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October 11, 2002 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-11

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This Week

Cover Story

Vision For Israel

Through education, technology and heart,
Ben-Gurion University President Avishay Braverman
renews the dream of making the desert bloom.


Staff Writer


Beersheva "is the place to connect to the Middle
East," he says passionately, noting that Bedouins and
Jews live in the community and are students and
professors at BGU. 'And we're close to Gaza, to
Jordan, to Egypt."
Moshe Ram, the Chicago-based consulate general
of Israel to the Midwest, says Braverman is a highly
regarded educator in Israel. "He has been instru-
mental in shaping Ben-Gurion University into one
of Israel's leading academic institutions," Ram says.
"The successful expansion of the university as well
as the environmental and economic projects under-
taken by its researchers will unquestionably enhance

fastest-growing university in Israel.
Braverman also has reportedly been on a short list
for ambassador to the United States and was consid-
ered for cabinet positions in the Rabin and Barak gov-
ernments. There's no doubt of his political connec-
tions. In September, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres, an honorary member of the BGU Board . of
Governors, joined Braverman as keynote speaker at an
event in New York City to honor BGU supporters.
"You have to fasten your seatbelt when you're
around Avishay Braverman. You're in for a bumpy ride
and you'll be going some place," says Robert Aronson,
chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit. He invited Braverman
12 to speak in Detroit last year after meeting with
him poolside during a visit to Israel.
7. "He's inspirational and energetic beyond
belief and he's unlike any other visionary,"
Aronson says. "He has a vision that's do-able."
Bloomfield Hills philanthropist Eugene
Applebau-n met Braverman on his two trips to
this area. "He's a very important person to
watch," he says.
"Braverman's like the original Zionist pio-
neers, a dreamer like my grandparents,"
Aronson adds, "and that's why I relate to him."

l hen Avishay Braverman, president of
Ben-Gurion University, looks out over
his campus amidst lush palm trees and
an array of modern buildings and sees
Jewish, Arab and foreign students rushing by, he
knows his dream is taking shape.
The dynamic president wants to see the desert
bloom with economic prosperity. He has created an
economic model for the city of the future that's
already taking root in Beersheva, with the university
as its hub.
BGU has attracted Nobel Prize winners and
renowned scholars as advisers, and the school
offers everything from desert studies and Hebrew
literature to research in biotechnology. Yet, as a
community-based university, it also serves the
surrounding disadvantaged communities.
After 12 years as president, Braverman has
created a model that renews the dream of
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-
Gurion, to develop the Negev Desert. And, if
Braverman has his way, the Negev not only
will flourish, but will attract people from
overcrowded cities like Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem. That influx will be imperative for
Making A Difference
Israel's future, he says.
After his stint in the Israeli army as a platoon
His wish list to the government includes tax
Avishay Braverman, president of Ben Gurion University speaks to high- commander in 1967, Braverman, now 54, son
incentives, a convenient airport and frequent
of a carpenter and a schoolteacher, studied at
fast trains connecting the Negev to the north. school Bedouin girls who come to the Beersheva campus every Friday to
prepare for university studies.
Tel Aviv University. He later accepted a
Only 8 percent of Israel's 6.1 million resi-
scholarship to do doctoral work in economics
dents live in the Negev, while the region
University in California.
comprises 60 percent of Israel's land — "uncontest-
The day he earned his Ph.D., Braverman says, he
and the surrounding Negev region," Ram says.
ed land," Braverman emphasizes. The investors and
Braverman, an economics professor who was a
drove to Half Moon Bay, a scenic California beach
businesses he envisions the university attracting will
town, "feeling small, but very connected to my com-
senior economist at the World Bank, has the creden-
invigorate Beersheva and the surrounding develop-
mitment to Israel.
tials to achieve his vision.
ment towns, helping them become a center of Israel
"I wanted to make a difference in the world and
When he took over Ben-Gurion University, it was
and potentially of the Middle East.
especially in Israel," he recalls.
debt-ridden and in danger of being turned into a
But until this development occurs, he warns, grad-
Braverman, who is Married and has two young
community college. He personally led a campaign
uating student leaders in high-tech and meditech
children, had to wait another 14 years before he
that raked more than $250 million. Today, BGU's
(medical information technology) will continue to
returned to Israel and found the right job that
student population has tripled to 16,000, and it's the
leave the area.



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