Israel’s Technion: Using Science To Bridge Political and National Differences

SPECIAL NOTICE: Of course it was from this blog that the news first went out on Tuesday morning about the events at the University of California, Davis on Monday night during which two Israeli speakers were met with vicious anti-Israel hatred. If you missed that news you can read my two blogs (Tuesday and Wednesday) by clicking on the links on the lower right corner of this page under “Recent Posts.”  In the coming days, more information on this event will be posted as it is available.

UPDATE (12:03 am Saturday): Palestinian terrorists fire two rockets at the Eshkol region of southern Israel.

UPDATE (5:30 pm Friday): Six Qassam rockets fired by the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza struck southern Israel yesterday in the Eshkol and Chof Ashkelon regions. Untold psychological damage incurred by Israeli children, women, and men.


Founded in 1912 in Haifa, the Israel Institute of Technology (called in Israel “The Technion”) is the oldest university in Israel. One of its earliest champions was Albert Einstein who first visited the Technion in 1923 where he founded the first Technion Society and became the Society’s first President when he returned to Germany.

Albert Einstein at the Technion in 1923.

Originally conceived of as a science and engineering institute, the Technion has branched out over the years into such fields as education, medicine, and architecture. Today the Technion has 12,849 students (9564 undergraduates, 934 graduate students, and 2351 postgraduates) under the leadership of Dr. Peretz Lavie.

The Technion campus in Haifa.

Twenty percent of the Technion’s students are Israeli-Arabs, a percentage that  replicates the percentage of Israeli-Arabs in Israel. More than this, the Technion’s Landa Equal Opportunities Project specifically provides academic preparation and health services for Israeli-Arab high school students in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel.

This Technion initiative has been spectacularly successful in reducing the dropout rate of these students.  In a recent interview, Dr. Lavie mused about how the Technion (as other Israeli universities) has been branded as ‘apartheid’: “When I read the proclamations calling the Technion an ‘apartheid university,’ I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.”    

More than this, the Technion has excelled in its outreach to Israeli youth through its numerous after-school and summer enrichment courses in such areas as introductory electronics, computer programming, aerospace, architecture, biology, chemistry, and physics. Two of its most popular programs are Scitech and the Math Summer Camp, the latter of which is devoted to number theory.  Some of these summer courses have been taught by Technion chemistry professor Dan Shechtman who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystal structures.

But the Technion’s vision extends far beyond Israel.

Artist's rendering of the Technion-Cornell campus (in foreground) on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

Three months ago, Israel’s Technion in conjunction with Cornell University, won a competition to build a massive 2.1 million square foot engineering campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island. Officially named the “Cornell New York Tech, Home of the Technion-Cornell Institute of Innovation”; the university is already being unofficially called “The Island.” The first phase of the university is scheduled to be completed in 2017, but a temporary off-site campus will begin instruction this year.

Primarily funded by $100 million in subsidies from the city, the main purpose of the university (as conceived by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) is to increase entrepreneurship and job growth in the technology sector. Bloomberg recently commented: “Thanks to this outstanding partnership and groundbreaking proposal from Cornell and the Technion, New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight.” 

It is interesting to note that officials in London, Amsterdam, and several other U.S. cities have also contacted the Technion to consult on similar projects in their locales.

In a visit to New York this past week, Dr. Lavie summed up his and the Technion’s perspective: “[Science is] “a most effective bridge, perhaps a means of overcoming political differences. Science is a language shared even by enemies. It can bridge the gaps and help in the political conflict. Some of the most successful collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis is in the field of science” (JPost online).


On Saturday evening, March 2, 2002, a Palestinian terrorist from the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade walked up to a yeshiva in the ultra-orthodox central Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Yisrael. All of the men and boys were inside setting up celebrations for a bar-mitzvah. The terrorist walked over to the wives who were sitting outside with their baby carriages and detonated himself, killing ten Israeli women and children and injuring more than 50 more.


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