Questionnaire: Open to diversity

Q & A with Hagit Messer-Yaron, president of the Open University and professor of electrical engineering.

Hagit Messer-Yaron 521 (photo credit: Gideon Markovitz)
Hagit Messer-Yaron 521
(photo credit: Gideon Markovitz)
Hagit Messer-YaronAge: 58Place of birth: JerusalemCurrent residence: Kfar Saba
■ What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The interesting challenges of the day ahead. In particular, I find the challenge of the Open University, to maintain its top academic level together with open admissions, a fascinating one, and I’m glad to lead these ongoing efforts.
■ What keeps you up at night?
An intriguing research problem or a good book.
■ What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far?
Whenever I need to compromise on my beliefs because of limited resources and external constraints.
■ How do you celebrate your achievements?
With my family, usually over a nice dinner.

■ If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do?
Quit.... This is one position I’d never consider.
■ Which Israeli should have a movie made about him/her?
Ada Yonath. Her story, from childhood in Tel Aviv to the Nobel Prize in Stockholm, is an amazing story of persistence, talent, novelty and innovation, and science, ethics, money and politics. And it does have a happy ending.
■ What would you change about Israelis if you could?
Not much. I see it as a package deal: the open, direct approach, which I like, comes together with lack of tolerance, which I dislike. For my research, we needed data from Israeli cellular providers, who were happy to help in any way they could. My colleagues in other countries never received such collaboration from the industry. These are Israelis – and that’s great.
■ iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper?
iPhone! It has all that I need, and it is small enough so I don’t have to carry a bag. Tablets like the iPad are great tools for students. This year we have started a pilot project at the Open University, where students were given an iPad instead of textbooks and other learning material.
■ If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say?
The people, the diversity of views and sights, powerful Jerusalem, lively Tel Aviv, but – most of all – the sea and the beach: Perfect for a relaxing walk, swimming or just enjoying the sun.
■ What is the most serious problem facing the country?
The socioeconomic gaps.
■ How can it be solved?
Changes of priorities, and in particular – education, education, education.
■ In 20 years, the country will be:
Not very different from today – a developed,