President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin spoke today, Tuesday 6 November / 28 Cheshvan at the Seventh Higher Education Conference, held this year to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council for Higher Education and the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Minister of Education Naftali Bennet and Chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats also spoke at the conference.
“We are marking Israel’s 70th anniversary and 60 years of the Council for Higher Education. The State of Israel was founded on a vision, a far-sighted and far-reaching vision,” said the president at the beginning of his remarks. “A state that is proud of its scientific and technological developments, a state that produced Nobel laureates, a state whose knowledge, innovation, learning and research make the world a better place each day.”
The president continued, “I take the opportunity to say to you, Minister of Education, with deep affection, appreciation and honesty: one can love Ariel without deriding academia. I had the privilege to support Ariel University. We were much taken by the words of President Efraim Katzir who said that any place there were Jews there would be education. I am a strong supporter of Ariel University and for its inclusion in the Committee of University Heads. Yet, a statement like ‘we have broken the cartel of universities’, causes pain. These are the institutions I am most proud of, and we all have a shared goal: that we have a flourishing Jewish and democratic state at whose heart is an independent, excellent, higher education sector free of political influence. The fundamental dream of intellectual independence and the courage to dare, these are the building blocks of the state and they are the foundations of our culture. We are a stiff-necked people. We do not defer, rather we debate. We do not bow our heads, rather we try to understand. We do not do as we are told, rather seek alternatives. That is how the start-up nation was built here, that is how a generation of inventors, researchers, creators and programmers grew up here.”
The president spoke about the "new campus," established on the initiative of the Council for Higher Education and under the leadership of the Chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, and said: “Since I took office, together with the Chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, the universities and colleges, I have been promoting the Israeli Hope initiative in academia. This is a plan to prepare for a new Israeli agenda in which academia is the first and last place that students from all sectors of society meet before they join the world of work. One of our strategic goals is ‘to strengthen the links between academia and employment and to raise academia’s commitment to employment outcomes for its graduates, particularly in the Arab and Haredi sectors.” The new campus must be an opportunity and a springboard not only for the changing reality of employment, but also for the changing Israeli reality,” said the president and continued, “only recently we read of the difficulties of making higher education accessible to Haredi men, and this week figures were released about a slow-down in the inclusion of Haredi people in the workforce. These are warning signs for our society and our economy. I am convinced that the new campus initiative can address this dual challenge – both linking academia to employment and the need to include Arab and Haredi society in fair employment. I believe that Israeli academia cannot look at a new Israeli society as a bystander, but must play an active, creative and meaningful role in it.”
The president congratulated those who play a role in this national and social undertaking, and the recipients of the Higher Education Prize, Professor Moshe Kave, Professor Ayelet Shavit and Professor Uriel Reichman and said: “Your awards show us how academic excellence goes hand in hand with strengthening our society and our country. I congratulate you, my friend Professor Reichman, on your ground-breaking academic vision which has become a reality and an achievement that has influenced the sector as a whole.”