“In recent decades, Israeli society has undergone radical changes. The four central social groups – secular, haredi, religious and Arab - are approaching the same size population-wise but are pulling away from each other in terms of worldviews. Our split education system where each group studies separately only increases the distance between them. The University is where the essential connections between the groups will be formed. We will be unable to preserve the State of Israel’s prosperity, to protect it, to compete in world markets, if its future generations, you, do not know how to study together, work together and lead together,” President of the State of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin declared this past Sunday during his visit to the Marcus Family Campus on the first day of classes.
Above: President Rivlin addresses an audience of students and faculty at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva on Sunday.
“I know,” he added, “that the University’s administration, faculty and student union are committed to strengthening the campus and advancing cooperation between the varied populations that meet here. I saw the ambitious goal the University set for itself as a partner in the presidential flagship program “Israeli Hope in Academia.” Now commitment must become action. That requires a concerted effort first of all from the faculty, but also from you, the students.
“Beer-Sheva is becoming a booming metropolis right before our eyes. The Negev has been rewarded with two Ben-Gurion-esque leaders, [BGU President Prof.] Rivka Carmi and [Beer-Sheva Mayor] Ruvik Danilovich. The miracle of making the desert bloom is occurring right before our eyes, but the journey is still long. The Negev will not flourish so long as the center treats the periphery in a colonial fashion. There is no blooming like the blooming of ideas. You bring and must continue to bring ideas, science, education, and advanced medical treatment to the Negev. This excellent university must continue to be a central attraction in Israel and the world and strengthened in this regard.”
The president added, “There are those who treat academia as an ivory tower, as a group of snobs. This is stupid and belittling. Academics are construction workers, builders, academics at BGU are also pioneers. You are developing the future of the State of Israel, you are building it: in the technological laboratories, medical centers, scientific research institutes, in history, in art, and in culture. A strong academia is the oxygen of the State of Israel and the lifeline of the Negev, and we are obliged to enable it to flourish. I wish you a successful school year.”
Prof. Carmi revealed that a new admittance track for Arab students will be launched this year which does not require the psychometric entrance exam. The exam is a major stumbling block for Arab student enrollment. Instead, the new system will be based on material covered in the Arab secondary school system and accepted applicants will be put in the appropriate track and program.
She said the University had already achieved notable success increasing the number of Arabs and haredi Jews in administrative positions through targeted recruitment. She also said the University would put out a report similar to the one prepared by the president regarding equal employment, which would become a way to measure progress.
BGU’s president also announced the “Israeli Hope Prize for Advancing Cooperation in Israeli Society, inspired by Israeli President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin.” BGU will award an annual NIS 20,000 prize for academic or public activity to realize President Rivlin’s Israeli Hope vision. The University will put out a call to Israeli academia and the public encouraging submissions. A committee comprised of public officials and academics will award the prize ahead of Israeli Independence Day.
During his visit to BGU, President Rivlin visited The Rothschild Cube – Center for Effective Social Action, founded by the University and the Rothschild Foundation Caesarea and attended an exhibition of groundbreaking research featuring Prof. Hugo Guterman, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Oren Shriki, Department of Cognition and Brain Sciences, Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek, Department of Physiotherapy, Dr. Sarah Abu Kaf and Dr. Tehila Kalaji, the Conflict Management and Resolution Program.
Above: Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek (in red dress) demonstrates to President Rivlin how she uses robots for physical therapy during the president’s visit to BGU. Lab Engineer Avital Elishay (at the computer) is running the demonstration.
Above: Prof. Hugo Guterman (far right) demonstrates his FIND system which uses ultrasound to accurately insert IVs during President Rivlin's visit to BGU.
See the album of the visit on our Facebook page