Photo Credit: Courtesy: JCT
Liav Shlechdarov with Dr. Evgeny Frishman & Dr. Yitzhak Gvili

From Israel’s historic moon mission to its lifesaving anti-missile systems, a group of unsung heroes is playing an outsized role in the Jewish state’s greatest achievements in the defense sector as well as other science and technology fields.

As electro-optics applications are increasingly implemented in electronics, communications, medicine, data processing, energy, and security, the lectro-Optics Engineering Department at the Jerusalem College of Technology’s (JCT) prepares professionals for R&D work by providing them with a strong foundation in applied physics, electronics, and computers.

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The latest celebrated graduate of the electro-optics program is Col. Yaniv Avitan, who received the 2018 Israel Defense Prize from the Israeli Ministry of Defense for his role heading a team that works to detect the Hamas terror group’s cross-border attack tunnels. It marked the second consecutive year and the fourth time in the past decade that a JCT graduate received that prestigious prize. In fact, the college is among one of the top institutions in Israel to produce the most Israel Prize Winners.

Avitan, head of the Collection and Assault Unit of the Technological Division of the Ground Forces of the IDF, follows in the footsteps of JCT electro-optics graduates who have spearheaded the development of crucial military infrastructure like the Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems.

JCT President Prof. Chaim Sukenik explains that the electro-optics program reflects the ongoing fulfillment of the mission embraced by the college’s founder, Prof. Ze’ev Lev, who envisioned an institution with a “special sensitivity to the state’s greatest needs.”

“When JCT’s Electro-optics Engineering Department was launched in 1977, the electro-optics discipline didn’t even exist yet,” Prof. Sukenik says. “While Israeli academic institutions had electronics departments specializing in low-voltage devices, the defense infrastructure sorely lacked high-voltage engineers. Prof. Lev saw the need and JCT’s students delivered, using their unique training in an emerging field to pioneer the technologies which continue to ensure the safety of countless Israeli citizens.”

Prof. Sukenik conveys that 50 years after JCT’s founding, Lev’s vision extends beyond electro-optics engineering to a number of other programs at the college. Addressing the Jewish state’s severe shortage of nurses — as the country stands near the bottom of the OECD in nurse-to-patient ratio — JCT’s Nursing Department has been ranked first among its over 20 peers nationwide by the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Against the backdrop of the college’s growing achievements and recognitions, Friends of JCT — which rallies worldwide supports for the institution — will celebrate the school’s 50-year anniversary at its New York City gala dinner on November 3 at the Lincoln Square Synagogue.

Jonathan Medved, Founder and CEO of the highly successful start-up investment platform OurCrowd, will be a guest speaker at the event, which will also honor JCT’s Vice President Stuart Hershkowitz as well as current students Moriah and Yoni Belzberg.

Another JCT alum with notable accomplishments during the college’s 50th anniversary year is Ariel Gomez, a senior system engineer at the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL. Gomez played a key role in the lunar mission of SpaceIL’s “Beresheet” spacecraft this past April. Although the spacecraft crashed before it could make Israel the fourth country to land on the moon, the Jewish state still became only the seventh nation to orbit the moon. SpaceIL achieved lunar orbit while working with what experts widely considered a shoestring budget of $100 million.

In another major development for the college this year, JCT began offering Israel’s only computer science degree program whose classes are offered exclusively to women and are conducted fully in the English language.

The program, which started during the fall 2019 semester, builds off the existing success of JCT’s International Program in English for men. The men’s program allows students to continue learning with their rabbis in yeshivas in Israel while simultaneously obtaining strong professional training in the area of business.

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