Ambassadors’ Round Table at Mount Scopus (JERUSALEM POST) By GREER FAY CASHMAN 02/28/12)
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The Hebrew University in Jerusalem is reaching out to diplomatic
missions in Israel with the aim of convincing their representatives
to persuade universities in their home countries to enter into
research projects and student exchange programs with the university.
Although diplomats frequently attend lectures and seminars at the
university, and sometimes participate as speakers, such as on Sunday,
when Liang-Jen Chang, the Taipei economic and cultural
representative, will present his perspectives on Taiwan in 2012,
there are relatively few events specifically geared to diplomats.
There was an exception on Monday, when the Hebrew University in
coordination with the Ambassadors Club hosted an Ambassadors’ Round
Table at the university’s Mount Scopus campus, to explain why this
facility of higher education is among the top 60 universities in the
world, and how it would benefit other countries to send their
students and their researchers to the university.
Among those attending were ambassadors, consuls and attachés from the
embassies of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Costa Rica,
Thailand, Angola and France, as well as the director of the American
Center in Jerusalem, and Yitzhak Eldan, founding president of the
Ambassadors’ Club and former chief of protocol at the Foreign
In his welcoming address, HU President Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson told
his guests that they were sitting in an historic place, meters away
from where the cornerstone of the university had been laid in 1918, a
year after the British conquest of the region.
The university was the beginning of the State of Israel, Ben- Sasson
“If we talk of the State of Israel as a start-up nation, we can talk
of the Hebrew University as the start-up of the startup nation,” he
In 1948, during the War of Independence and for 19 years afterward,
the university became an island, in that the Jordanians recognized
that the land on which it stood was Israeli territory. But it was
inaccessible and for 10 years the university was scattered in rented
premises in different parts of Jerusalem until construction of the
campus in Givat Ram in 1958. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the
Mount Scopus campus was revitalized.
“This part of Jerusalem is beyond dispute,” Ben-Sasson said, boasting
that leaders of the Palestinian Authority had been there as well as
the ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan.
A third Jerusalem campus, the medical campus adjacent to Hadassah
Medical Center, is located in Beit Hakerem.
Another campus in Rehovot, near the Weizmann Institute of Science, is
home to the country’s only Faculty of Agriculture and sole veterinary
There is also a Marine Biology Institute in Eilat that the Hebrew
University shares with other universities.
Classifying the Hebrew University as “the mother university,” Ben-
Sasson said that for many years it was the only university in Israel,
and was subsequently the mother to Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev and the University of Haifa.
Although the university has gone through many changes, he said, its
mission was still the same as that decreed by its founders Albert
Einstein, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann.
First and foremost it is a research university specializing not only
in basic sciences but also in applied sciences.
Vice Rector Prof. Yaacov Schul emphasized the importance of linking
faculty members from different universities to strengthen joint
research. “If they don’t work together, research will become
mediocre,” he warned. He also stressed the importance of students
learning to live in a global community through student exchange
The Hebrew University offers a large number of courses in English,
Schul said, and will even switch to English for the sake of those
students who don’t understand Hebrew. The university also has a
support system to help foreign students to feel at home in an alien
There are some 2,500 foreign students out of a total student
population of 22,500 at the university, but the powers that be would
like to see many more students from abroad.
Prof. Shy Arkin, vice president for research and development, was
proud that over the past decade, seven Hebrew University graduates
have been Nobel Prize laureates.
He was also proud that the HU is one of the top five universities in
Europe, receiving generous grants from the European Research Council
whose main goal is to encourage high quality research through
Most funding for research comes from outside Israel, said Arkin,
adding that 4,500 research projects are taking place at the HU.
Even though Israel is isolated geo-politically, he said, there is a
very strong scientific cooperation between Israel and other
countries, including some of those in the region. “Science is the
best pathway to peace because it is the only universal language,”
Yissum, the HU’s research development company that works closely with
industry, was established 47 years ago, long before similar models at
Cornell, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford, said Arkin, boasting that
Yissum has 7,077 patents and is ranked 12th in the world for patents
that are sold.
Cherry tomatoes, which didn’t exist 20 years ago, and have become a
delicacy on tables around the world, were invented by Nahum Kedar and
Chaim Rabinovich from the HU’s School of Agriculture, said Arkin, who
produced a long list of inventions, some in the field of medicine,
some in computer sciences and some in other areas such as criminology.
The majority of Supreme Court justices are graduates of the Hebrew
University, Arkin added.
Costa Rican Ambassador Rodrigo Carreras was happy to report that 14
Costa Rican doctors are currently studying at the Hebrew University
Hadassah School of Medicine; another Costa Rican is studying music,
another computers and yet another is due to begin studying political
science. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/28/12)
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