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The Eighth Front: Against Academia

As published in “Haaretz” in Hebrew on July 6th, 2024. By Prof. Ariel Porat.

Today, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss a bill to amend the Council for Higher Education Law. This bill would enable the Council for Higher Education to instruct academic institutions in Israel to fire professors for making statements that, in its opinion, constitute incitement to terrorism or support for a terrorist organization. Any institution that does not comply, will be exposed to budget cuts. The bill makes apparent sense: incitement to terrorism or support for a terrorist organization are already punishable criminal offenses. The bill adds another punishment in the form of dismissal from work. Why, then, do the academic institutions in Israel, every single one of them, see it as an unprecedented threat to Israeli academia? What is all the fuss about? We are all against terrorism, aren’t we?

The bill may seem innocent enough, but two main features reveal its fascistic character and its aim to subjugate academia to government control.

First, the bill requires imposing severe punishment without a trial. In a democratic state, even murderers or rapists are not punished before they receive their day in court. But according to the proposed bill, an administrative body (the Council for Higher Education), which is often controlled by the Minister of Education, will be able to force an academic institution to punish professors by dismissing them because of a statement they made. This means a person might lose their livelihood without a trial!

Second, the person who will interpret and implement the law in practice is a politician, the Minister of Education, who is the Chair of the Council for Higher Education. The Minister of Education may suppose, for example, that a professor who expresses empathy towards the residents of Gaza or severely criticizes the IDF and its commanders is inciting terrorism. Although that is not the case, the Minister may instruct the head of the academic institution to fire the professor. (There are indeed ministers and members of the Knesset who are quick to define completely legitimate statements as incitement to terrorism.) The head of the institution will have to choose between a bankruptcy of values – firing a professor who did nothing wrong – and financial bankruptcy due to the expected budget cut that would be imposed on the institution for disobeying the Minister. Although it would be possible to apply to the court with a request to reverse the decision, the trial might take years, and in the meantime, the institution would suffer serious damage and may even collapse financially (since there may be several such cases). I know what my choice would be if I faced this dilemma.

There are two reasons why it is difficult to understand what has led to the initiation of this unfortunate bill. First, the bill deals with a problem that does not exist. There is not a single case in Israeli academia of a professor who incited terrorism (for a statement to constitute incitement to terrorism it needs to generate a substantial risk that a terrorist act might be committed; it is not enough for the statement to be outrageous, infuriating, or hurtful). And even if there were such cases, we have criminal law and the Minister of National Security who can launch a police investigation in response to incitement. Why then impose the role of the punisher on universities that do not have investigative bodies or the ability to weigh evidence as the police and the courts of law do?

The second reason is that the State of Israel is now facing its most difficult hour. The Prime Minister has recently claimed that Israel is at war on seven fronts. Just a few days ago, Iran has threatened to declare a war of annihilation upon Israel if we attack to the north; in the south and north of Israel, entire communities have been uprooted and need to return to their homes; the war is still raging in the south, and many hostages have not yet returned from Gaza. How is it, then, that amid all this, the Knesset and Israeli government see fit to handle the “urgent” problem of incitement to terrorism by university professors, a problem that does not actually exist?

There is no other option but to conclude that someone up there decided that now is the right time to deal with academia. It is from the academia that critics of the government emerge; it is from the academia that criticism of the legal reform came; and it is now time to settle the score. This is the eighth front that needs to be opened.

Members of the Knesset, coalition and opposition, I urge you: do not follow this legislation initiative blindly. It pretends to be innocent, but it will become a fatal blow to the independence of Israeli academia. Surely you don’t wish for an obedient academia that is subservient to the government, such as those found in totalitarian countries. Surely you don’t wish for an academia in which professors hold back their opinions, fearing to be misinterpreted. Surely you do not wish for an academia plagued by McCarthyism. Universities are not the enemy. Without an independent academia, we will not be the same, whether in the humanities, in science, or in the strength of our security. I ask that you to deal with the truly acute and existential problems that we face, rather than with those that someone has fabricated out of thin air.


Cyber Week 2024: Securing Cyber Strength

Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity

Amid Israel’s turbulent times, the combined annual events of Cyber Week and AI Week highlighted Tel Aviv as a foremost cyber capital. Hosted by the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, the Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, Tel Aviv University, the Israeli National Cyber Directorate, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The four-day event drew 7,000 participants, including 12% from abroad. The first day focused on research and academic innovation, addressing cybersecurity challenges in the age of generative AI and misinformation.



Securing Tomorrow’s Cyberfront

The main plenary featured esteemed speakers like Matanyahu Englman, State Comptroller of Israel and President of Eurosay; Prof. Ariel Porat, TAU President; Shira Lev Ami, CEO of the Israel National Digital Agency; and Andrew Conway, Vice President for Security Marketing at Microsoft, who discussed strategies and collaborations during and after recent conflicts, highlighting the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Gabi Portnoy, Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, emphasized the increased aggression and psychological warfare in cyber activities post-October 7th, particularly from Iran.

“The nature of the cyber activities since October 7th is more aggressive. It combines a lot more psychological warfare, information extraction distributed in various media channels, and mostly not identified as being Iranians… The information stolen from government systems is used for Iranian cyber terrorism,” he noted.

Investing in Israel’s Future

Israel’s 13th Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, discussed the country’s future amidst ongoing conflicts, praising the resilience and idealism of the younger generation.

“We have a younger generation that is the toughest we’ve ever seen.. they have embedded work ethics, courage, strength, resilience, and idealism. Every one of them has been changed forever and cares more about the state of Israel, about building the future here. We’re not giving up,” he stated.

Israel’s 13th PM Naftali Bennett.

He also encouraged global investment in Israel: “Israel is the breeding ground for the super entrepreneurs of the next 50 years. So for all of you who’ve come from around the world, now is a great time to invest in Israel.”

During the events, attendees also engaged with early-stage Israeli cybersecurity startups at the Startup Exhibition, featuring ventures like Adversa, Cyclops, MEMCYCO, and prominent companies such as Checkpoint and Cloudflare.


Empowering Youth in Tech

The Annual Youth Cyber Conference promoted equal opportunities for youth from Israel’s periphery, bringing together 600 young individuals for its ninth year. The conference aimed to equip teenagers with skills for tech-oriented military service and careers in Israel’s hi-tech industry.

As Cyber Week 2024 highlighted, the cybersecurity landscape is rapidly evolving amidst global challenges. The event underscored the importance of innovation, collaboration, and resilience in tackling emerging threats. By bringing together industry leaders, academics, and young talent, Cyber Week continues to pave the way for a secure, innovative future in the digital age, reaffirming Israel’s position as a global leader in cybersecurity.

Tech Vs. Hate: New Ways to Fight the World’s Oldest Hatred

TAU’s AI and Cyber Weeks held a seminar on the state of online antisemitism and how it can be fought with AI

Antisemitism is on the rise around the world, spreading at record speeds thanks to social media as well as clandestine online efforts by hate groups and political entities. As part of its simultaneous Cyber and AI weeks, Tel Aviv University hosted “Tech Vs. Hate”, a women-led seminar bringing antisemitism experts together with entrepreneurs using technological solutions to fight online bigotry. In speeches and conversations, participants spoke about steps that can be taken now as well as policies and practices that must be adopted in the near future. The event was also livestreamed to a worldwide audience. 

“Words Become Deeds” 

Three experts on antisemitism spoke at the seminar: Avi Mayer, former Editor-in-Chief, The Jerusalem Post and Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of Global Jewry; Carole Nuriel, Senior Regional Director of the MENA Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter; and Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Senior Policy & Strategy Advisor in Israel’s Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism and a former Member of the Knesset.  

Each stressed above all that we must take hatemongering online seriously because it rarely stays online. As Ms. Nuriel put it, “words turn into deeds.” Said Mr. Mayer, “as one study found just last year, increases in antisemitic speech and particularly anti-Zionist speech online can help predict real-world antisemitic activity, including both far right threats and violence and far-left antisemitic incidents both on and off campus.” 

“Increases in antisemitic speech and particularly anti-Zionist speech online can help predict real-world antisemitic activity.”

Ms. Nuriel went into more detail with statistics from the ADL showing that a growing number of Jews are hiding their Jewishness from peers both online and on college campuses, while over 60% of Jews said they feel unsafe compared to last year. She also emphasized that instances of identity-based harassment have risen in the last year for all marginalized groups. Regarding technology, Ms. Nuriel raised concerns about the lack of effective anti-hate policy enforcement on social media websites as well as the growing role of AI platforms like ChatGPT in spreading disinformation.  

Ms. Cotler-Wunsh, who uses her legal training to advise on policies to combat antisemitism, explained that antisemitism may be seen as an “ever-mutating virus” which constantly changes terminology and platforms, making it especially difficult to recognize and fight—and meaning action against one strain won’t take down other strains. For years, she said, “one dominant strain has been anti-Zionism. Zionist is code for Jew, and post-10/7 we are living through the most Orwellian inversion of fact and law that have turned Israel’s image into nothing less than a genocidal state.”  

Weeding Out Hate with AI 

Even as hate speech rises, innovators and concerned individuals are rising to fight it. Three representatives from startups spoke on how they are using technology in fascinating new ways to stop the spread of hate and misinformation. 

From left: Carole Nuriel, Tal-Or Cohen, and Stav Cohen Lasri listen to Maya Shabi present the finance roads for hate groups. (Photo: Dror Sithakol, TAU)

Tal-Or Cohen Montemayor, founder and Executive Director of CyberWell, the world’s first live database of online antisemitism, spoke on how her company uses AI to identify possible antisemitic speech around the internet. It employs human analysts to check each instance and reports them to platforms using those platforms’ own policy language specifically. “We essentially act as an antisemitism compliance officer, advising companies on why they must take down harmful content.” 

Co-founder of the startup Savee.AI Stav Cohen Lasri spoke on how her company’s Chrome browser add-on, like CyberWell, uses AI to empower individuals to fight misinformation. The add-on gives users fact-based responses to flagged content that they post to contend with fake news and conspiracies. 

Maya Shabi, Senior Risk Strategist of financial risk detection AI EverC, detailed how investigating potential legal issues for big financial firms also gives her company the tools to detect how hate and terrorist groups are funded (usually cash, cryptocurrency, or money laundering) as well as when nations financially back hate and terror. She explained that her team goes “undercover” to figure out what platforms are used to move money and to alert those platforms in order to stop cash flow in its tracks.  

“We saw on 10/7 how immediately nation-state actors and organized groups capitalized and weaponized social media algorithms so to hijack the narrative.”

Unfortunately, had the financial industry kept a closer eye on these issues before 10/7, propaganda would not have spread so fast: “We also saw on 10/7 how immediately nation-state actors and organized groups capitalized and weaponized social media algorithms so to hijack the narrative. In addition there were bots behind that making the content go viral so that it was on everyone’s feed.” 

Pushing for Accountability 

To contend with the many fronts of antisemitism, each speaker emphasized policies must be created and staunchly upheld by governments and corporations alike. Ms. Cotler-Wunsh said that governments, especially the US, must adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which accounts for its many forms. Regarding social media, speakers reiterated that big tech companies cannot be allowed to let hate speech spread on their watch. Policing and forcing them to self-police will be no easy task when these companies profit so heftily from rage-inducing content which drives engagement.

Shiran Mlamdovsky Somech, Founder of Generative AI for Good, showed how though AI is often used to drive that rage, it can also be used responsibly to promote compassion. She has used generative AI to “give a voice to the silent”, including Holocaust victims and hostages. 

“Public opinion polls show that the general public in the United States is concerned about rising antisemitism and perceives it across the political spectrum.”

Though it is an uphill battle, Jewish people are not alone in our fight. “If there’s any comfort to be found,” said Mr. Mayer, it may be in that people of conscience share our concern. Public opinion polls show that the general public in the United States is concerned about rising antisemitism and perceives it across the political spectrum. Three quarters believe that Jew hatred is a problem in America, and over half believe it is on the rise. Finally, more than 80% of Americans say that the belief that Israel has no right to exist–the fundamental belief of anti-Zionism–is indeed antisemitic.” 


One in Three Arab Israelis Prefer External Governance for Gaza Post-War

TAU study reveals shifts in solidarity among Arab Israelis, with one-third advocating for new governance solutions

An extensive study from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University reveals significant trends among Arab Israelis, eight months into the Iron Swords War. Findings indicate that a third of Israel’s Arab citizens (34.3%) believe that an external non-Palestinian body should govern life in the Gaza Strip after the war. The study was presented at TAU’s Conference – The Future of Israel.

The study was conducted by Dr. Arik Rudnitzky, who explains that with political uncertainty regarding ‘the day after the war’ and numerous options arising in both local and worldwide discourse, respondents were asked: “Who should assume responsibility for governing life in the Gaza Strip after the war?”

Most respondents (58.5%) feel that life in the Gaza Strip should be run by Palestinians. The highest preference is for local bodies from Gaza (24.4%), the Palestinian Authority is second (19.4%), and Hamas comes last (14.7%). A third of the survey’s respondents (34.4%) believe that an external non-Palestinian body should govern life in the Gaza Strip after the war. Here the preferred option is an international force (19.4%), with Israel far behind (8.4%) and finally Arab states (6.5%).

The study was based on a survey including 502 Arab Israeli citizens 18 or over, constituting a representative sample of Israel’s adult Arab population. It was initiated by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation supported by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung at TAU’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

Dr. Arik Rudnitzky.

The War’s Surprising Impact on Arab-Jewish Relations

The collected data also indicate that more than half of Israel’s Arab citizens feel that the prolonged war has engendered a sense of shared destiny between Arabs and Jews – with a quarter (25.3%) responding that this is true to a great extent. The other half (48.4%) think that the war has not engendered such a feeling, with a third (33.6%) denying that any such feelings exist.

It is interesting to note that the majority of those who believe that the war has generated a sense of shared destiny between Arabs and Jews is preserved through all religions: Christians (61.2%), Druze (62.5%), and Muslims (51.4%).

The researcher: “During the first months after the war broke out there was great tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel. In a similar survey held in November 2023 (shortly after the beginning of the war) most Arab Israelis (69.8%) thought that solidarity between Arabs and Jews had declined as a result of the war. A few months later we found that concerning relations between the two populations, the story of this war is very different from the events of May 2021”.

Economically, some degree of normalcy has been restored despite the war. In the November survey, most respondents (64.9%) reported that the war had negatively affected their economic situation. In the present study, most participants (67.8%) report a relatively good economic situation.

Sense of Personal Safety During the Prolonged War

A large majority of the respondents (74%) report a low sense of safety, and many (41.2%) indicate that safety is very low. It should be noted that in the November 2023 survey, which used an identical methodology, even more respondents (81.1%) reported that their sense of safety had declined due to the war. Eight months into the war the change is relatively minor, and most Israeli Arabs continue to feel unsafe.

What is the Most Important Issue for Israel’s Arab Sector Today?

Like in previous surveys, findings indicate that the issue of violence and crime is still at the top of the Arab Israeli sector’s agenda (60.6%), overriding all other issues: the Palestinian problem (11.3%), regularization of construction in Arab towns (10.1%), economy, employment, and poverty (7.7%), education (6.9%), and the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev (3.4%).

Should an Arab Political Party Join A Coalition Established After the Next Elections?

A clear majority (68.6%) support such a move, including 40.2% in favor of an Arab party joining any coalition, not only a center-left government. Only 14.2% are firmly against any Arab party joining the coalition or even supporting it from the outside (through an obstructing bloc in the Knesset).

Dr. Arik Rudnitzky, Director of the Konrad Adenauer Program: “The study shows that the current war between Israel and Hamas, which is the longest and hardest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, has not altered the political compass of Israel’s Arab citizens. The findings provide clear proof for the distinction they make between fluctuations in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political developments inside Israel, which they are able to influence. Israel’s Arab citizens worry about their brethren in Gaza, which is only natural and should be respected. However, it’s important to understand that sympathizing with Palestinians in Gaza is not the same as identifying with their political leadership. In fact, a significant part of the survey’s respondents believe that local elements in Gaza, and not Hamas, should govern life in the Gaza Strip after the war, and another third say that a non-Palestinian body should do this. In addition, readiness for political collaboration with the Israeli government – expressed not only by supporters of the Ra’am Party but also by those of Hadash-Ta’al who were reluctant until recently – alongside an emphasis on Israeli identity combined with a deep Arab or religious identity – all these prove that Israel’s Arab citizens are an integral part of Israeli society, not only in theory but in practice as well”.

“The conclusions emerging from the current survey are important not only to decision-makers in the country but also to every citizen who believes in a true partnership between Jews and Arabs within Israel” – Dr. Rudnitzky.

Therapy on Hold: Reservists’ Return to Service

Reservists with PTSD recalled before therapy completion.

With the war continuing for many months, the Clinic of the National Center for Post Trauma & Resilience at Tel Aviv University warns about a troubling phenomenon: many IDF reservists diagnosed with PTSD after serving in Gaza have recently been called up again, before completing the required therapeutic processes. The Clinic cautions that some reservists quickly respond to the new summons, quit or delay therapy, and return to service, risking further deterioration in their condition while endangering their comrades because they might not be fully fit for active service. The data was presented at the Tel Aviv Conference – ‘The Future of Israel’.

The Clinic of the National Center for Post Trauma & Resilience at Tel Aviv University, the largest PTSD clinic in Israel, was opened soon after the current war broke out. Every week the Clinic receives about 40 new requests for treatment from both civilians and soldiers, most of them affected by the war. According to the Clinic, this torrent is unusual, even compared to past military campaigns, indicating the great emotional distress engendered by the war, with no end in sight.

Concerns in Calling Back PTSD Patients

Prof. Yair Bar-Haim, Head of the National Center for Post Trauma & Resilience at Tel Aviv University: “Since the Oct. 7 attack, the number of people with PTSD in need of therapy has grown every month. Usually, reservists go back home, presumably to their ‘normal lives’, and it takes them some time to realize that they can’t function normally at work or home. Moreover, these people face substantial danger due to a troubling phenomenon we noted recently: many of our patients are called up again before completing therapy for PTSD from their first round of fighting. Being deeply committed to their country, unit, and comrades, some leave everything behind and go back to serve. It must be understood that this can worsen their own symptoms, and there is also real concern about their ability to function and make decisions as commanders or squad members on the battlefield. This trend also calls for adapting existing therapeutic protocols – generally addressing past traumas that have generated a psychological disorder but most probably will not happen again. The unique situation of returning to the context of the trauma and risking exposure to more trauma has rarely been discussed in the professional literature. Today, this is happening in two places, Israel and Ukraine, as a result of protracted wars”.

Prof.Yair Bar-Haim.

Prof. Bar-Haim adds: “Clearly, Israel’s mental healthcare system is experiencing a deep crisis. I call upon decision-makers to act now and develop long-term solutions: solutions that look beyond the horizon, to the next two decades at least; solutions that will upgrade and accelerate training processes for future therapists and establish strong regional clinics specializing in trauma and PTSD. In the immediate term, we must raise the awareness of soldiers, commanders, and civilians regarding the symptoms of PTSD, and individuals already receiving therapy for PTSD should be exempt from additional military service – until the therapeutic process has been completed and the patient is once again psychologically competent”.

Report from the Campus Battlegrounds

Three TAU PhD alumni share experiences from post-October 7th life on elite US university campuses

In the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, antisemitism has emerged as a pressing and increasingly pervasive issue on college campuses across the United States. What once may have been sporadic incidents or isolated sentiments has now coalesced into a disturbing trend marked by widespread and heated expressions of hatred and discrimination toward Jewish students and faculty. 

This resurgence of antisemitic rhetoric and actions challenges the very foundation of academic discourse and community cohesion. Many Israeli researchers studying and working on American campuses feel the need to speak out. We asked three Tel Aviv University graduates currently doing postdoctoral studies at elite US universities to share their personal experiences.

Dr. Shai Zilberzwige-Tal
Post-doc at MIT, Boston

Shai earned her PhD from TAU’s Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, she is the recipient of the TAU Argentinean Friends PhD Fellowship.

I began my post-doc at MIT in September 2022. Having adapted to the constant threats in Israel, my move to America initially felt like a respite. However, the events of October 7th sharply turned that around. The shattered sense of security post-October made being Jewish and Israeli feel like having a target on my back. The hesitation to enter the lab, spending over an hour gathering the courage to leave my car, became a stark reality. During the October 7th weekend, only two close friends from the lab expressed concern, highlighting a surprising lack of broader support. 

MIT’s failure to condemn the actions of October 7th deviated from their past practices during similar conflicts. The attempts of the University administration to stay neutral felt like betrayal. Demonstrations calling for the genocide of Jews created an atmosphere of fear and vulnerability on campus, threatening the essence of our academic community and challenging my belonging to an institution I considered home for the past year. This feeling became palpable when my son asked if he, too, was Jewish. I often think about his question—how innocent but also how fraught. 

During this period, I discovered that sharing my personal story as an Israeli and as someone who served in the IDF as a paramedic both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank became the most effective means of providing insight to others. I encountered surprising questions, like whether we are all white or if there are redheads in Israel. Yet, I recognized it as my mission to educate. 

Reducing discussions about the war into slogans led to a lack of fact-checking and contextual understanding. It seemed that people accepted the information at face value. Even colleagues who offered support didn’t want to do so publicly, because supporting Israel was equated with endorsing colonialism and genocide. Yet some of my colleagues’ willingness to ask questions, learn and understand, left a lasting impression and served as a testament to the power of genuine curiosity and empathy.

Tensions escalated further when an unauthorized encampment was established on MIT’s lawn. By neglecting to delineate what is unacceptable behavior on campus, MIT has inadvertently allowed Israeli and Jewish individuals to become targets for pro-terror groups masquerading as pro-Palestinian activists. These groups have even gone so far as to send threatening emails to MIT faculty associated with Israel or grants linked to the Israeli Defense Force.

About this time, I faced a dilemma when applying for a fellowship, unsure whether to disclose my involvement in the Jewish and Israeli community, fearing it could jeopardize my chances. This internal conflict underscores the discomfort many of us feel in navigating these complex dynamics on campus.

Despite all the complexity of the situation, we refused to remain silent. Organizing a support rally in the greater Boston area within three days of the encampment demonstrated our resilience and determination. The outpouring of support following the rally reaffirmed that our efforts are not in vain, inspiring us to continue fighting for our rights and dignity on campus and beyond.

Dr. Ziv Ben-Zion
Post-doc at Yale University, Connecticut

 Ziv holds a PhD from the Sagol School of Neuroscience. He is the recipient of travel grants from the SagolSchool and Adams Super-Center for Brain Studies.

I’ve been fighting antisemitism even before October 7th. When I arrived at Yale in the summer of 2021, I encountered a biased one-sided statement titled “Resource on Palestine” published by the Yale Postdoctoral Association (YPA). Working with fellow Israeli postdocs, it took us over a year of navigating challenges to publish a comprehensive counter-response, providing a more balanced perspective of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Since October 7, antisemitism has increased. My research field happens to be in PTSD, so it was natural that I would mention the October 7th events in a recent talk at an international conference about trauma & stress in LA. I spoke from the bottom of my heart about the most horrifying trauma that happened in Israel’s history less than a month earlier. A trauma that somehow almost no one cared to mention or talk about at that event. An ongoing trauma that prevented almost all Israeli participants from arriving at the conference that year. And yet, after several complaints about me, I was summoned for a hearing with the conference organizers about not including the topic in the abstract of my speech and using difficult language without a proper “trigger” disclaimer.

Back on campus, I lobbied and fought for an additional two months until I was able to publish an opinion piece “Free Palestine from Hamas” in the Yale Daily News.

After seeing how much antisemitism there is in US academia, I’m definitely not going to stay here—I plan on coming back to work in Israel’s academic institutions.

Dr. Zohar Arnon
Post-doc at Columbia University, New York

Zohar has a PhD from TAU’s Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research. He is the recipient of the Marian Gertner Institute for Medical Nanosystems Research Excellence Award and the Joan& Jaime Constantiner Travel Fellowship. 

I’ve been in Columbia since April 2021 . Before October 7th, it was pretty great to walk around. It’s a very serene, beautiful place. I loved walking on campus with my dog because it has nice lawns and a lot of dogs come to play sometimes.

The days after October 7th were very different. The earliest protests against Israel came long before the ground operation in Gaza began and the hate in the eyes of the protestors was intense and immediate. It was clear that those are anti-Israel protests, and not pro-Palestinian.

Signs of the hostages we put up were torn down in a matter of hours.

People started wearing keffiyehs on campus. They were making a statement and it was making me feel unsafe walking around campus.

I don’t understand how people decide to side with a fanatic religious terror organization and not with another western democracy that is obviously doing much more to uphold the standards of civil society, warfare and humanity… I just don’t get it. Boils my blood.

My future plans are to stay in academia, specifically at Tel Aviv University. Current events didn’t change this one bit. If anything, they made me want to come back home even more.

This article first appeared in Tel Aviv University’s 2024 Annual Report



Tel Aviv University Ranks First in Israel in the Prestigious QS Ranking for the Year 2025

The Only Israeli University to Rise in the Global Rankings

Tel Aviv University’s impressive achievement as it takes the top spot among Israeli universities in the prestigious QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings for 2025, is noteworthy. It’s the only Israeli university to have risen in the rankings from last year, now standing at 209th place globally, up from 215th last year.

The QS ranking is one of the leading indicators globally for evaluating academic institutions. Each year, it assesses around 1,500 of the world’s best universities, ranking them based on criteria such as teaching and research quality, citations, peer surveys, graduate employability, internationalization, and more. The ranking relies on approximately 17.5 million academic research papers and around 240,000 interviews with academics and employers.

Increased international collaborations

Among the metrics reflecting Tel Aviv University’s advancements this year, a 5% increase in international collaborations stands out compared to the previous year. Additionally, the sustainability category saw a notable rise of 39 places in the global ranking. Moreover, the university distinguishes itself in citation metrics, securing the 20th position worldwide.

Following Tel Aviv University, which leads among the six Israeli universities ranked in the index, are the Hebrew University and the Technion, ranking second and third, respectively.

The Israeli universities ranking

The full world ranking 

Antisemitism Worldwide Report for 2023

Concern for the Future of Jewish Life in the West

The Annual Antisemitism Worldwide Report, published by Tel Aviv University and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), reveals that 2023 saw an increase of dozens of percentage points in the number of antisemitic incidents in Western countries in comparison to 2022. A particularly steep increase was recorded following the October 7 attacks, but the first nine months of 2023, before the war started, also witnessed a relative increase in the number of incidents in most countries with large Jewish minorities, including the United States, France, the UK, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. 

“October 7th helped spread a fire that was already out of control,” states the Report.

Link to the full report

Countries recording steep increases

According to the Report, in New York, the city with the largest Jewish population in the world, NYPD recorded 325 anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2023 in comparison to the 261 it recorded in 2022, LAPD recorded 165 in comparison to 86, and CPD 50 in comparison to 39. The ADL recorded 7,523 incidents in 2023 compared to 3,697 in 2022 (and according to a broader definition applied, it recorded 8,873); the number of assaults increased from 111 in 2022 to 161 in 2023 and of vandalism from 1,288 to 2,106. 

Other countries also saw dramatic increases in the number of antisemitic attacks, according to data collected by the Report from governmental agencies, law enforcement authorities, Jewish organizations, media, and fieldwork. 

In France, the number of incidents increased from 436 in 2022 to 1,676 in 2023 (the number of physical assaults increased from 43 to 85); in the UK from 1, 662 to 4,103 (physical assaults from 136 to 266); in Argentina from 427 to 598; in Germany from 2,639 to 3,614; in Brazil from 432 to 1,774; in South Africa from 68 to 207; in Mexico from 21 to 78; in the Netherlands from 69 to 154; in Italy from 241 to 454; and in Austria from 719 to 1,147. Australia recorded 622 antisemitic incidents in October and November 2023, in comparison to 79 during the same period in 2022.


Antisemitic incidents increased also before October 7th

While the dramatic increases in comparison to 2022 largely followed October 7, the Report emphasizes that most countries with large Jewish minorities saw relative increases also in the first nine months of 2023, before the war started. For example, in the United States, ADL data (based on the narrower definition for antisemitic incidents) point to an increase from 1,000 incidents in October-December 2022 to 3,976 in the same period in 2023, but also to an increase from 2,697 incidents between January-September 2022 to 3,547 in the same period in 2023 (NYPD registered a decrease in that period, while LAPD an increase). 

In France, the number of incidents during January-September 2023 increased to 434 from 329 during the same period in 2022; in Britain – from 1,270 to 1,404. In Australia, 371 incidents were recorded between January and September 2023, compared to 363 in the same period in 2022. On the other hand, Germany and Austria, where national programs for fighting antisemitism are applied, saw decreases.

Prof. Shavit: “Concern that the curtain will descend on Jewish life in the West”

According to Prof. Uriya Shavit, Head of The Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Irwin Cotler Institute, “The year is not 1938, not even 1933. Yet if current trends continue, the curtain will descend on the ability to lead Jewish lives in the West – to wear a Star of David, attend synagogues and community centers, send kids to Jewish schools, frequent a Jewish club on campus, or speak Hebrew”.

Shavit said: “With bomb threats against synagogues becoming a daily occurrence, Jewish existence in the West is forced to fortify itself, and the more it does so, the more the sense of security and normalcy is undermined. What the fight against antisemitism needs now is efforts focused on the hubs of poison, and the presentation of measurable and attainable goals. Foremost, the reality in which big companies make big money by spreading big hate has to end”.

Prof. Shavit added: “The reality is that Israel, as a state, is limited in what it can do for Jewish communities. But even the little that can be done is not done. Israel does not have a meaningful strategic plan for combatting antisemitism that is based on the needs of Jewish communities. The main contributions of the government are pompous statements and sporadic initiatives. Responsibility for combatting antisemitism should be delegated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose officials are professionals who know the Jewish communities firsthand. The Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combatting Antisemitism is redundant. A small example of just how much so: A few months ago, we noted in another report that the link provided on their website in English for reporting antisemitic incidents leads to an empty page. It made headlines in the media. And what happened? Nothing. No one bothered to fix it. It still leads to an empty page. There are no limits to the negligence and lack of professionalism”.

According to Prof. Shavit, “one of the biggest challenges of our time is how to mobilize support for the fight against antisemitism without making it the definer of Jewish identity”. 


Prof. Uriya Shavit.

ADL Head Greenblatt: “A Tsunami of Hate”

ADL’s CEO and National Director, Jonathan Greenblatt, said: “The aftermath of Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel on October 7th was followed by a tsunami of hate against Jewish communities worldwide. Unprecedented levels of antisemitism have surged globally in the streets of London, New York, Paris, Santiago, Johannesburg and beyond. This year’s report is incredibly alarming, with documented unprecedented levels of antisemitism, including in the US, where 2023 saw the highest number of antisemitic incidents in the US ever recorded by ADL. We are proud to partner with Tel Aviv University on this important annual report which will be used to inform governments and civil society and help push back against antisemitic trends”.

In a special essay for the Report, Greenblatt wrote: “Antisemitism isn’t just an abstract issue. It is a real-life threat to Jewish life in America and Jews around the world, and our history teaches us that we do not have the luxury to be indifferent when moments like these occur. That means we need to be clear-eyed about the threats we face and have the determination to confront them”.

An Emergency Plan by former Canadian Justice Minister

Former Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General Irwin Cotler offers in the Report a historical and political analysis of the development of present-day antisemitism and a detailed 11-point plan for globally combatting the phenomenon. Cotler warns that “the explosion of antisemitism is a threat not only to Jews, but is toxic to our democracies, an assault on our common humanity, and a standing threat to human security – in a word, the bloodied canary in the mineshaft of global evil. Jews alone cannot combat it, let alone defeat it. What is required is a constituency of conscience – a whole of government, whole of society commitment and action to fight this oldest and most lethal of hatreds”. 

The 150-page Report includes in-depth essays on different countries, as well as a study on the profiles of the spreaders of antisemitic content on X (formally Twitter). The essays examine, among other issues, the proliferation of antisemitic discourses in the Arab world, Turkey, and Iran following October 7 and trace their roots. The Report argues that “any future diplomatic negotiations must prioritize the uprooting of antisemitism from Arab societies”.

“The fringes encroach on the political center”

The Report notes that hate speech was articulated already before Israel launched its campaign in Gaza, including on leading university campuses, and thus urged against seeing the recent wave of antisemitism as an emotional response to the war. “Some antisemitic attackers emphasize their problem is with Israel, not with Jews, and then attack Jews and Jewish institutions.” 

Dr. Carl Yonker, Senior Researcher and Project Manager at the “Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry,” TAU, who wrote a study for the Report on antisemitism in the United States, said: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, post-October 7 incidents were also led from the far right in America. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and others glorified Hamas and used the war to spread antisemitic propaganda along with conspiracy theories, according to which the crisis will advance the replacement of the white majority in the West by migrants from the Middle East. The fringes in the United States are encroaching on the political center from both right and left, making combatting antisemitism much trickier”.

Scapegoating Jews in Russia

The Report notes the impossibility of reliably tracking antisemitic incidents in Russia at the present. An extensive essay in the Report examines the antisemitic rhetoric of the Russian dictator Putin and members of his regime. The Report notes that “At the beginning of 2023, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow in exile, Pinchas Goldschmidt, warned that Jews should leave Russia before they are scapegoated. Sadly, 2023 did not disprove the words of this wise and courageous religious leader.”

On the part of Tel Aviv University, the Report was researched by the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry with the support of The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation and the Irwin Cotler Institute for Democracy, Human Rights and Justice with the support of Richard and Elaine Dubrovsky and Sara Vered. 

See full Report here

Barbie Buzz: Mattel CEO Shares Branding Wisdom with Tel Aviv University Students

Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, an alumnus of Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management, spoke to students about business leadership.

The movie Barbie, based on the iconic doll created by American toy company Mattel, premiered this weekend in movie theaters worldwide to much critical acclaim. The movie’s release marks a significant point in the transformation that the long-established company has undergone in recent years under the leadership of Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s Chairman and CEO.

Ahead of the premier, Kreiz, a Tel Aviv University alumnus, met with the University’s students to discuss the power of transformative leadership and share his personal story. “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to speak here today, having come full circle,” he said.

Kreiz began his career in the world of media after completing his undergraduate studies at TAU’s Coller School of Management and an MBA at UCLA. “The studies at TAU were of the highest level—they prepared me for graduate school […] and helped me to continue the journey onwards from there,” Kreiz told his audience at the beginning of the talk, explaining the reasons he chose TAU after his military service. 


“The studies at TAU were of the highest level—they prepared me for graduate school […] and helped me to continue the journey onwards from there.” – Ynon Kreiz



From Barbie the Doll to Barbie, the Movie

Kreiz went on to discuss the transformation that Mattel has undergone under his leadership in recent years, going from a manufacturer of toys to a media company that offers its well-known and beloved brands on a broad range of platforms. He emphasized that the key to success in leading a large towards change is the correct choice of the management team and creating an environment that enables the team to excel.

“No CEO can know everything in every area and take care of every issue,” he explained. “My most important function is to choose a strong management team, to lead them, to encourage them to respond quickly to events in the market, and to build together with them a flexible and fast-moving organization that will know how to compete and change. You have to believe in the talents of the team and let them work, but at the same time if you feel that something is not working – you have to make cuts quickly and not leave people in positions for which they are not suited.”


Ynon Kreiz met with TAU students to discuss the power of transformative leadership and share his personal story


“My most important function is to choose a strong management team, to lead them, to encourage them to respond quickly to events in the market, and to build together with them a flexible and fast-moving organization that will know how to compete and change.” – Ynon Kreiz


Kreiz was the fourth CEO at Mattel in almost five years, which indicated the difficulties the company experienced at the time, with years of stagnancy and heavy losses. “Mattel has strong brands. In the area of children’s toys it comes right after Disney in my opinion,” he said, “and my challenge was to lead it from being a company that perceives itself as a manufacturer of toys to being a company that manages brands; from a company that sells to customers, to a company that manages relations with supporters. We did it without giving up on the core business of toys, by expanding into television, movies, parks, and music, and in general into customer experiences based on our brands.”

Kriez discussed the organizational and structural challenges he and his management team faced, having to cut many workplaces, close factories and massively reorganize the company’s structure. “Yet we made sure to keep the morale of the employees who were retained high and committed to the new goals,” he said. “We did it by defining a clear and simple goal for the company: creating innovative and entertaining experiences for children. I cut down the vision statement of the company to a single page, so that every employee could relate to it. In addition, we gave the employees freedom and responsibility, for instance in choosing unlimited vacations for themselves, coordinated with the manager.” 

According to Kreiz, another important message that he imprinted at Mattel was that alongside the financial goals, the company had to operate responsibly: “We have a real influence on society,” he said. “We work with children and we help in forming the future.”

The Personal Story

Kreiz also talked about what it takes to succeed in today’s business world. He said that one of the most important things he learned over the years was to be prepared to acknowledge his mistakes and to correct them quickly – without dwelling on the past. “You failed? Correct it and move on. And that also applies to success. I don’t think it is right to dwell too much on what has happened because time changes very quickly. The important thing is to focus on the present and plan for the future, in accordance with the current situation. You can’t win every battle.  The important thing is to keep going.”


“It doesn’t matter what you are doing or at what level. You can always do things better, in a more innovative way. That’s the way to stand out and move forward.” – Ynon Kreiz


Kreiz said that despite his many years in the USA he still brings to his job traits that many perceive as Israeli. “I am a ‘tachles’ person–and you won’t find a word for it in English.  The closest I can think of is ‘goal-oriented’. I strive to define goals and to work to achieve them, to make things happen. I don’t know if that’s because I am Israeli, but that’s the way I am.”

Kreiz recommended to students in the audience that they plan their future with a focus on innovation. “It doesn’t matter what you are doing or at what level. You can always do things better, in a more innovative way. That’s the way to stand out and move forward.”


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