Having read so many recent stories of schoolchildren around the world being radicalized by Islamic extremists, here is a collection of contrasting education-related activities and news articles I’ve collected over the past few weeks concerning the Jewish State.
I will begin in the Israeli school system itself. Whereas 100 countries marked Feb 11 as Safer Internet Day, Israel’s Ministry of Education, on Feb 8, launched Annual National Week for Online Safety Education in Israel. Throughout the entire state educational system, students engaged in classroom and online activities designed to increase awareness for Internet safety, reduce potential risks, and deal with any harmful online incidents.
100,000 Israeli kids attend a Sci-Tech school – that’s 10 percent of all Israeli high school students (including Muslims, Christians and Druze). The Sci-Tech network builds curricula based on the demand for professionals in various Israeli industries, and it currently has 18 industrial vocational schools. This Bloomberg report shows how Israeli-Arabs (especially women) continue to flourish educationally, at Technion Institute of Technology – one of Israel’s top class higher education establishments.
Technion’s President Peretz Lavie has been describing the importance of Technology and Education. Technion graduates have either founded or are managing two-thirds of the Israeli companies on NASDAQ. And the trend is bound to continue with initiatives such as the brand new development lab that the Technion and Microsoft have built together. It has facilities that allow students to develop innovative technologies to rival anything a hi-tech company can design. They might even eliminate cancer, thanks to a recent multi-million dollar donation for educational research into the disease.
Life-changing discoveries continue to be made at other Israeli establishments of higher education. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have been receiving large numbers of small public donations (known as “crowdfunding”) to allow them to conduct DNA sequencing tests. These have identified the genetic mutations responsible for severe educational developmental delays in children. Meanwhile, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot have embarked on a project with a group of Japanese scientists to discover how autistic spectrum disorder progresses in the brain. Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are also studying the brain – this time those of blind people, in order to shed new light on how our brains can adapt to the rapid cultural and technological changes of the 21st Century. This led to the discovery that reading Braille utilizes “visual” areas of the brain. Finally, Ben-Gurion University hosted “Light and Blindness” - an exhibition of research-and-development activities in Israel designed to improve the quality of life for people with visual impairment. It included a startup contest and the opening of a trail for the blind.
Two Israeli companies recently reported achievements with their medical “education” technologies. First, Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics announced that its stem cells help to educate the body to build muscle after a hip replacement. Then Israel’s Meditouch demonstrated its wearable movement biofeedback devices and dedicated rehabilitation software, which are used in hospitals, clinics and at home to motivate patients to exercise and improve movement.
Israel’s medical education programs are making a difference across the globe. According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, eight joint UK-Israeli stem cell research projects have “the potential to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people.” In West Africa, Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID has set-up a program entitled “Ebola Heroes” to provide psychosocial education and training to health workers, teachers, burial teams, policemen, social workers involved in treating Ebola cases.
So before the Jewish State is delegitimized by billions of radicalized individuals, let’s use positive news like this to re-educate the world about Israel. We are helped by the international education non-profit StandWithUs, which has launched its “Social Media Ambassadors” program. StandWithUs is educating university students in the use of multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. In another initiative, Israel’s Technion (again) brought over 50 university and secondary students from Hong Kong to educate them about Israeli entrepreneurial success.
We also need to educate ourselves so that we champion those who safeguard the future of the Jewish State. We need to publicize the message of the non-Jewish student visitor who is “awed by pluralistic, diverse Israel” and who leaves determined to educate the world about the democratic Jewish State. We need to fight alongside people like Irish Catholic Belinda “Don’t judge Israel before you’ve seen it” Hickey who counters uneducated bigotry in Ireland.
Finally, here is another piece of good news. You may have heard already about Israel’s educational bus stop libraries that are still expanding locally. Well what do you know? The concept has just been adopted in Istanbul. And guess what? The Turkish media report proclaims that it was inspired by Israel!
We learn something new every day.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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