ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Ben-Gurion University gets $100m donation to ‘rebuild and strengthen the south’

Gift by philanthropist Sylvan Adams designated for ‘future of the Negev and Israel, technologies for the future, climate change, sustainability and the environment and global health’

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Philanthropist Sylvan Adams announcing a $100 million donation to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, at an event in Toronto, Canada, on December 3, 2023. (Liora Kogan/courtesy)
Philanthropist Sylvan Adams announcing a $100 million donation to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, at an event in Toronto, Canada, on December 3, 2023. (Liora Kogan/courtesy)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has been awarded a $100 million donation by philanthropist Sylvan Adams, it was announced Monday.

The funds are to be “allocated for an extensive plan aimed at advancing education and campus life at BGU while rebuilding and strengthening the south,” according to a press release from BGU Canada, the university’s fundraising arm in the country.

“This gift will help guide the way forward for our community as we look to rebuild an even stronger Negev, together. We enter this next stage with a focus on six key areas of impact, among them: the future of the Negev and Israel, technologies for the future, climate change, sustainability and the environment, and global health,” said BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.

“After the October 7th massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas, it is crucial that we strengthen Israel’s south to ensure that Israelis feel safe and secure to rebuild their lives in the Negev. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had a vision: he understood that the Negev is the beating heart of Israel, the growth and future of the country… We must make sure that the desert remains the launching point of Israel’s future, despite the pogrom that our people endured there only 58 days ago. Ben-Gurion University, located in the capital of the Negev, has brought to life David Ben-Gurion’s vision – a vision of making the desert bloom, and I am proud to make this gift to BGU, an important pillar of our country,” donor Sylvan Adams said in a statement.

Adams, a Canadian billionaire who moved to Israel several years ago, is a noted philanthropist involved in causes relating to Israeli economic, diplomatic and cultural needs and was present at the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington, DC, in 2020. He is also an avid competitive cyclist and created the Israel Premier Tech cycling team, with whom he won the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in the 65-69 age bracket.

Ben-Gurion University, located in Beersheba with satellite campuses in Eilat and Sde Boker, has some 20,000 students and is the largest employer in the Negev. During the October 7 assault by Hamas against Israel’s southern border communities, the extended university community lost 82 people.

Ben-Gurion University campus, August 2014. (Dani Machlis)

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the BGU campuses have turned toward helping the war effort and are being used as logistical centers, temporary housing, schools for evacuees, and other war-related purposes.

Originally slated to begin on October 15, the fall semester for Israeli universities is currently set to open on December 24, contingent on a release of the IDF reservists. About 30 percent of all university students and thousands of faculty and staff are currently serving in the IDF, part of the massive, 360,000-person call-up implemented for the war.

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