The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Israel’s world-class Weizmann Institute offered South African students the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in an invaluable three-month research program.

By Lay Of The Land

South African campuses face an organized campaign of boycotts. It is time to push back by showing the beneficial aspects of education and knowledge-sharing between two world-renowned universities. It is about building bridges through engagement and academic collaboration.

Two University of Cape Town (UCT) science students have been offered by the Weizmann Institute of Science the phenomenal opportunity to attend an invaluable three-month research program at the esteemed institution in Israel. This once in a lifetime scholarship will enrich the research capacity of the next generation of UCT scientists.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multi-disciplinary basic research institutions in the natural and exact sciences and over the years, its researchers have been the recipients six Nobel Prizes, as well as three Turing Awards.

The Weizmann Institute also enjoys a rich history with South Africa and UCT starting with Israel’s first state President Chaim Weizmann, after whom the Weizmann Institute is named. Weizmann made an important visit to South Africa in the 1932, when he met with the leadership of various Jewish communities across the country.

Israel’s finest diplomat, Abba Eban – the esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Education Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to the UN and Vice President of the UN General Assembly, who also served as President of the Weizmann Institute of Science  from 1959 to1966, was born in Cape Town on the February 2, 1915 to Lithuanian parents.

More recently, Johannesburg born Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz, who obtained his BSc. in Electrical Engineering from UCT, was awarded the 2016 Israel Prize for Chemistry and Physics with Prof. Meir Lahav. This is Israel’s most prestigious award and Prof. Leiserowitz was honored wiht it for his work in the field of crystallization.

There is much that can be gained by strengthening the academic relationship with South Africa’s premier university UCT and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, which is constantly in the vanguard of scientific breakthroughs that have resulted in a wide range of patented technologies that make the world a better, safer, and healthier place.

More specifically, South Africa that needs to confront challenges in water management, entrepreneurship, health and improved methods of agriculture for a large rural population, and the Weizmann Institute is well positioned to serve South Africa’s specific needs.

Established in 1934, 14 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Weizmann Institute has been at the forefront of research to optimize Israeli land, most of which is dry or desert. The role it has played in increasing crop yields with the latest in scientific methods and of contributing to the greening of its desert is exemplary.

South Africa can benefit from Israel’s experience and expertise.

Education, dialogue and the strengthening of ties between Israel and South Africa are at the epicenter of the South Africa Friends of Israel (SAFI) mandate, which gels perfectly in facilitating the partnership between these two outstanding universities. A flagship initiative of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), SAFI engages with other faiths, cultural and ethnic groups in the interests of building a broader grass roots support base for Israel in South Africa.