GRAPEVINE: A Nobel Prize on the way?

Relatives, friends, and colleagues were shocked on Saturday to learn of the sudden death of Yehuda Shavit, the long-serving head of the Asher Regional Council, who suffered a heart attack.

'Weizmann was basking in the reflected glory of Noble prize" (photo credit: courtesy)
'Weizmann was basking in the reflected glory of Noble prize"
(photo credit: courtesy)
Last week, the Weizmann Institute of Science was basking in the reflected glory of Nobel Prize winners who, though they no longer live in Israel, did the prize-winning research at the Rehovot institution. Now it’s the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s turn to gloat – but doubly so, because Prof. Mordechai (Moti) Segev of its physics faculty and Solid State Institute is still here and still working at the Technion.
Segev is receiving the American Physical Society’s prestigious Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science for 2014 – and is the first Israeli to do so. The prize was established in 1991 to recognize outstanding contributions to basic research using lasers to advance our knowledge of the fundamental physical properties of materials and their interaction with light. Six of the past 25 recipients went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics – John Hall, Steve Chu, Theodor Hansch, William Phillips, Carl Wieman and David Wineland – so there is good reason to hope that Israel will receive yet another Nobel Prize in the not-too-distant future. The Technion already has three Nobel laureates.
The citation that will appear on Segev’s certificate reads as follows: “For groundbreaking contributions to the study of light-matter interactions, in particular the discovery of optical spatial solitons in photorefractive media, for milestone contributions on nonlinear waves in photonic lattices, and for observation of Anderson localization of light.”
The huge wave of immigration from the Former Soviet Union brought enormous musical, gymnastic, sporting and chess talents to Israel, and some of those talents were passed on to those immigrants’ Israeli children. A most recent example is 10-year-old Anastasia Vuler from Gan Yavne, who won the 23rd European Junior Chess Championship in Montenegro last week.
More than 1,000 junior chess players under the age of 16 entered the contest, but Vuler – who plays at the Ashdod Chess Club and has been playing chess since she was old enough to sit in a regular chair – triumphed over them all. She has won many prizes, but none quite as prestigious as the European Junior Chess Championship.
Since returning to Israel, she has met with an older champion, Israeli Chess Grandmaster Boris Gelfand, who has done rather well himself in international competitions. Vuler’s big dream is to win the World Chess Championship for adults.
Relatives, friends and colleagues were shocked on Saturday to learn of the sudden death of Yehuda Shavit, the long-serving head of the Asher Regional Council, who suffered a heart attack. Shavit, 62, headed the council for 20 years. On the morning of his death, he participated in a local cultural program at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, returned home to Kibbutz Kabri and collapsed. His son tried unsuccessfully to revive him.
Shavit, who was born in a transit camp to Polish Holocaust survivors, came as a 15-year-old outsider to Kibbutz Kabri, where he met his future wife Naomi – the then-10-year-old daughter of his adoptive kibbutz parents.
Eitan Broshi, the secretary-general of the Kibbutz Movement, who worked closely with Shavit for more than 40 years and regarded him as a brother, could not believe that his friend was gone. Shavit was a dedicated community activist who served in several high-ranking positions in the Kibbutz Movement.
The dream to serve in the IDF instead of becoming a senator on Capitol Hill brought 27-year-old, Montana-born Joshua Gardner from Washington to Israel, Yediot Aharonot reported this week. Gardner was a congressional aide to veteran Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, for whom he had been working since graduating from college.
Everyone forecast a bright political career for Gardner, but he had a hankering to do something worthwhile in Israel; two years ago, he realized that if he wanted to serve in a combat unit in the IDF, he had better get his act together and start moving. It was not an easy decision, because he loved what he was doing in Washington, but last year he took the plunge, bidding his family and American politics farewell.
Initially he was sent to Kibbutz Yagur on the northeastern slopes of Mount Carmel to master Hebrew in the kibbutz ulpan. Ten months ago, he joined a Nahal unit, and because he came to the IDF at a relatively late age, he has found that the rookies with whom he is serving are nine years his junior. Despite the age difference, no one is cutting him any slack, and he’s not asking for it.
When he gets leave, he goes to Kibbutz Givat Haim in Emek Hefer, where Tzvika Levy, who is responsible for lone soldiers under the care of the Kibbutz Movement, keeps an eagle eye on him and hails him as an example of true Zionist commitment.