In the midst of Operation Protective Edge, the ATS sent a delegation to Israel to show solidarity and support for Israel and the Technion. The high-level trip, which took place from August 11-13, provided an insider’s account of the conflict and its impact on the Technion campus and its people. The following three messages were written by Technion International Board of Governors Chairman Larry Jackier and ATS President Scott Leemaster, who, together, headed the delegation.
Monday, August 11:
Greetings from Haifa.
Our special American Technion Society Solidarity Delegation to Israel officially began last night, with a dinner and reception with members of the Technion administration at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa. Among those who joined us was President Peretz Lavie, and we were greatly moved when he thanked us and said that it was especially fitting for this gathering of the ATS/Technion family to begin on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av (known as the “holiday of love”), because our mission is one of love, solidarity and friendship to the Technion and Israel.
Today, we learned from Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development Boaz Golany about the effects of the current conflict on the Technion campus, students and faculty. We also toured the campus, and saw tangible ways that the American Technion Society is helping protect our Technion family. We visited labs, where we met brilliant faculty and students helping keep all of Israel safe. And we are learning what is already being done, what remains to be done, and about how we can best stand shoulder to shoulder with our Israeli and Technion family and friends.
We still have many things to do, see and learn over the coming days, and will do our best to keep you updated here and across the ATS communications channels. Thank you for your support, and for following along as we demonstrate our commitment to peace, prosperity and the future of the Technion and Israel.
Tuesday, August 12:
Today’s schedule began with a riveting panel presentation at the Dan Carmel Hotel about the effects of the current conflict on Technion students, including the 600 to 700 serving on active duty, and the 350 who are from towns in Israel’s south. Moderated by Sara Katzir, director of the Beatrice Weston Unit for the Advancement of Students, the panel included three students serving on active duty, and another from Israel’s south who has not been called up to serve because of a previous injury.
Helping students with the transitions that occur in times of conflict is one of the main functions of Sara and her team. The Technion, she says, has a high percentage of officers in Israel’s armed forces. And since officers are not allowed to postpone or shorten their reserve duty, abrupt transitions become the norm: “One day you are studying for an exam and worrying about your average. The next day you are on the frontline. And when the war is over, back to studies as if you were never away,” she said.
Assaf Z., a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, and a major in the Israel Defense Forces armored corps, spoke highly of the Beatrice Weston Unit and the Technion Reservist Student Support Fund, saying that, “…the Technion leads the way in helping and supporting soldiers who do reserve duty. It leads the country, and Sara and her team are national role models.”
Ohad M., an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Computer Engineering, has been staying at his family’s home in Moshav Bat Hadar near Ashkelon since the start of the war to take care of his younger siblings while his parents go out to work. Ashkelon has been hammered constantly by rocket fire from Gaza. Ohad said that Iron Dome— developed by a team comprised mainly of Technion graduates— is making a tremendous difference in the south: “Before Iron Dome it was bingo. We had no real protection.”
Hearing the students’ stories and knowing that ATS support is so critical served to emphasize the importance of this delegation. And the feelings of solidarity run both ways. On behalf of the students, Sara said. “We know that we are not alone when we see you here and feel your support … Thank you for being here and for listening.”
While we’re here in a time of crisis, we were also reminded this morning of the Technion’s seminal contributions to the betterment of the world though science and medicine. During our tour of the Technion Integrative Cancer Research Center in the Technion Faculty of Medicine, we heard presentations from Profs. Amir Orian and Gera Neufeld (from the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology) about the groundbreaking and lifesaving cancer research being conducted there.
After our departure from the Technion, we visited the Neve David Cemetery in Haifa, for a brief memorial service at the grave of Sean Carmeli, an IDF “Lone Soldier” from Texas who was killed in the current conflict. Surely he is a shining example of what it means to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel.
Our afternoon agenda included a meeting at the Tel Aviv offices of Elbit, where we met Technion graduate Haim Rousso, Executive Vice President for Engineering and Technology Excellence, and General Reserve Shuki Shichrur, Deputy Commander of the Northern Command, who assisted the Commander of the Southern Command during Operation Protective Edge.
Before arriving at our hotel in Tel Aviv, we stopped at Tel Hashomer Hospital to visit wounded soldiers recuperating in the rehabilitative wing. We brought hugs and gifts and said thank you for defending Israel for the Jewish people in the U.S. and around the world.
And at dinner in Tel Aviv, guest speaker Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, offered his views and commentary on the current and complex events in the Middle East.
We’ve experienced much over the past day and a half, but there is still more for us to see, do and learn. Tomorrow, we will spend time in Israel’s south, the region most affected by this conflict. It will surely give us an even deeper understanding of what it means to be in solidarity with our Israeli and Technion family and friends.
Thank you for your support, and for following along as we demonstrate our commitment to peace, prosperity and the future of the Technion and Israel.
Wednesday, August 13:
Our final day in Israel began with breakfast and a dialogue with Alon Ben-David, the senior defense correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10, who provided us with an insider’s view of the region’s political and security situation. He also shared Israel’s strategic challenges during Operation Protective Edge.
As has been the case throughout the mission, we saw and experienced things today that filled us with wonder, emotion and pride. Experiences that have forever changed us.
We visited an Iron Dome missile-defense battery in Ashdod, and it was awe-inspiring to actually see the system that has saved so may lives – with the knowledge that it was designed by a group comprised largely of Technion graduates.
In Moshav Netiv HaAssara (located on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip), we met with two residents who shared the daily struggles they and others face with constant rocket fire and complex security issues while trying to live their lives.
We visited Sderot, another town in the south. At the police station, we saw a huge collection of spent rockets that had fallen in the local area. We also visited a children’s playground where bomb shelters in the shape of caterpillars provide safety for children in the event of a code red alert.
And during it all, we learned ever more about why it is so critical for all of us to stand together with our Israeli and Technion friends and family.
At our final dinner together, we heard from Michael Oren, former ambassador of Israel to the United States, who thanked us for coming and for “what we’ve done in supporting the Technion and Israel.” In so many ways, however, it is we who are thankful for the honor of having experienced all that we have in the last four days.
We’re proud and privileged to have been a part of this solidarity mission, and grateful for all of the people who put their lives on hold to join us. But our mission does not end here. It is our sincere hope that all of us who were here will share our experiences far and wide, and be ambassadors for the Technion and the State of Israel.
If you would like to show your solidarity with Israel and the Technion, please click here to make a tax-deductible gift.
To view a photo album from the delegation, please click here.