Israel Goes for Gold in Physics

Israel's delegation to the International Physics Olympiad returned home Tuesday, bringing home five medals – 2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze.

Tags: Education
David Lev , | updated: 3:45 AM

Saar Greets Physics Team
Saar Greets Physics Team

Those concerned about whether the next generation of Israelis are up to the country's hi-tech challenges can relax: Israel's delegation to the International Physics Olympiad returned home Tuesday, bringing home five medals – 2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze. Israel was rated 13th – four places higher than last year's 17th - out of the 84 countries participating in the event, which is considered the premiere physics competition in the world.

This year's Olympiad, the 42nd since the competition was first organized in 1967, was held in Bangkok, Thailand (Israel is set to host the competition in 2019).

The competition lasts for two full-day sessions, with the first session devoted to theoretical problems, and the second to experimental problems. Teams of five representatives are given five hours to solve their problems, and are graded on their alacrity, performance, and results. Each team consists of students from general or technical secondary schools (not colleges or universities) or have graduated but are yet to enter university, and must be under the age of 20.

Israel's gold winners were Asaf Rosen (Modi'in), Gal Dor (Petach Tikvah), while Ben Feinstein (Modi'in) and Gur Peri (Mazkeret Batya) won the silver. Israel's bronze winner was Aviv Frankel (Netanya). The team underwent grueling weeks of training that began at the start of the academic year, when they were chosen by teachers as candidates for Israel's Olympiad team, part of a total of 350 candidates. All but 35 were eliminated in the initial tests, held at the Technion, where a special “physics camp” was held before Passover.

Out of this group, eight were chosen to participate in the Asian Olympiad, the second most important physics event, and a prelude to the International Olympiad. That competition was held in May, (Gal Dor won a gold medal there, too – the first Israeli student to win one in the Asian Olympiad since 2003), and the final team of five were given still more training. Dor, one of the two gold winners, told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport on his arrival home to Israel Tuesday morning that it was “a nice feeling to win a medal. I didn't expect to be able to beat the Chinese students – even I was surprised,” he said.

The team, accompanied by trainer Dr. Eli Raz, were greeted Tuesday morning on their return from Thailand by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. The Minister told the delegation that “your accomplishments have a great meaning for the country, as you were more successful than many others. You have brought great honor and pride to the state. We live in a country that strives for excellence in all areas – our survival depends on this,” said Sa'ar. “ The education system will continue to invest resources in order to improve our accomplishments in the future,” he added.