‘No longer a stepchild’: University in Samaria finally recognized as an equal

“It is inconceivable that we fight boycotts in the international arena and eventually discover that there is a declared boycott of Zionist institutions within the State of Israel.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A decade-long internal boycott has been broken as Ariel University was officially accepted Sunday into an education committee consisting of the presidents of all Israeli universities.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hailed the decision, saying, “Done. Ariel University is no longer a ‘stepchild’; it has been officially admitted to the Committee of University Heads.”

“Ariel University is a university with excellent researchers and impressive academic achievements,” added Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton. “It belongs on the Committee of University Heads, just like all other universities.”

Although the Committee is a voluntary body with no official powers, it responds to educational issues and gives various education-related recommendations that are taken very seriously by Israel’s Council of Higher Education.

In 2012, the Committee unsuccessfully tried in court to stop the government from approving the upgrade of Ariel University Center to a full university in order to “prevent harm to the higher education system.”

Their effort was decried in part as a political move based on the institution’s location – in the town of Ariel in Samaria.

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The Committee also resisted when as minister of education in 2018, Bennett pushed forward the establishment of the university’s medical school in order to increase the number of doctors in the country.

MK Sharren Haskel (New Hope), chair of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, took credit for the decision, saying, “It is inconceivable that we fight boycotts in the international arena and eventually discover that there is a declared boycott of Zionist institutions within the State of Israel.”

“Ariel University was boycotted for years by the Committee of University Heads. I will not allow such things to take place in our country.”

In a brief statement, the Committee said, “After discussing the application and relying on legal advice given on the issue, it was decided to attach the university to the forum. A notice regarding the decision was given to Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, the president of the university.”

Shoenfeld was delighted with the news.

It was, he said, “a big step for academia and another step towards the unity of the people. The decision is a recognition of Ariel University’s significant contribution to academia and science.”

There are only seven other academically accredited research universities in Israel, and their presidents are all on the Committee: Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Tel Aviv and Haifa Universities, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University, Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science, and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan. The Open University has observer status.

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