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Tag: Tel Aviv University

Talking Dugri at Tel Aviv University

Course brings Arab and Jewish students together to confront hard truths

In Israel, the word ‘dugri‘ is known to Jews and Arabs alike and means talking straight. Now, two Tel Aviv University (TAU) professors — one Arab, the other Jewish — have come together to offer a course called Dugri to help students grapple with the hard truths and trauma related to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis today.

“This is a war with many, many thousands of people getting killed and you can’t just ask students not to talk and express their feelings — that is the worst mistake,” says Youssef Masharawi, a professor from the Department of Physical Therapy who also chairs TAU’s Steering Committee for Arab Integration. 

Masharawi teaches the Dugri course alongside Uriel Abulof, a professor from the Department of Political Science. Both Masharawi and Abulof have previously helped run courses related to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, but this time they knew they would have to approach things differently and so they took dugri as their inspiration, including the “Let’s Talk Straight” video that went viral during the May 2021 violence.

 “We’re not patching up the animosities, we’re not patching up the harsh realities,” says Abulof.

“It’s all about the sort of frankness and openness Jews and Arabs are capable of and turning that into a foundation for a respectful and substantial conversation.” — Prof. Abulof.

About the Dugri Course

Rather than teach a traditional course over several weeks, Abulof and Masharawi opted for an intensive approach where sessions would be run from 10:00 to 18:00, giving students more time for deeper conversation. The for-credit course takes place over three separate days across June and July, with periods for reflection and academic assignments between classes.

Masharawi (right) and Abulof (center) with the Dugri class.

There are approximately 20 students in the class — half Arab and half Jewish — and they come from diverse academic disciplines and from around the region, including the Gaza area.  

To help facilitate the course, Masharawi and Abulof have put into place several house rules. For instance, students may reference anything said during the course at any time, but they must not name the person who said it — this mutual pact allows students to feel safer expressing their opinions and less afraid to say the wrong thing.

Other house rules include fairness, honesty and self-discipline, as well as mutual respect and listening. These priorities promote inclusion and allow for more critical thinking:

“Even if others don’t accept what a student is saying, they still have to stop and listen.” —  Prof. Masharawi.

“There’s really a lot of effort to let people talk calmly and very honestly,”  says Masharawi.

Three Intensive Days and Three Aspects of the Crisis

Each class is made up of several different sessions and organized around a unique theme pertaining to the crisis. For the first class on June 10, the theme was truth. Each student brought two news items with them: one they considered to be true and another they considered to be disinformation. Students also had to write up an academic rationale for each choice. 

Abulof and Masharawi (center) were joined on the first day of the Dugri course by two special guests: Adv. Reda Jaber, director of the Aman Center (right) and Rabbi Moshe Turgman (left).

The course furthermore began with a facilitated session where each student stood face-to-face and answered icebreaker questions with one another in a rotating line. “The face-to-face encounter, this is so hugely important,” says Abulof.

“I think throughout the day, we were able to sort of re-enact a more intellectual and emotional face-to-face encounter. We all at least tried to see the other person and be in line with dugri.”  — Prof. Abulof.

The second and third classes will be dedicated to the themes of trust and art, respectfully. “So much of the trust has gone away. You can’t sit in the same class, Arab and Jew, and not trust each other … trust needs to be the basis,” says Masharawi.

The Hope Behind Dugri

For both Masharawi and Abulof, there’s never been a more critical time to be holding this course. “There are good reasons to be truly worried,” reflects Abulof.

“But it is precisely in those moments that are the hardest, when the animosity is so high … if in those moments you can actually manage to see the individual human being before you, well that is a remarkable feat.” — Prof Abulof.

When it comes to this task, both emphasize that academia bears a responsibility in bringing about change.

“If, as a university, we aren’t able to discuss things here, then no other platform will be able to do this.” — Prof. Masharawi.

           “This is the platform, and this is the place where this should be happening,” says Masharawi.

At the same time, offering Dugri as a pilot course this year is only the beginning. “It’s a fateful time for us, and Tel Aviv University and other Israeli universities have a responsibility to cultivate much more of this sort of dialogue. I think we should exit the ivory tower as soon as we possibly can and really go into the community centers, the synagogues, the mosques and even the barber shops,” says Abulof.

Masharawi also envisions offering the course globally: “There’s a lot of hatred everywhere, because people no longer listen to each other,” he says.

“I would love to work together with universities around the world and do an international course where we let people talk and seek answers without all the fear.” — Prof. Masharawi.

 

Tel Aviv Conference: “The Future of Israel”

Will Israel’s 76th year be remembered as a crisis or an opportunity for growth?

June 19th, 2024Smolarz Auditorium, Tel Aviv University

The surprise attack on October 7th marked one of Israel’s toughest wars. This crisis has deeply impacted every aspect of citizens’ lives. How can we address internal divisions and global challenges as we move forward? The Tel Aviv Conference: Israel’s Future aims to tackle these questions, bringing together diverse perspectives to chart a path forward for Israeli society.

The “Tel Aviv Conference: Israel’s Future” is an initiative by TAU aimed to deeply discus these critical issues during these challenging times. Emphasizing where Israeli society stands today and what can be done to propel it forward, the conference seeks to expand and deepen the dialogue, drawing on relevant research and the multidisciplinary perspective characteristic of the university’s work. It aims to foster an open discussion involving representatives from various sectors of Israeli society and its leadership. The conference will include plenary sessions and roundtable discussions focusing on social, political, security, and economic aspects crucial to Israel’s future.

Join us for a conference that will host decision-makers, security experts, policy and international relations specialists, researchers, and cultural and intellectual figures in special interviews, lectures, panels, and discussions: President of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Ariel Porat, Israel’s Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai,  Former general and leader of Israel’s National Unity party Benny Gantz, the State Comptroller and Ombudsman of the State of Israel Matanyahu Englman, German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Rüdiger Seibert, CEO of Facebook (Meta) Israel Adi Soffer Teeni, former IDF deputy chief of staff and newly elected Labor Party leader Yair Golan, Chairman of the Ra’am party Dr. Mansour Abbas, Former Head of the Military Intelligence Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces Aharon Ze’evi Farkash & Former Commander of the Israel National Defense College and Military Academies Yossi Baidatz.

*The conference will be held in Hebrew.

**The number of places is limited and entry requires prior registration.

Main Tel Aviv University Stays Committed to Furthering Internationalization

TAU delegation participates in NAFSA 2024

From May 28 to 31, Tel Aviv University (TAU) participated in NAFSA 2024, held in New Orleans, the USA. Representing TAU were Sharon Ziv Kafri, Director of International Development; Konstantin Platonov, Director of Asia Engagement; and Roy Robinson, Director of the North American TAU Office. They joined other Israeli universities at the Study in Israel booth, showcasing the institution’s commitment to fostering global partnerships and international collaboration.

Strengthening Global Connections

NAFSA, the world’s largest association dedicated to international education, provided an ideal platform for TAU to engage with current and potential partners. TAU has been a regular participant in NAFSA for many years, and this year’s participation was particularly crucial.

“It was important for TAU to be there to continue the conversation with partners and to build new partnerships. The role of academia now more than ever is to be a bridge between countries,” — Sharon Ziv Kafri, Director of International Development

Ziv Kafri also highlighted the importance of face-to-face interactions during such times: “People really want to know how we are and what is happening at university. Being in the same location allows us to get to know our partners, network, and form new partnerships.”

Engaging with Partners Across the Globe

The TAU delegation met with existing partners from various countries, including Korea, Japan, China, India, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, and the USA. These meetings were pivotal in discussing the future of these partnerships and exploring ways to elevate them to the next level.

Konstantin Platonov and Sharon Ziv Kafri with representatives from Osnabrueck University in Germany 

Additionally, TAU seized the opportunity to initiate conversations with universities it has not yet partnered with. These initial discussions aimed to identify mutual areas of interest and potential collaboration.

As Konstantin Platonov comments, “We managed to build some very prospective connections and negotiate several new exchange programs with the Republic of Korea and Japan.” 

We are happy that our Asian partners are highly supportive and committed to strengthening relations with Israel.” — Konstantin Platonov, Director of Asia Engagement

Highlight Events and Discussions

NAFSA 2024 featured several events that the TAU delegation took part in. These included, for instance, the Symposium on Leadership: Reinventing Internationalization, which focused on adapting new approaches to internationalization to institutional contexts and beyond, Monash University Lunch, which addressed the current challenges of internationalization, and a Science Po Breakfast, where participants discussed managing large-scale exchange programs and Science Po’s international strategy across its campuses.

“It’s a great way to interact with people who do similar jobs and to build personal connections, which is very important.” — Sharon Ziv Kafri.

One of the important takeaways highlighted the value of building strong ties between an international office and a research authority, as they can propel internationalization efforts.

TAU representatives also attended events with Notre Dame University, Baden-Wurtenberg universities, and the State University of New York (SUNY). These gatherings were invaluable for sharing knowledge and experiences in the field of university internationalization.

Community and Collaboration

In addition to academic and professional engagements, TAU sponsored a Jewish community gathering in collaboration with other Israeli universities. This event fostered a sense of community and shared purpose among the participants, leading to the establishment of new connections. 

Israeli delegation at the Study in Israel booth at NAFSA

Platonov elaborates: “We met a representative of a prestigious Japanese university who joined the gathering because her partner is Jewish. We quickly identified several gravity points and agreed to explore institutional cooperation and student exchange.”

Looking Forward

TAU’s presence at NAFSA 2024 underscored its dedication to global engagement and academic collaboration. As the university navigates current events and challenges, such platforms remain instrumental in sustaining and expanding its international presence. TAU continues to embody the spirit of academic diplomacy, building bridges and forging partnerships that transcend borders.

Faculty of Exact Sciences Symposium: Exact Sciences: Igniting Tomorrow’s Innovations

Dr. Adi Ashkenazi from the Department of Particle Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy

Last week, Tel Aviv University hosted the symposium, “Exact Sciences: Igniting Tomorrow’s Innovations,” attracting a packed audience. The event explored the pivotal role of TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences in shaping the foundational pillars of science and technology to address 21st-century challenges.

In his opening remarks, TAU Rector Prof. Mark Shtaif emphasized the profound impact of scientific advances on society and technology.

Exact Sciences Dean Prof. Tova Milo presented the Faculty, emphasizing its remarkable standing and its commitment to excellence. She acknowledged the challenging times for students and faculty during wartime and the accelerating international academic boycott of Israel. Prof. Milo highlighted the paramount importance of both internal and external support for students and researchers to maintain a semblance of normalcy and resilience, for the sake of Israel’s future.

Eyal Waldman, recipient of the 2024 Israel Prize for Entrepreneurship and special guest speaker, shared insights during an interview with Prof. Michal Feldman from the Blavatnik School of Computer Science. Waldman expressed immense pride in receiving the award, attributing it to the collective efforts of thousands who have worked alongside him. Waldman emphasized the critical role of innovation and entrepreneurship in bolstering Israel’s economy, highlighting high-tech exports’ significant contribution. Waldman also spoke about the role of AI in our lives, noting that AI is penetrating all aspects of our existence and making technology increasingly indispensable. He discussed the need for developing smarter, faster, and more intelligent hardware to support future applications. Additionally, Waldman underscored the importance of using secure and reliable data for machine learning, as well as the obligation to prevent manipulation of AI decisions for personal benefits.

The symposium included TED talks by leading faculty members, delving into technological and scientific challenges in their respective fields. Topics ranged from “Statistics in the Age of AI” by Prof. Saharon Rosset, School of Mathematical Sciences, and “AI in 2024: What’s Current and What’s Next?” by Prof. Lior Wolf, Blavatnik School of Computer Science, to “Mobility of the Future: Challenges and New Capabilities” by Dr. Bat-hen Nahmias-Biran, Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences & School of Social and Policy Studies;  “Quantum Materials” by Prof. Moshe Ben Shalom, School of Physics and Astronomy; and an overview of the latest research from the School of Chemistry by Prof. Yuval Ebenstein.

 

 

Bearing Witness from the Eye of a Hurricane

Documenting tragedy and life after October 7

Documenting tragedy and life after October 7

Whether one thinks about October 7, about the ongoing war, or about the global rise in antisemitism, it’s hard not to feel in the middle of a hurricane, as Eden Golan so bravely and beautifully sang. But what does it mean to be in the middle of this tragic hurricane? And how can we bear witness to it all? 

For answers to these complicated questions, we turn to two experts from Tel Aviv University’s (TAU’s) international MFA Degree in Documentary Cinema. In the coming academic year, they will be teaching new courses touching on the relationship between documentary filmmaking and conflict. Notably, the MFA’s courses are continually updated based on the most pressing issues of our time.

Tami Liberman


Tami Liberman, a lecturer in the English-speaking documentary cinema MFA program, leads a workshop called “Ethnographic Film in Past and Present Conflicts.”

What role can documentary filmmaking play during a time of war and conflict?

In the ethnographic film workshop taught in our program, film is discussed from an anthropological perspective, as a medium that excels in providing experiential knowledge rather than analytical knowledge. Meaning, it can allow us to sense the experience of another person, at times even from the other side of a conflict we take part in.

Film can restore humanity or be a reminder of humanism in times when people are most aggressively dehumanized. Moreover, it’s a great platform for the promotion of critical thinking.

Can a documentary film made during a time of conflict ever truly be objective? Why or why not?

Objectivity is a complex and problematized expectation from documentary film at any time. I feel that the central issue in times of conflict is that of ethics: how do we get our information? In what kind of predicament are we finding our protagonists and how does that affect their consent? And when documenting a violent conflict, what can and cannot be shown on screen, and how do we document suffering?

What’s a lesson we can learn from a previous documentary about conflict or war? 

In the 2019 film Midnight Traveler, which is a self-documentation of a family’s escape from Afghanistan and their experience as asylum seekers in Europe, there is a moment that the young daughter of the family suddenly disappears. 

Her father, Hassan Fazili, the director of the film, describes in a monologue accompanied by a sombre shot of the moon in a dark sky, the harrowing moments of searching.

He describes how, when he was looking through the bushes, a flash of thought rushed through his mind: “What a scene you’re in. This will be the best scene in the film. Maybe you should turn on the camera.” 

Another glimpse of a thought follows in which, for a few seconds, he imagines finding his daughter Zahra’s body with the camera on. “How much I hated myself for that,” he says as the shot tilts down from the moon into complete darkness, “I hated cinema.” Then he adds “Zahra was found” and the film cuts from the black screen to a shot of Zahra laughing. This scene to me is such a sincere, humble and compelling lesson in documentary filmmaking, both in content and form.

I share the scene with students in my class with the hope that they not only remember the power of turning the camera on, but also the power of turning it off.

What stories need to be told right now?

I’m not sure that it’s for me to say. I can’t envision all the stories that are out there in the world waiting to be told, especially with a genre too wonderfully reliant on reality to be fully premeditated.

What’s important is that they are told and that people’s subjective experiences continue to be represented, especially in the face of attempts to control and censor such representations.

Dan Arav

Dan Arav teaches a seminar in TAU’s international documentary cinema MFA program called “Docu-trauma: War and Memory in Israeli Documentary Cinema.” 

What role can documentary filmmaking play during a time of war and conflict?

Documentary filmmaking is usually done from a certain time perspective. And yet, in the face of a long-lasting war, and certainly in the face of an ongoing conflict, documentary cinema has several roles.

Being based on the personal vision of its creators, documentary cinema must provide a personal and interpretive position in relation to the harsh reality, while placing that reality in an additional and even different context than the one mediated by the central mechanisms of consciousness in society: the government, the education system and mass media channels.

Can a documentary film made during a time of conflict ever truly be objective? Why or why not?

Documentary cinema in general, and during war in particular, must give up the pretense of being objective.

It must strive for truth and integrity, and at the same time illuminate the reality in a personal way: one that seeks to illuminate the story of the conflict from a surprising, unfamiliar and sometimes even challenging angle.

What’s a lesson we can learn from a previous documentary about conflict or war? 

It is difficult to pinpoint a lesson that can be learned in real time. As has been said, documentary cinema usually offers an opportunity for the revelation of reality and the creation of a new consciousness in relation to the past.

The documentary Censored Voices, for example, returns to the Six Day War 50 years after its occurrence and reveals an alternative discourse – a discourse that took place in real time on the margins. This discourse was censored due to its incompatibility with the prevailing discourse at that time. A film of this type, which deals with a distant and forgotten war, may, perhaps, promote an alternative way of thinking also in relation to conflicts closer in time.

What stories need to be told right now?

The stories that need to be told today are, in my opinion, personal stories, stories that go beyond the rut of consciousness dictated from above. Stories that provide a broad perspective about reality and develop critical thinking.

Connecting International Researchers with Cutting-Edge Engineering Programs and Labs

TAU’s First Prospective Student Week for Engineers

At the end of May, the TAU Faculty of Engineering hosted its first Prospective Student Week, welcoming international participants eager to explore academic and research opportunities at TAU. With a focus on graduate and postgraduate programs, the event provided a comprehensive overview of the university.

Early career researchers hailing from Italy, the US, the UK, and China met with the dean and vice deans, talked to potential academic advisors from among the faculty, toured the campus, and also walked around Tel Aviv and Yafo to get the ultimate Tel Aviv experience.

At the Forefront of Innovation

Diverse in its scope and offerings, the Faculty of Engineering stands as the largest and foremost institution of its kind in Israel, housing five schools in key areas of engineering: electrical, mechanical, industrial, biomedical, and materials science. Over 120 globally renowned scientists and engineers lead pioneering research projects across a spectrum of fields, ranging from cyber and artificial intelligence to renewable energy and nanotechnology.

One of the engineering labs

International research students can join any of the departments since all master’s and PhD-level courses are taught fully in English, so proficiency in Hebrew is not a prerequisite for enrollment. This year, the Faculty is launching two new international MSc programs in Biomedical and Environmental Engineering, which are currently accepting applications from outstanding engineering majors worldwide.

Participants of the Prospective Students Week during their Tel Aviv tour

Notably, the Faculty of Engineering offers generous scholarships to international applicants which cover the tuition fees and provide a substantial stipend aligned with the cost of living in Tel Aviv. Additionally, international PhD students and postdocs have ample opportunities to find employment on campus, such as teaching assistant positions.

Where Innovation Happens

Central to the week’s agenda were immersive lab tours, offering participants firsthand insights into the cutting-edge research underway within the Faculty of Engineering.

Prof Tal Carmon talking about his research

Prof. Tal Carmon showcased his team’s work in the field of electrical engineering, building inexpensive and easy-to-use lasers that are indispensable for submarine navigation. He also emphasized international collaborations in optics with researchers from Japan and Germany.

For Xiaoxi Xu of Foshan University, the allure of pursuing a PhD in optical engineering at TAU stems from a recommendation by her current research advisor, who fondly recalls his own tenure as a post-doctoral fellow at the university. Likewise, Huiyuan Sun, an AI engineer from China, echoes the sentiment, citing positive reviews of TAU’s academic programs.

In the Environmental Materials and Processes Lab

In Prof Ines Zucker’s lab, the participants got to learn about designing and testing materials and processes for environmental applications, the main focus of the lab. Some of the lab’s projects address issues such as water treatment using innovative absorbent materials or advanced oxidation processes. Lab researchers are also actively investigating the potential environmental risks and implications of using various nanomaterials. 

Prof. Vladimir Popov talking detailing the 3D printing process 

Introducing international students to the 3D printing lab, Prof Vladimir Popov showed the equipment the team operates to create and test metal alloys that can then be used for various purposes, including repairing jet turbine blades or printing various objects.

Finally, Prof Brian Rosen took the participants to his two labs where researchers develop unique nano-materials that allow for easier and more efficient production and storage of energy in portable fuel cells. 

Prof. Brian Rosen explains how nano-materials are used in fuel cells

For Pietro Rosatti, who is currently finishing his PhD at the University of Trento, familiarity with TAU’s research output in his field of electromagnetics solidifies his decision to explore academic opportunities at the university: “I think there is a very strong community in my field”. 

Similarly, Joshua Feldman from the University of Illinois contemplates a future in Israel, drawn by the prospect of continuing his research in mechanical engineering at TAU.

From the Lab to the Market

Concluding the lab tours, Prof. Brian Rosen, Vice Dean for International Affairs, highlighted TAU’s robust ecosystem for technology transfer and entrepreneurship. TAU faculty enjoy comprehensive support by the TAU Ventures and the Israeli Innovation Authority. Moreover, there is easy access to leading tech companies based in Tel Aviv, empowering students and faculty members to translate research insights into real-world applications. 

TAU is consistently ranked highly for entrepreneurship and is the only non-US university to enter the top 10 for the number of startups and unicorns launched by university graduates. Engineering faculty members working closely with PhD students and postdocs have established many successful startups, which is a further testament to the quality and relevance of research conducted at the faculty.  

The Prospective Student Week at TAU Faculty of Engineering successfully showcased the university’s commitment to excellence in education and research. By fostering an environment of innovation and collaboration, TAU continues to attract top talent from around the globe. With its cutting-edge facilities, distinguished faculty, and vibrant academic community, TAU stands as a beacon of engineering excellence, poised to shape the future of technology and innovation.

Learn more about open research positions,  MSc and PhD options at the Faculty of Engineering

Grand Opening: TAU’s Innovative Nanotech Frontier

TAU Proudly Opens its New Nanotech Center

Tel Aviv University pioneered the Israeli nanoscience field with the establishment of The Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 

The inauguration of the Roman Abramovich Building for Nano and Quantum Science & Technology and the Jan Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology took place during the events of the annual Board of Governors (BOG24). The new building has taken quite a route, but it was worth the wait. It is a marvel of architecture and science not just for our campus, not just for Israel, but also for the world.

From left:TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, former TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter, and Ms. Rola Brentlin cutting the ribbon of the Nano building entrance (photo: Israel Hadari)

“Although this journey has already gone on for ten years, today is really just the beginning. We are grateful for having played a role in seeing this center come to life, but we now look forward to seeing the progress, contributions and results that will come out of here.”  Rola Brentlin.

“Although this journey has already gone on for ten years, today is really just the beginning. We are grateful for having played a role in seeing this center come to life, but we now look forward to seeing the progress, contributions and results that will come out of here,” said Rola Brentlin, the representative of Roman Abramovich. .

TAU’s Koum Center is one of the top research institutions in Israel for nanotechnology. Its new location spans three floors and 8,000 square meters. This esteemed facility signals a new era for nanotechnology research both at TAU and generally in Israel.

“Everything here was designed for the next generation of researchers” – Prof. Tal Dvir, Director of the Jan Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

The entrance lobby of the Roman Abramovich Building for Nano and Quantum Science & Technology

“Everything here was designed for the next generation of researchers,” said Prof. Tal Dvir, Director of the Jan Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. The Center comprises 126 research teams in diverse fields and is promoting fruitful academia-industry ties through extensive, long-term collaborative projects with over 35 industrial partners from Israel and worldwide.

A Journey of Innovation and Architecture

The Abramovich Building marks a new era in nanotechnology. Its ground floor, housing Israel’s largest clean room, is where nanomaterials and cutting-edge nanotechnologies are crafted and characterized, symbolizing the fusion of form and function at the forefront of scientific advancement.

“We thought about the future when we designed this building” –  Prof. Tal Dvir.

The project showcases a 1650 square meter basement housing an advanced sub-fab facility meeting stringent vibration standards for its electron microscopes.

“The building is also tied to multidisciplinary research and tech innovation while intensifying industry collaboration and forming new connections between the scientific world and society at large, and helping to maintain hand in hand israel’s standing forefront of scientific and technological progress” – Prof. Ariel Porat

From left: Prof. Tal Dvir, TAU VP Amos Elad, President of The Koun Family Foundation Yana Kalika, and Prof. Porat unveiling the sign for the Koum Center (photo Israel Hadari).

Advancing Research and Collaboration

The building will house thirty scientists working on nanotechnology solutions across various disciplines, including engineering, exact sciences, life sciences, and medical sciences. Exciting projects at Tel Aviv University include Professor Dan Peer’s nanobots that target and destroy cancer cells in the bloodstream and Professor Yael Hanein’s devices that integrate with the retina to restore vision for the blind.

The scientists at the Koum Center and Abramovich building are creating pioneering devices and drugs that will directly improve our lives by leading to better health care, faster and safer communications systems, a cleaner environment, enhanced national security, smarter products and more efficient energy use.

The exterior of the Roman Abramovich Building for Nano and Quantum Science & Technology

TAU Trip to the Gaza Envelope: Solemn, Yet Essential Experience

Lowy International graduate students witness firsthand the aftermath of October 7th.

In early May, Conflict Resolution & Mediation and Security & Diplomacy MA students embarked on a visit to the Gaza Envelope, including the Nova festival site and the now-infamous “car cemetery,” to witness firsthand the aftermath of October 7th. 

For Dalia Gabay, who is studying Conflict Resolution & Mediation, it was a solemn yet essential experience that brought the reality of this conflict to light. Gabay has shared her account of the trip:

However close or involved one has felt to that day’s horrific events and ensuing war by merely being in Israel or through media coverage and seminars, this trip offered a stark reminder of the profound devastation and ongoing heartbreak experienced by Israel’s southern communities and families. 

“Our tour guide, Colonel Grisha Yakubovich, who served in the IDF, concluding his military service in 2016 as the head of C.O.G.A.T. (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), met us at the Yad Mordechai intersection. He continues to facilitate cooperative enterprises between Israelis and Palestinians and his wealth of knowledge, expertise and personal anecdotes, offered us a realistic insight into the complexities of life and relations across the region for both communities.

Colonel Grisha Yakubovich, the tour guide

Yair, born and raised at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (aptly named after Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising) and now a father of four, showed us around Moshav Netiv HaAsara, just 400 meters away from the Gaza Strip.

Yair talking about Moshav Netiv HaAsara

Inevitably, the moshav was severely hit on October 7, with some 24 residents massacred. The moshav has been deserted but the bullet-ridden walls, trees and disheveled remnants of the attack were enough to communicate the sheer terror of that fateful day; the fear was palpable.

Yair shared tales of unimaginable tragedy and bravery from these close-knit communities, including his own. His kibbutz had prepared for such an event and quickly mobilized as soon as the red alert sirens sounded at around 6:30 AM. “It felt different that day,” he recounted.

While he sat armed in his living room, ready to defend his family locked in the adjoining safe room, the kibbutz security team repelled the terrorist attack at the gate and successfully chased the perpetrators away. 

At Netiv HaAsara, he showed us the shelter where a father sacrificed his own life to shield his two sons from the impact of a hand grenade. The boys narrowly escaped being kidnapped and survived the harrowing ordeal.

This is the stuff of legends: October 7th bestowed heroism upon individuals who will forever remain ingrained in Israel’s collective memory. 

Yair’s poignant account of life for Israeli residents in the Gazan Envelope, where enduring PTSD from relentless rocket attacks over 16 years is commonplace, will stay with me forever. Their remarkable resilience shines through, yet it’s disheartening to hear how these communities have endured such extreme and volatile conditions for so long, while the government and wider Israeli society appear to observe with almost complacent indifference.

I sincerely hope that the end of this war will bring them much needed solace and pave the way for a return to the peaceful, idyllic life that Yair fondly remembers from his childhood in the region.

Israel’s own “ground zero” where Sderot’s police station once stood, was completely destroyed in the aftermath of Hamas’ invasion and murderous rampage.

Sderot’s police station

Plans are underway for a memorial to honor the lives lost and serve as a lasting reminder of October 7th. 

A playground in Sderot

In Sderot, we also visited a children’s playground that’s been adapted to train, and protect youngsters from barrages of rocket attacks. This is the sad reality of Israel’s southern citizens. 

A shelter in Sderot

A nearby shelter ended up the final resting place of fleeing Nova festival goers, including Shani Gabay, who happens to share my surname. May her memory forever be a blessing.

The car cemetery

 The scene at the “car cemetery,” where burnt and damaged vehicles lay, many with occupants inside, was haunting.

The images captured the terror inflicted upon innocent civilians during this unprecedented attack.

Our journey concluded at Re’im, the Nova festival site, where makeshift memorials were tended to by grieving parents and friends.

Memorials at the Nova festival site

It left many of us in tears as we headed home, somberly reflecting on all that we had witnessed throughout the day.”  

“Personally, I needed to go on this trip. The trip reinforced my commitment to my studies in the hope that I’ll be able to contribute in some way towards a peaceful future for all Israelis and Palestinians in our shared land.”

 Text and pictures by Dalia Gabay

“If Then There Was a Rebuilding of Personal and National Lives, So Shall It Happen Again”

Professor Dina Porat’s Remarks at the Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at TAU

The Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, honoring the survivors of the Holocaust and commemorating its victims, took place on the Tel Aviv University campus, attended by a large audience of students, faculty, administrative staff, and other guests. The sentiment was that this year, more than ever, it is crucial to recount and commemorate what happened to our brothers and sisters. Alongside this, to illustrate the extensive number of those abducted and remaining captive in Gaza, the audience stood up and counted together up to 132. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

“We have no right to forget, no authority to forgive, and we are committed to testify and document”

Prof. Eyal Zisser, the University’s Vice Rector, delivered opening remarks: “Every year at this time, and especially this year, once again we find that the modesty of words fail to convey the magnitude of horror and the extent of loss. There are no words capable of explaining and no language capable of containing. It happened! For millions, millions of real people, Jews like you and me, like us, whose only sin was being Jewish. In our distress, we find solace in the elevation of stories of bravery and humanity who were like scattered beacons in the fields of darkness and death. Even today, we continue to draw strength from these stories and learn about the sanctity of life, determination, and resilience – qualities that human beings are capable of even in the face of the most horrific circumstances”.

“This year, an additional dimension of pain is added to this day, under the shadow of the war we have been in since the terror attack on October 7, in which Jews were slaughtered in a manner and scale we had not known since the Holocaust. The call ‘Never again’ reverberates as a cornerstone of our existence here, on this land, uniting us in a shared destiny that will not be erased. Here we are, hurting, sad, longing, but still standing tall and proud, continuing to say ‘Never again.’ However, we cannot define ourselves solely as the Jewish phoenix, rising and falling, rising from the ashes. As we face the challenges at the forefront of Israel’s development, we must continue to build and establish a democratic society and a rich culture here. Thus, we will ensure that here, in the flourishing enterprise in the land of our forefathers, the Jewish people will merit defense and security, and will continue to grow, develop, and be an example for the nations of the world”.

 

פרופ' אייל זיסר ואיריס בן משה

Prof. Eyal Zisser and Iris Ben-Moshe

“In their deaths, they commanded us to have hope”

Danielle Zilber, Chair of the Student Union, urged the student body to remember their role as the future of the State of Israel.

Part of the significance of remembering the fallen is to carry their lost hopes… We must not only remember but remind, remind the world of the horrors that occurred and not let them forget no matter how much time has passed since the Holocaust. In the name of the fallen, we sit here today, with the lost hope of 6 million of our brothers and sisters. In their name we say never again, and in their name, we have to remember.

A Lighthouse in the Darkness of the Holocaust

David Gur, an activist in the underground Zionist movements in Hungary and currently chairman of the Association for the Study of Zionist Youth Movements in Hungary, took the stage with his granddaughter.

.I am 98 years old. During the war, I was 18, younger than all of you. Today, I came to speak about hope and heroism, not about victims, pain, and loss

Thanks to the activity of the underground in which he participated, the lives of thousands of Jews were saved, as they provided documents and ensured food and shelter for many orphaned children. ‘I am grateful that I was part of the unique and immense rescue operation of the Zionist Youth Movement underground in Hungary. The existence of the underground, the bravery of young Jews facing terrifying forces, deserves to be heard and remembered as part of the sources of the Jewish people, and to pass on their story as an example of resistance, a struggle to save Jews, and unity in rescue actions and unity of hope, inspiration, and lessons for generations to come’.

 

דוד גור ונכדתו

David Gur and granddaughter 

The Bigger the Crime, the Deeper the Denial

Professor Dina Porat, the leading historian of ‘Yad Vashem’ and professor emeritus in the Jewish History Department at Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute., shared the personal tragedy that happened to her family residing in communities surrounding Israel and asked three questions about which every one of us will need to think about how to answer.

“This Holocaust Remembrance Day, it seems that all of us feel very differently from the previous ones. The events of October 7th immediately raised a series of associations and memories of realities and testimonies that had long become a collective memory. The word ‘Holocaust’ to describe the murder of Jews by the Nazis and their helpers was not chosen by a committee or an academic institution. Its use arose spontaneously from the public, and not by chance: it is a biblical expression, describing a natural force that suddenly appears, unexpectedly, without prior knowledge, without preparation. Not only did the word ‘Holocaust’ and not only did the associations arise immediately, but also questions that have accompanied us since the Holocaust, and perhaps we can draw on the experience accumulated since then.

“The first question: How did they approach the work of memory and commemoration? How did they collect tens of thousands of testimonies from dozens of countries in different languages, and consolidate them to one place- at Yad Vashem? Now, the sharp question arises, given the vast proliferation of communication and photography tools, documentation, and broadcasting – if an effort is not made to collect at least copies of all the testimonies that are heard and broadcast in the media in Israel and around the world, why what happened on October 7th, in one place, there will not be a complete picture in the future.

“The second question: Since the Holocaust ended, denial began immediately, and in fact, the Germans began to hide evidence while it was happening. The attempt teaches that the size of the crime is indeed the depth of the denial, and so is the immediacy of the denial. Not only the Holocaust but many other crimes were being denied, because denial aids forgetfulness, both stem from the same root, and it helps escape punishment. The first book to deny the Holocaust was published as early as 1945, and after October 7th, we didn’t have time to turn around and already began talking about the fact that there is no evidence and it is not possible.

“The third question: Is it appropriate to celebrate during and after a disaster? In March 1943, 80 years ago, the students at the Hebrew University debated whether to hold the traditional Purim carnival and just a few months after became known that the killing of Jews was systematic. Also, in Dalia Kibbutz, they asked what should happen to the dance festival. Today we also debated what to do on Purim and Passover, and next week on Independence Day. So, both then and today, two parallel paths were created, with anger and sorrow on the side, the ongoing life, and the marking of holidays and festivals, maybe as a matter of fact, especially life.

“Since that terrible day, so many young flowers have been buried, too many young ones, and therefore, with all the sorrow, it was decided to continue forward, to look ahead, to volunteer. Close to two thousand survivors left their homes on October 7th, over five hundred of them from the surrounding area. There is no uniform response among the survivors to the events, each one responds to you in their own way, but some of them say: there is no doubt that it was a terrible day, with severe consequences in every aspect of our lives, but the comparison to the Holocaust is not one to one, and the comparers know this, because with all the pain and the associations, it is clear even to those who use the word Holocaust that this is a completely different event in its scope. And if then there was a renewal of life and a rebuilding of personal and national lives after the Holocaust, there will also be this time. Not tomorrow and not even the day after tomorrow, but there will be.”

The Center for Russian Studies at Tel Aviv University has begun its work

The “Chubays Project” at TAU turned out to be scientific, it will deal with the history of Russia to study its future

The Center for Russian Studies (CRS) at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tel Aviv University has begun its work. On April 16, there was a presentation of the launch report of the new center – Russian Future Initiative. Contrary to its name, the project appears surprisingly non-political. In order to talk more or less seriously about Russia’s future, CRS intends to deal with the recent history of Russia – economic, political, social, and cultural. The period that interests CRS is from 1991, when the collapse of the USSR occurred and Russia appeared as a separate state, to the present day.

In Russia and Israel, the media has already reported that one of Israel’s universities intends to create a CRS on the funds of Israeli and Russian sponsors-entrepreneurs. Anatoly Chubays, a well-known Russian reformer and former Russian government vice-premier, as previously reported by JP, repatriated to Israel in May 2022. However, the assumptions that a think tank would be created in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Beersheba to prepare scenarios for new reforms in the so-called “post-Putin” period were unfounded. The CSR presentation was purely academic, and Anatoly Chubays is only mentioned as the organizer of the group of sponsors of the new center, whose task is a comprehensive study of Russia’s possible future based on the analysis of the events of its recent past.

Social Sciences Instead of Futurology

In Israeli social science, there are already several centers studying Russia, including on the TAU Faculty of Social Sciences and other faculties. Israeli historians, economists, sociologists, culture experts, and specialists on Jewish community life in Russia and the former USSR are well-known in professional circles and in Russia and the world. Academic science in this sense has no boundaries; Russian Studies have been widespread since the 1950s, the beginning of the “Cold War,” primarily in US and European universities. However, CRS is likely the only Israeli scientific center currently studying the last 30 years of Russian history. As it became clear during the presentation, working on these topics between Russia’s history and the present will be more scholars involved in contemporary research than historians – part of them will work in Tel Aviv, part in Russia and Europe. For example, Victor Vakhshtayn, a sociologist and former dean of the Sociology Faculty at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, will continue his research in the field of social capital studies within the CRS project. Alexander Baunov, a political scientist and author of the popular 2023 book “The End of the Regime: How Three European Dictatorships Ended,” currently working and the Berlin Carnegie Center and as visiting researcher at the Florence University Institute, will continue his research on the structure of Russian elites. Dmitry Butrin, an economist and economic editor of the Moscow “Kommersant,” is an economist in the CRS project. Finally, from Moscow, within the CRS project, cultural studies of Russian culture will be conducted by literary scholar Alexander Arkhangelsky, who continues his work on a series of Russian documentary films.

Over the five years that the CRS initiative is planned, it is assumed that other researchers from Israel, Russia, and other countries will join – the authors of the initial report hint that representatives of other social sciences, such as international relations, may also be involved. The main idea of the research, however, primarily involves working together among CRS staff and working within interdisciplinary research. As the center’s staff explains, which, as it turned out, has been working at TAU’s Faculty of Social Sciences under the leadership of professor Itai Sened since February, the latest Russian history now looks quite unusual in scientific description. There are several “histories of Russia” since 1991, almost none of which are related to each other. One is the history of changes in Russian society at the elementary level. Several others are different parts of the economic histories of the huge populated country, which has appeared as a successfully reforming economy, a backward world gas station, a kingdom of state capitalism, and a battleground for warring oligarchs and siloviki since 1991. Finally, there is the history of the transformation of Russian culture in all its layers – from the return of religion to it to new cults of strength and aggression.

These parts are challenging to reconcile with each other even in publicist descriptions. However, the declared task of CRS is to approach the possibility of “understanding Russia” in its new form in a purely academic sense. In this model, the “cultural” component will not contradict the “political,” and social development will not contradict the economic. CRS assumes that this is the only way to speak reliably about what can and cannot happen to Russia in the foreseeable future because, at least since 2012-2014, forecasts about what would happen in Moscow even next year have usually turned out poorly. And the war with Ukraine, the political protests of 2012, and the current economic upswing have become unexpected for researchers.

However, the same, emphasize the researchers of CRS, can now be said about any other country in the world – quick and bright forecasts, let alone politically engaged ones, attract attention but are just as quickly forgotten. In any case, part of the political sector of neither Israel nor Russia will become the “Chubays Center” in such a composition and with such a research program. However, Tel Aviv University is getting new research team whose answer to the question “What is happening in Russia?” may be more fundamental than before.

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