Hundreds of students, Nobelists set to arrive in Israel
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Hundreds of students, Nobelists set to arrive in Israel

15 Nobel laureates and 400 foreign science students will participate in next week’s World Science Conference Israel

File: Former science minister Daniel Hershkowitz (second from left), in an unusual meeting in July 2012 with Israeli Nobel laureates. Participants included Ada Yonath (left), Aaron Ciechanover (second from right), and Israel Aumann (right). (photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)
File: Former science minister Daniel Hershkowitz (second from left), in an unusual meeting in July 2012 with Israeli Nobel laureates. Participants included Ada Yonath (left), Aaron Ciechanover (second from right), and Israel Aumann (right). (photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)

Dozens of scientists are heading to Israel next week, including 15 Nobel Prize winners.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the upcoming World Science Conference Israel (WSCI) will see the participation of Nobel laureates along with over 400 young scientific prodigies from 70 countries.

The WSCI was originally set for August of last year, but with Israel otherwise engaged in Operation Protective Edge, sponsors – including Hebrew University, the Science Ministry, and the Foreign Ministry – decided to postpone the event. It was rescheduled for August 15-20 of this year, giving students from Israel and abroad a first-hand opportunity to meet some of the top minds in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics.

The event will take place at the Hebrew University campus, with festivities open to anyone interested in hearing some of the world’s top minds discuss and debate esoteric concepts in the physical and social sciences. Besides the discussions, a number of other events will take place during WSCI week, including a mini-conference in which entrepreneurs will discuss the roots their tech products and services have in “hard science.”

Among the Nobel winners attending will be American Professor Richard Roberts, winner of the 1993 prize in medicine, who is also chairing the event’s Academic Committee. In addition to Roberts, attendees will include Nobel winners Sir Harold Kroto (UK, Chemistry ’96), Professor Sidney Altman (Canada, Chemistry ’89), Professor Steven Chu (US, Physics ’97), Professor Zhores Alferov (Russia, Physics ’00), and Israeli winners Professor Robert (Yisrael) Aumann (Mathematics ’05), Professor Ada Yonath (Chemistry ’09), and Professor Aaron Ciechanover (Chemistry ’04).

The WSCI is modeled after the Asian Science Camp, which has brought leading scientists together with young people every summer for the past decade. The organizers said they were “inspired by the success of the Asian Science Camp in Israel in 2012 to extend this experience and its impact around the globe.”

Such a gathering would be notable at any time – but it’s especially relevant, and encouraging, at a time when the BDS movement has scored some victories on college campuses, as well as in the corporate word, said Guy Kibetz of the Foreign Ministry, who is helping coordinate and organize the event. “Israel has not and will not surrender to boycotts. Just the opposite. The Foreign Ministry is investing a great deal of effort and creativity in Israel and worldwide in order to deal with the boycott phenomenon.”

The Nobel-centered events, said Kibetz, was an appropriate response to the boycott movement. “We are proud at the overwhelmingly positive response we have gotten from the Nobel laureates, students, and other guests from around the world. We hope to hold these events annually, and turn Israel into a ‘brand name’ for excellence in scientific research.”

A spokesperson for the WSCI said that she was not aware of any attempts by BDS groups to pressure either Nobel winners or the dozens of organizations around the world sending delegations to withdraw from the event. “That would be good news at any time, but given the recent pressure on Israel, it’s very welcome now. Scientists, like businesspeople, recognize Israel’s importance, and the benefit of a relationship with their peers here.”

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