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.
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker announcing the passage of the Taylor Force Act through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August 2017. Photo: Screenshot.
The US Senate is preparing to vote on the Taylor Force Act that links US financial assistance to the Palestinians with a verifiable end to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of “martyr payments” to convicted terrorists and their families – and the final version of the bill leaves the PA with little room to maneuver if it wants to continue receiving US aid.
“Awake, awake, O Tzion! Clothe yourself in splendor; Put on your robes of majesty, Yerushalayim, holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall never enter you again.” Isaiah 52:1 (The Israel Bible™)
An Iranian drone entered Israeli territory from Syria last weekend and was shot down by an IDF attack helicopter. As a result of the incursion, Israeli jets attacked a mobile command center near Damascus, where the drone originated from. However, Syrian forces responded with anti-aircraft fire at the Israeli jets, damaging one jet and forcing the pilots to eject after they crossed back into Israeli airspace
The entrance to Auschwitz
Head of Poland’s Law and Justice Party
ul. Nowogrodzka 84/86 02-018 Warsaw, Poland
Dear Mr. Kaczynski,
My heart goes out to you over your dilemma to properly identify the mass extermination camps that the Nazis established on Poland’s sacred soil.
To call the camps Polish camps would suggest that Poland established them. This is clearly not true.
The NFL players at Shiloh: Right to left: Chris Harris Jr., Avery Williamson, Geoff Schwartz, Joshua Norman, Vic Beasley, Mitchell Schwartz (Photo courtesy Westray Communications)
Barely one week after the Super Bowl, seven of the top NFL players are on a six-day tour of Israel after landing in the Jewish state on Tuesday night. Their visit has already evoked feelings of awe and wonder at the sense of spirituality and connection with God in the land of Israel.
Protest against former Israeli minister Dan Meridor at King’s College London. Photo: Screenshot.
The representative body of British Jewry said it’s “appalled” by a protest staged at King’s College London (KCL) on Monday against a lecture by a former Israeli minister, during which audience members “were barracked and intimidated in a completely unacceptable way.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned some 50 protesters who targeted individuals entering and exiting a talk with Dan Meridor — a former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence in the Israeli government — with loud chants of “shame” and “criminal,” according to video footage.
For the moment, an Israel-Iran nuclear war is logically out of the question. After all, Iran is not yet an operational nuclear power, and there is no point in presuming any possibilities for a scientific investigation. Nonetheless, in national survival matters, prudence should take innovative forms, and the July 14, 2015 Vienna Pact (JCPOA) concerning Iranian nuclear weapons will not constrain Tehran indefinitely.
In the very early nineties, the Democrats were as obsessed with cocaine as they are now are with Russia. The cocaine in question was alleged to have been bought by Vice President Dan Quayle. The 1992 election was coming up. The decades of corruption, slime, and lies by the Clintons were about to pay off.
President George H.W. Bush was enjoying high approval ratings. Bill Clinton would weasel and claw his way to the front of the line largely because the election seemed like a lot of cause for the Democrats.
“Merkel will govern…but her government will be under the heading ‘this will not be long.’ This refers to Merkel, and also to the fact that in many parts of the country there is the feeling that ‘this’ should not continue.” — Kurt Kister, Editor-in-Chief, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“The CDU retains control of the beautiful-sounding, but in fact powerless, Ministry of Economy, the unpopular Ministry of Health, the crisis-prone Ministry of Defense and the shadowy existence of ministerial posts in the Chancellery, for education and agriculture. That is little for the strongest faction in the Bundestag.” — Editorial, Münchner Merkur.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.
On Wednesday night Israelis received yet another demonstration of the country’s desperate need for legal reform.
The media in Israel – like their counterparts in the US – tout themselves as democracy’s watchdogs. But on Wednesday night, we saw once again that our fiercest journalists are actually the lapdogs of our unelected legal fraternity, whose members share their hatred for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their general attachment to the ideological Left.