 Technion students from Jerusalem who have benefited from this special scholarship fund set up in 1977 to encourage young Jerusalemites to return and contribute to the city's development. Last week, 57 undergraduate and graduate Jerusalemites studying at the Technion received scholarships from the fund at a ceremony at the Lab (Ma'abada) in Jerusalem, including 11 scholarships in memory of Teddy Kollek. This year's ceremony marked the first time in the fund's 32-year history that the Jerusalem municipality did not participate in the scholarships, something for which the fund's executives expressed deep regret. Also announced at the ceremony was the institutionof a joint program between the Technion's faculty of civil and environmental engineering and the Jerusalem College of Engineering, in which students from the college will study two years in Jerusalem and two years in Haifa for a degree in civil and environmental engineering. These students will also be eligible for scholarships from the fund and will benefit from access to an education at the Technion, currently ranked 29th in the world in science and technology by the London Times Education Supplement. The Eliahu Sochazewer Fund for Jerusalem Students at the Technion was set up on the initiative of the late Jerusalem engineer Yitzhak Cherniavsky in honor of Sochazewer, one of the founders of industry in Jerusalem. From its inception, the fund enjoyed the support of Teddy Kollek and the municipality, who viewed it as a way to encourage talented students from Jerusalem to study engineering and technology at the Technion and return to the capital, one of the poorest cities in the country, to help invigorate its industrial and economic base. Over the years, additional donors have joined, and today the fund acts as an umbrella for various scholarships given in honor of Jerusalem entrepreneurs, business leaders and supporters such as Dani Angel, Oved Angel, Dan Wind, Bela and Mordechai Olmert, Moshe Bar-Am and Yosef Gadish. In addition, there are scholarships from the venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), the Azrieli Group and NDS. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible, and students can apply to receive scholarship money for more than one year. Undergrads receive NIS 4,500, while graduate students receive NIS 5,000 for one year. This year's recipients included 51 undergraduates and six graduate students. Every recipient must sign a non-binding agreement to return to the city upon completion of studies. According to the fund's executives, most do return to the capital and contribute to its development. The scholarship ceremony was preceded by an overview presented by JVP concerning what is going on in Jerusalem with respect to technology and creativity, specifically in animation, to show the young students some of the possibilities open to them in the city when they graduate. "We want to give young people a sense of the dynamic things happening in this city," Dr. Erel Margalit, director of JVP and the fund's chair, told In Jerusalem. "It is important to send a message to young Jerusalemites studying science and engineering that they can go out into the world, get their education and come back to Jerusalem. Things are happening here. Jerusalem is a creative city, not just a historic one. We want our young people to know this. Sometimes our best and brightest feel that as much as they love this city, they cannot do their professional thing here. We want to give them a sense of the possibilities. They can be a real source of enrichment here. We want them to build companies and develop ideas in this city - to take the energy that Jerusalemites have and put it to work here." At the ceremony, Margalit added that Israel has the potential to be not only a world technological center but also a world center of creativity. "The engineer today must meet with the artist to build companies. We have to be at the forefront of this application... The city that leads this next revolution will succeed in having multidisciplines." While the scholarship commitment to return is non-binding, Goldberger and Ben-Ari say that receiving the scholarship influenced their return to the city. "I came back to Jerusalem because I feel very connected to this city," says Goldberger, a 35-year-old father of four who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Technion, finishing his MSc in 2005. "The fund helped me tremendously, enabling me to concentrate on my studies and complete my degrees with excellence while caring for my family, serving in the reserves and working. I received money during my undergraduate and graduate studies. The fund gave me an added incentive to come back to my hometown - providing me with contacts and networking." Ben-Ari received scholarships for two years. "The thing I think is very important is that the fund shows that people care about Jerusalem and helping its young students return. The fact that I got the scholarship money for a specific purpose - to return to the city - pushed me to do so. I have no regrets. I am very happy here, and the proof is that I have remained here for eight years and not just the three I committed to. So many young people have left this city in the past 20 years. This fund encourages us to return. It shows that we are not forgotten and are truly wanted here." And what about the next generation - those receiving this year's scholarships? Yedidya Dorek, a second-year student in electrical engineering from Har Nof, feels that "This scholarship is going to be very helpful to me. It will be an important factor in my returning to Jerusalem. I really wasn't thinking about coming back. There are many more opportunities outside of the city. But now I really will try to return. I love this city, and I am glad there are those encouraging me to come back." For Dan Fredriksen, a first-year chemical engineering student from Givat Mordechai, the scholarship makes him feel committed to return. "There is no place like Jerusalem, and now I have a stronger reason to return." Ayelet Meyers, a 36-year-old mother of one and second-year student in landscape architecture, delivered the address on behalf of scholarship recipients. The third-generation Jerusalemite had wanted to study at the Technion for the past 15 years, but health problems of her family and of her own prevented her. While recuperating from a rare disease that left her paralyzed, she found the strength to go on in nature and a small garden for the disabled in the rehab ward on Mount Scopus. This pushed her to attend the Technion. "My connection to Jerusalem is a very strong one," she told the fund's organizers. "I hope to return to Jerusalem to create additional green pockets that will make people feel good and serve as therapy." Defending its decision to cease support of the fund, the municipal spokesman's office stated that "Following the establishment of the Jerusalem College of Engineering, there is no justification for scholarships for students who leave Jerusalem to study at the Technion. The municipality does not give out scholarships to students in academic institutions in Jerusalem or outside of it. It is important to note that an examination by the municipality shows that most of the students who in the past received these scholarships did not return to the city." The spokesman's office added that the municipality, through the Jerusalem Development Authority, has initiated a project for awarding rent and other subsidies to students who come to study in Jerusalem and live in the downtown area and that thousands of students are enjoying such grants. Mayor Nir Barkat has prepared a plan under which the city has become the country's first "academic city" - whereby students studying in the city will enjoy special benefits and incentives. "Jerusalem is the only city in Israel offering such a wide variety of benefits and incentives to young people to encourage them to come and study in the various institutions of higher learning in the city. My aim is for Jerusalem to have 60,000 students studying here by 2020," stated Barkat.