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The Future of Israel Depends on the Negev

The Future of Israel Depends on the Negev

April 14, 2020

Leadership, Awards & Events, Negev Development & Community Programs

The Jerusalem Post — Entering the Beer-Sheva North train station, travelers spot a white, futuristic-looking bridge connecting the two sides of the tracks. Together with the buildings surrounding it, the bridge, shaped like a DNA helix, embodies the present and the future of the Negev’s capital: Ben-Gurion University and the Ben-Gurion Advanced Technologies Park, both in the process of expanding, have completely transformed the city over the course of the recent years.

Now, with the army building its new communications headquarters right next to them, the area is set to become the country’s first innovation district, as BGU president Prof. Danny Chamovitz proudly told The Jerusalem Post – in this interview conducted before the measures against the coronavirus forced the University to switch to remote learning [which it has done remarkably well].

BGU President Prof. Danny Chamovitz

Prof. Chamovitz, an American-born plant geneticist, took office in January 2019, after his predecessor, Prof. Rivka Carmi, finished her tenure. In the previous 12 years, she had guided the institution – and through it, the whole city – through a deep transformation.

A year into the position, to which he was appointed after a career at Tel Aviv University, Chamovitz does not hesitate to call Ben-Gurion University “the most important university for the future of the State of Israel.”

“If the future of Israel is in the Negev, the development of the Negev is dependent on Beer-Sheva becoming a vibrant, multifaceted metropolis – and this ability is dependent on the University,” he explains. “We are fulfilling this role by building the ecosystem that drives development.”

The president pointed out that there are several ways the institution has a direct impact on its surroundings.

“First of all, we are the only university in Israel that is in the poorest neighborhoods of the city that hosts it,” he told the Post. “Our students live in this area and every student who receives a scholarship has to volunteer.”

Ben-Gurion University also focuses on supporting academic access for students from underprivileged backgrounds, including the Bedouin population.

Another important aspect that allows BGU to have an impact on the region and the country lies in the fact that the University produces about a third of the country’s engineers.

If until a few years ago the vast majority had to leave the city to find a job, today the Ben-Gurion Advanced Technologies Park not only offers them quality positions, but is fully integrated into university life, with students and faculty going back and forth with benefits for both high-tech centers.

Asked if there is a specific focus that he considers personally important to bring to the table as BGU’s president, Prof. Chamovitz explains that it is excellence in research.

“We are rededicating ourselves as a research university. Our influence on Beer-Sheva and the world resonates with our excellence in research,” he says. “The better we are as a university, the larger our effect is going to be.”

Read the full article on The Jerusalem Post >>