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Impacting the State of Israel and the Jewish People: IDC Herzliya

25 years ago, a former army base was transformed into a campus striving to creatively educate the future leaders of Israel and the world

At the campus of the first private university in Israel
At the campus of the first private university in Israel

It is hard to believe that it has been almost 18 years since Prof. Uriel Reichman, President, Founder and visionary of IDC Herzliya, invited me to join the small management team of IDC Herzliya, then only in its seventh year of existence. Having been an emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel for many years and worked in absorption in North America, Africa and Europe, I was drawn to Prof. Reichman’s vision of establishing a school to which individuals from all over the world could come to study in English and experience life in this vibrant Jewish homeland. It was a huge honor to be given the opportunity to head this small, fledgling, international school and to help to nurture its growth.

All these years later, I am so proud of all that IDC Herzliya has become and the many areas in which IDC Herzliya leads the way in affecting the State of Israel and Jewish people and communities all over the world.

Becoming Israel’s first private university in Israel 

In a landmark move for the entire academic system in Israel, in its 25th year, IDC Herzliya will soon be permitted to bestow PhD degrees and thus become Israel’s very first private university. In the high-tech world, this could be translated as a startup company becoming a fully-fledged venture within the Israeli academic scene.

Not new to pioneering ventures in the world of academia, the leadership of IDC Herzliya, with Prof. Reichman at the helm, received the news in March that Israel’s Council for Higher Education had unanimously voted to allow IDC Herzliya to apply for the right to bestow doctoral degrees. 

When imparting the news to Prof. Reichman by phone on behalf of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, Naftali Bennett, the minister of education, said, “You make a point of being the best in everything you do — the best in professionalism, in ethical standards, in strengthening the State of Israel and in granting scholarships to anyone who needs. Uriel, you have really built an institution which is a source of pride for the State of Israel.”

Having always modeled itself on ivy universities overseas, this important move takes IDC Herzliya to the next level in the world of education.

Most international academic campus in Israel

Within a complete body of over 7,000 students on campus, the student community includes over 2,000 international students from over 80 countries, studying fully in English at IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS). This accounts for almost a third of the overall student body and makes us the most international academic institution in Israel for students studying for their full BA and MA degrees in English. The RRIS is very proud of its diverse student body and all of its students invariably mention the opportunity to make friends from so many different cultures as one of the major advantages of studying at IDC.

Building on the high level of student satisfaction and its excellent academic reputation, IDC constantly looks to add new programs to its list of degree options, as well as to upgrade its campus facilities. The new PhD degree will certainly take IDC Herzliya to a new level while other new programs will also give incoming students a unique edge in the future job market.

We also enjoy knowing that at least 70% of the students who study with us choose to make aliyah, either during or after their studies, and make their homes and futures in the State of Israel. For those that return home, or choose other destinations, they join the ranks of active ambassadors for Israel and usually take leadership roles in their communities in some form or another.

One of our main sources of pride is how we sensitively help our students to acclimate into Israeli society with a “TLC” attitude. We take each student by the hand and help them to settle in not only to life at IDC Herzliya but to life in Israel. This attitude and focus has given us the reputation of being the largest academic absorption center in the country.  

The RRIS boasts a full staff complement of caring individuals who are motivated to make the academic and Israel experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. There are registrars who accompany the students to acceptance not only in the various programs, but also right through the duration of their degrees, always employing an open-door policy and attempting to assist where possible. There is also a housing team, helping to find appropriate accommodation near campus for the students requesting it, as well as a caring scholarship team who know each student personally and take their files to heart when considering their scholarship applications. The team would not be complete without the directors of student affairs and absorption. The former assists with all problems that the students may be facing day to day, while the latter attempts to smooth the bureaucratic process involved with aliyah, the army and other such issues.  

As a former aliyah emissary, I really feel like I have come full circle.

A home to those who protect the State of Israel with their lives

At IDC Herzliya former soldiers and reservists are cherished for having put their lives on the line to protect the Jewish people and Jewish state. Special admission slots are reserved for former military personnel who show leadership potential – especially those who served as commanders and officers, and/or those who serve(d) in combat. In addition, certain admissions criteria (such as the psychometric exam) are waived for these young people as they have already shown their leadership potential, devotion and trustworthiness.

IDC is also home to over 200 lone soldiers and IDC’s leadership is particularly cognizant of the need to give them special attention and TLC for choosing to leave behind their families, friends and lives and making their way to Israel and serving this country. 

The university also has a special division that runs within the Student Union, the Brian Knez Center for the Welfare of IDF Reserve Soldiers. They work tirelessly to protect each and every reservist’s rights, whether social, academic, practical and, in some cases, financial, while also providing them with special gift packs and tools to use while out in the field and away from their studies.

As a former lone combat soldier and continuing Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the IDF Spokesperson’s office, I am so proud of all that IDC Herzliya offers our brothers in arms. From personal experience, fighting on the front lines is physically and emotionally grueling and being able to see these young men and women receiving the care that they deserve is extremely fulfilling. 

Jonathan Davis is the Vice President for External Relations and Head of the Raphael Recanati International School

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