Math and physics teen winners honored at Beit Hanassi

High schoolers bring home medals from competitions in Thailand, Amsterdam and Poland.

Peres honors teen math and physics medalists 311 (photo credit: Mark Neiman)
Peres honors teen math and physics medalists 311
(photo credit: Mark Neiman)
The code words for almost every conversation in Israel these days are ‘social justice,’ and they cropped up on Sunday morning at Beit Hanassi when President Shimon Peres hosted high school and first year army wiz kids who brought pride to Israel in brainpower olympics – both in math and physics.
Compromising three different groups that represented Israel in the Physics Olympics in Thailand, the Math Olympics in Amsterdam and The First Step towards a Nobel Prize in Physics in Warsaw, the youngsters, both as individuals and as teams, enhanced Israel’s image in these fields.
As each rose to give his or her name, hometown and the contest in which he or she had won a medal, an honorary mention or a high ranking, it was obvious that Israel’s young brain power is well distributed across the country.
Students from Beersheba’s Ilan Ramon Center did particularly well in Warsaw, where they were required to present scientific projects.
Of 24 projects submitted by IRC students, 19 were prize winners. The first prize went to Oren Halevi, a graduate of the Rabin High School in Beersheba, and second and third prizes also went to Israeli students.
Israel placed 13th out of 84 competing countries in the Physics Olympics in Thailand, and scored two gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. The gold medal winners were Assaf Rosen of the Mota Gur Municipal High School in Modi’in, and Gal Dor of the Ahad Ha’Am High School in Petah Tikva. Ben Feinstein, a student at the Rabin Municipal High School in Modi’in and Gur Perry of the Rabin Municipal High School in Mazkeret Batya won silver medals while Aviv Frenkel, from ORT’s Yad Leibovitz in Netanya brought home a bronze medal. All five of the Israeli students sent to the competition won medals.
Not so long ago, Israel’s education authorities were in despair about the plummeting standards in math, an area they had once prided themselves on. The Education Ministry has placed a heavier focus on math, and the Israeli team rose from 53rd to 23rd place in just a year.
Israel still has a long way to go to regain its past glory. In 2000, the Israeli team was ranked 11th. This time around, Rom Dudkevitch of the Blich High School in Ramat Gan won a gold medal while Guy Raveh of the Leo Beck High School in Haifa, Yoav Kraus of the Katzir High School in Holon, Tom Ferster of the Ostrovsky High School in Ra’anana and Konstantin Zabrani of the Municipal High School Heh in Haifa all won bronze medals.
There were also several young women who received honorable mentions or were among the top 10 in their respective spheres, though none took home medals.
Responding to questions from Peres, the students told the president that they invested a lot in their studies, really loved the subjects and enjoyed the work.
The group agreed that students are not given a proper foundation for study in elementary school and miss out on vital elements. The point was also made that it is essential to close the gap in teaching standards between good and struggling schools.
Under the Education Ministry’s current coaching system, junior geniuses in math and physics who receive help in any given year will serve as tutors to the team that follows.
Some continue well beyond that stage.
Education Minister Gideon Saar was pleased to see that an many of the students had already graduated high school and were serving in the IDF, and was particularly proud of three medalists who are now serving with the paratroopers “There’s a new world out there and we have to decide as a society what we want to achieve,” he said. “As a small country, it is essential for us to maintain a scientific advantage.”
Saar dubbed the math and physics laureates the “cultural heroes of Israel.”
Speaking about the street protests currently going on, Saar said they are “an expression of genuine pain from a public that calls for a better future. We, the government, must pick up the gauntlet. We cannot disappoint the young generation.”
Peres also expressed his support for the young protesters.
“This is a genuine attempt by young people to tell the government what the state needs.”
He told the group of teens to never be satisfied.
“Always aim higher – for yourselves and for the state.”
Excellence, he underscored, is not an aim in itself.
“Today, excellence is one of the underpinnings for the existence of the State of Israel.
Keep on conquering new heights both for your own sakes and for the sake of the state which is so proud of you.”