Israel’s first Rhodes scholars

April 25, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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After decades of campaigning to include Israel in the prestigious international Rhodes scholarship programme established at Oxford University, the first two Israeli academics have been accepted since the programme was established in 1902.

President Rivlin with new Israeli Rhodes Scholars, Maayan Roichman and Nadav Lidor Photo: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO.

Israel’s first Rhodes scholars, Maayan Roichman (Tel Aviv University) and Nadav Lidor (Stanford University), will start at Oxford in October 2017 who have been congratulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

The university had already opened a Tel Aviv office in 2015 but Israel’s eligibility for the Rhodes scholarships was only announced at the end of last year. The Israel scholarships are part of a wider geographic expansion of the Rhodes programme, which increased the number of eligible countries and annual scholarships from 83 to 95. New scholarships were also announced in Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Palestine, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and West Africa.

The university’s decision to establish a presence in Israel and include Israel as a Rhodes candidate country is praised by Israel’s political leaders as a direct rebuttal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which argued that Israel should not be eligible for the Rhodes program because of its settlements in the West Bank.

 President Reuven Rivlin, who hosted the Israeli scholars and representatives of the Rhodes Trust and Oxford University at his residence in Jerusalem earlier this month, commented: “People who want to silence debate must understand that the only way toward a better future is through cooperation and sharing knowledge.” He added, “Oxford is more than just a university it is an idea.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also congratulated the Rhodes scholars and said he is confident the step will enrich the university and benefit the State of Israel. “I commend everyone who worked tirelessly to expand scholarship eligibility to include Israeli students, and Oxford University for being the first Global Top 10 university to open an office in Israel,” he added.

British Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, sees the expansion of the Rhodes Scholarship to Israel as “a great example of how British higher education engages globally with the best and brightest.” He added: “It is the latest addition to numerous programmes that enable British and Israeli academics to engage with each other and share knowledge. A stronger relationship between UK universities and Israeli scholars, in this case through the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, will further strengthen our countries’ extraordinary cooperation in many academic fields. I met the first two Israeli scholars and am sure Maayan Roichman and Nadav Lidor will both make a great contribution to Oxford University.”

Gary Pickholz, chairman of Weird Science Lab at Oxford, echoed Quarrey and said the announcement was very encouraging for Israeli research and academia. “We are most gratified by the decision to include Israel as a permanent candidate nation for Rhodes scholars,” commented Mr. Pickholz. “This underscores the very strong academic ties and research ties between Great Britain and Israel, as well as Oxford’s continued leadership at countering the BDS movement.”

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