TEDx gets TAU to think ‘beyond the box’

University stage comes alive with activists, physicists, artists and journalists.

(From left) The young Yadin Soffer, actor Chaim Topol, former education minister Shai Piron and journalist Gilad Adin at the TEDx Talks at TAU on February 15 (photo credit: RAMI ZARNAGAR)
(From left) The young Yadin Soffer, actor Chaim Topol, former education minister Shai Piron and journalist Gilad Adin at the TEDx Talks at TAU on February 15
(photo credit: RAMI ZARNAGAR)
‘When you live in Tel Aviv, even if you have the smallest idea, you are surrounded by people who want to inspire you and push you forward,” says 21-year-old Yadin Soffer.
Soffer, initiator of the TEDx Talks program held at Tel Aviv University on February 15, is a student in the university’s faculty of exact sciences and chemistry, and also a professional dancer. And he’s exactly right, for that’s what happened when the prestigious TEDx Talks came to TAU.
Produced with a special license from the worldwide TED organization, the event took place in the university’s Smolarz Auditorium. The producer and host was Gilad Adin, a veteran journalist and former news director for Channel 10.
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). It began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, and today covers almost all topics – from science to business to global issues – in more than 100 languages.
Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
“I’ve always been a big fan of TED Talks,” says Soffer. “I’ve been watching them for years now,” he continues.
“When I began my studies at Tel Aviv University, I wanted to one day be on the TED stage and share my ideas. I looked to see where they had the TEDx events in Tel Aviv, and I was disappointed to learn that TED wasn’t that well known here, with no big TED events in Israel, only small ones. So, I took the initiative to make a TEDx event here in Israel and create a stage where people can share their ideas.”
The theme of the TAU TEDx Talks was “Beyond the Box.” It featured people with multiple passions, often a significant second occupation in addition to their career of choice. All kinds of people spoke, from Roni Porat, who conducted a live orchestra on stage and talked about his career as a radio host, composer and leadership lecturer, to Shai Piron, a rabbi, educator and former politician. Chaim Topol, actor on world-renowned stages including Broadway and London’s West End and now 80 years old, shared his vision-turned-reality of an Israeli summer camp for Israeli and Arab children with disabilities.
The way the speakers’ multiple passions intersected gave the audience an entire second dimension in which to think and learn.
“For my TEDx convention, I wanted to find speakers who did something else in addition to their main occupation, like me,” says Soffer. “The thing that naturally came to my mind, as a chemistry student and a professional dancer, was to look for speakers that do something as well as their primary occupation. We looked for people that had two contradicting careers.”
For the opening performance, young and talented dancer Ma’ayan Adin performed a multimedia dance that evoked different types of traditional dances from around the globe, tied together with a technology twist: She had animated background dancers and scenery changes on a screen behind her.
“A month ago, I came up with the idea and I asked my friend who knows how to edit music for some help,” Adin says. “We started to work together and I asked my brother to edit the animated backup dancers behind me, because he’s so good at graphics. It was a crazy month, but we did it! Beyoncé was my inspiration; in one of her videos she did the same thing too.”
The speakers at the event had no shortage of insight for the audience. From the hilarious comedian and cancer survivor Eyal Eltawil to physics professor Eliam Gross – who came out singing with a rock band – they all had a surprise up their sleeve and shared a unique perspective of life.
Roei Sadan, who became something of an Israeli phenomenon when he cycled around the world, talked about his journey – but more importantly, how he dealt with his life after he fell 500 meters in the Himalayas, spent a month in a coma and recuperated for six months in a hospital.
Sadan’s talk, titled “Where Does the World Begin?,” explored what it takes to chase your dreams, reach your peaks and deal with your valleys. In a moving and unifying moment, he stood up from his wheelchair and the entire audience stood with him, cheering for his accomplishments and inspiring life.
“It was very exciting, I had tears in my eyes,” Sadan says. “I didn’t know how amazing the power of the crowd would be. I’m really happy that they did that.”
The last speaker, Tzipi Strauss, a physician specializing in premature babies, discovered the healing power of human touch.
Her talk, “The Power of Touch,” explored data she collected showing that if mothers maintain loving, skin-on-skin touch, their premature babies have a higher chance of survival. She also talked about the 3 Cs she uses when interacting with her patients: contact, connection and compassion.
“It’s very exciting to see all these people around here that come to see these amazing lectures,” Strauss says. “I heard almost all of them, and they’re really wonderful and inspiring. It’s a privilege to be here.”