President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday ushered in the 2019-20 academic year at Bar-Ilan University as a guest of University President Prof. Arie Zaban.
President Rivlin toured the University, spoke to researchers, faculty and students, and was briefed on a variety of groundbreaking developments and research initiatives. Among the research presented to the President: a new study conducted in Prof. Lior Applebaum’s zebrafish lab, which specializes in early detection of disease and drug development. Prof. Appelbaum’s latest research provides an explanation for the basic functioning of sleep in all animals, which is to allow nerve cells to effectively repair the damage they have incurred throughout the day.
Prof. Aren Maier, of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology in the Faculty of Jewish Studies, told President Rivlin about the recent production of beer from yeast found in ancient pottery. A team of researchers examined the colonies of yeast that formed and settled in the pottery’s nano-pores. Ultimately, they were able to resurrect this yeast to create a high-quality beer that’s approximately 5,000 years old.
In the lab dedicated to medicine of the future, a system monitoring personal physiological indicators using a laser beam, developed by Prof. Zeev Zalevsky, Dean of the Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, was demonstrated. Monitoring is conducted through a sticker applied to clothing that measures various functions, such as heartbeat and blood pressure, and is capable of recording surrounding sounds. Inside the sticker is an optical fiber and a sensor.
Representatives of the Renewable Energy Laboratory presented the President with research on fuel production from algae by Dr. Yaron Yehoshua, of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences.
Following the tour, President Rivlin was guest of honor at a ceremony marking the opening of the new academic year, alongside Prof. Zaban and Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, Chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee. The ceremony began with a musical performance of John Lennon’s Imagine, in Hebrew and English, by young people with disabilities who participate in a study program offered by the University’s Department of Music. President Rivlin joined the band in song and rose to hug its members.
“The way our students meet, in the halls of academia, creates a spectacular topographic map of Israeli society,” said President Rivlin. This is the great privilege, and the great duty, of the higher education system: To provide a platform for a meeting of the four tribes that comprise Israeli society. But this platform is not sufficient. It is not enough to have a discussion or formal opening of doors for everyone. It is not enough to set goals for a percentage of students and faculty from a particular sector of the population, or to raise a festive glass when that goal is achieved. Bridges between tribes are built only through partnership, tolerance and listening when they are added to numerical diversity. This understanding has spurred the growth of the ‘Israeli Hope in Academia’ initiative, which dozens of universities and colleges have already joined.”
Regarding this initiative President Rivlin added: “This is the third year that ‘Israeli Hope in Academia’ is operating at Bar-Ilan University. It is gratifying to see activity gaining momentum year by year, and the boundaries of discourse expanding. Meeting after meeting sustainable relationships are established between the tribes. This activity, under the ‘Israeli Hope’ umbrella, is a testament to the University’s commitment to the nation in which it exists.”
“The opening of every academic year is exciting, but this year it is especially so because the President is with us to celebrate our campus as being home to all four tribes, or sectors, in Israeli society, as well as to the fifth tribe, Diaspora Jewry,” said Prof. Zaban, adding that Bar-Ilan University absorbs the largest number of new immigrants in Israel. This year, he said, the number of international students studying at the University has increased by 70%. Prof. Zaban concluded by saying that the University last year launched UNBOX – the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University — as part of its renewed efforts to make its campus even more involved and influential on Israeli society as a whole.
“This new year is characterized by excellence and a greatly flourishing academic system,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, Chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee. The ’Israeli Hope in Academia’ program makes accessible the social responsibility of the academic system in creating a cultural environment that connects the diverse currents in Israeli society. In recent years, we have greatly increased the higher education budget and expanded accessibility programs for all population groups.”
At the conclusion of the visit Prof. Zaban presented President Rivlin with a nano-chip engraved with the Prayer for the State of Israel. The engraving was done by a focused ion beam, the only one of its kind in Israel, which is housed at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. Using helium ions the focused ion beam allows drilling on a single nanometric scale. The engraving was done on a piece of gold-coated silicon so that the gold particles could be seen.
Bar-Ilan University opened the 2019-20 academic year with a 12% increase in new students compared to the same time last year. Sixty percent of the new students are women; 40% men. Among the faculties recording the most significant increase in students this year: Exact Sciences (18%), Life Sciences (16%), Social Sciences (15%), and Humanities (20%).
This year 17,300 students are studying for BA, MA and PhD degrees on the Bar-Ilan University campus in Ramat Gan.