Let’s start with the good news. On Oct. 13 in Israel, more than 300,000 students started the academic year at universities and colleges around the country. In the past decade, the percentage of Israelis accepted into institutions of higher learning has increased from some 20% of the relevant age group to almost 50%. Since the mid-1990s, Israel has ranked third in the number of scientific citations (relative to country wealth) and third in the number of scientific publications per million residents. Since 2000, five Israeli scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes.
From the world’s most prestigious award, we now move to the bad news in the areas of science, research and higher learning in Israel. Two of the three laureates for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt, emigrated from Israel and make their homes in the United States. Many in Israel regard them as “descenders,” the translation of a term coined in Hebrew to describe those who leave the country. In the outspoken words of retired general Uzi Dayan, they are “traitors.”
The retired general’s declaration on his Facebook page is not sophisticated: “Leaving (descending from) Israel will ever be considered in my eyes as a betrayal of the Zionist idea — the return of the Jewish people to his homeland. I also loathe those who move to Germany. To those who explain leaving because of the economic situation, I remind of the anti-Semite claim, according to which Jews find their home in the place where they feel comfortable. Zionism claims that Jews can be well only in a Jewish state. True, many things here are in need of fixing. But they are to be fixed here only. Anyone can choose where he lives, and I am entitled to give my opinion on that.”
Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, Daniel Kahneman, Haim Saban and thousands of other Israeli musicians, scientists and entrepreneurs who bestow honor on their state — are they all “traitors”?
The timing of Dayan’s statement, on Oct. 6, days before the Nobel Prize committee announced the American laureates of Israeli origin, proves that the head of the Israeli national lottery, Dayan, was not blessed with much luck in this case. On the other hand, the coincidence of Dayan’s outburst — and before that the critical remarks by Finance Minister Yair Lapid against Israelis who “descend” to Germany — and the Nobel prize awarded to two Israeli migrants moved the Iranian threat off the Israeli agenda in favor of a discussion about the crisis in Israel’s system of higher learning, research and development.
Official data indicate that the increasing flight of Israel’s finest scientists, mostly due to the lack of research means, threatens the country’s security and welfare no less than the unborn Iranian bomb. Israel’s strategic asset, dubbed its “qualitative advantage,” is eroding. Israel has these scientists, who enjoyed generous research and development budgets, to thank for the advanced military means acquired by it throughout its 65 years of existence.
In January, the Central Bureau of Statistics published Families of Israelis Abroad: Who Moves Where?, a comprehensive study edited by Ayelet Cohen-Castro and based on the profiles of 34,000 families of Israelis, some living abroad and others who returned to Israel between 1996 and 2008. They all had at least one child born abroad and had been away for at least one year. The study found that the relatively high rate of emigration to the United States of advanced degree holders is influenced by a lack of positions that would permit their integration and would guarantee them a suitable position among senior faculty in Israeli academia.
The policy of shrinking university staff has also led to a narrowing of the subject matter that universities can offer students and global research that can be conducted, as well as placing a heavier burden on remaining staff. This teaching load makes it harder for researchers to excel in research, a fact that places them in an inferior position compared with researchers from leading universities in the West.
A position paper compiled in April 2012 by Ami Wolenski for the Taub Center shows that Israel’s national expenditure per student plummeted to a third of the expenditure in the 1970s. Public investment in a student in Israel is about half that in the United States ($3,100 annually in Israel compared with $7,200). The ratio of students to senior lecturers has gone up, from 17 in 1990 to 24 in 2009. In several institutions, the ratio is as high as 50. The accepted ratio in the Western world is 10 students for every senior lecturer. The median age of a senior staff member in Israel is 53.5, compared with 46 in 1980. Some 50% of senior staff at universities are over 55 (compared with 32% in the United States and 16% in the United Kingdom).
Jonathan Levav, 37, an expert on marketing and decision making at the top-ranked Stanford University Graduate School of Business, epitomizes the depth of the crisis. Levav, who was made a professor at prestigious Columbia University at the age of 27, is invited to speak around the world about his research, including some he conducted jointly with the internationally renowned [professor of psychology and behavioral economics] Dan Ariely, another “descender-traitor” according to Dayan’s terminology.
“We came to the United States intending to stay here only two-three years,” Levav told Al-Monitor, “then you get married to a local, and then you have kids. Now all of a sudden, life becomes complicated, which means uprooting far from your aging parents and the Israeli experience. I did take a leave from my Ph.D. program to do my military service in Israel, but doing it at 25 meant that I didn’t have the same army experience as that of my childhood friends who stayed in Israel. Of course there are good researchers everywhere, but where there is a bigger cluster of researchers, the level of research improves dramatically. If I had my choice I’d live in Israel and work at Stanford, but that is very difficult given the 12,000-kilometer distance.”
The brilliant researcher feels that although Israeli universities cannot measure up to Harvard, MIT, Princeton and other American universities of the same caliber, they can definitely lead the second tier. “Statistics indicate that the relative contribution of Israeli academicians living in Israel is one of the highest in the world. Nonetheless, I fear that this data belongs to the past. It’s indicative of how unusual it was for Israelis to settle at universities abroad 20 to 50 years ago. I don’t believe that in 20 to 40 years we’ll have the same proportion of Nobel laureates coming out of Israeli universities. The level of investment [in research] today cannot match up to what it used to be.”
Levav says that three years ago he considered moving back to Israel, and his wife got an attractive job offer from a venture-capital fund in Israel. “That summer I was at a conference where I sat through a presentation of a decently regarded young Israeli academic in Israel. I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m not sure that I’m ready to walk away from a big-time university to join a place where this would be the level of my colleagues.’ Again, the scholar was nice, competent, etc., but you must see who sits on my hallway in the US. Then you’ll understand why it is hard to get excited about an Israeli university. I want to live in Israel — there’s a piece of me here in the US that’s dead and only comes to life in Israel — but it’s difficult to offset the professional differences.”
Levav says that at the marketing department at Columbia, where he taught, there were five other Israeli lecturers and an additional six at the accounting department. “We all bemoan the state of the universities there, and wonder how stupid we’ll feel when our parents die and we’re still here,” he says.
One of Stanford’s biggest draws for Levav was the large Israeli community there. “My biggest worry here is that my kids aren’t getting the Zionist connection that I had and have,” he says.
Naturally, he doesn’t like being called a “descender” and is hurt by the term “traitors” that Dayan dubbed Israelis like him. “Who are we betraying exactly? There are bigger traitors of Israel who live in Israel, if you ask me. At least most of us here serve as great ambassadors for the country.”
President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did well by congratulating the American Israeli or Israeli American Nobel prize laureates. The fruits of the ingenuity of great researchers, as that of great artists, and even that of great sportswomen, are the assets of humanity as a whole. Any reduction in the means laid out at their disposal by the public and any insult to their dignity betrays the honor of the state itself.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
New immigrants to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.
A top Israeli minister called on the government on Sunday to craft a “comprehensive plan” to encourage the aliyah of French Jews.
In Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s view, there has been a “historic missed opportunity” in recent years to bring more French Jews to Israel as immigrants.
“There are 200,000 French Jews who want to come here, and the state bureaucracies simply aren’t prepared for it,” Bennett, who also serves as education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party, claimed at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “These are ethical people, Zionists, lovers of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to help them.”
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)