Israel Hosts Asian Science Camp for First Time

Article Summary
Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Turkmenistan all sent young scientists to Jerusalem to attend the Asian Science Camp this week, writes Itamar Eichner. Five Nobel laureates, 300 young scientists and 21 delegations from Asia, even from countries who do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, gathered for the prestigious event.

After our athletes returned from the Olympics sans medals, Israel received another opportunity to restore its lost honor — in a field more appropriate to highlight Israeli achievements. Between August 27 and 31, Jerusalem will host an “Asian Science Camp,” the most important scientific get-together in the world for promoting young scientists from the Asian and Pacific nations. While the camp doesn’t offer competitions, it does afford Israel the opportunity to be a “light unto the nations.” [Isaiah, 49; 6]

The Asian Science Camp (ASC) has been held for 6 years so far, each year in a different country. The initiators of the camp are several Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences (living in East Asia), who set a goal for themselves: to establish a forum to reveal the younger regional scientists, and creating cross-border links between them via the universal language of science.

The countries that participate in the event compete among themselves for the privilege of hosting the convention — just like the Olympics. Similarly, the size of the delegations and identity of the participants are determined in accordance with the size of the country and its centrality in the world of science. The fact that the convention will be held in Jerusalem is considered an important diplomatic achievement for Israel; the government called it the “flagship project of the Foreign Ministry in 2012.” The government even allotted 4 million shekels to the convention, no small sum in the current budget-cutting environment.

On August 26, 300 brilliant young minds will congregate in Jerusalem from 21 countries, accompanied by veteran scientists who will serve as heads of the delegations. Israel, as the hosting country, will have the honor of sending the largest delegation: 35 youths who were carefully selected by virtue of their scientific excellence. In light of their achievements to date (all are below the age of 21), we can assume that they are the fertile soil from which Israel’s elite scientists will grow, and perhaps even win Nobel Prizes.

President Shimon Peres attended the convention’s opening ceremony. The participants will then continue from there to a Jerusalem hotel that will be transformed for the week to a quasi-Olympic village. The participants will enjoy lectures and workshops in Hebrew University’s Givat Ram Campus; the entire event is sponsored by the Hebrew University together with the Foreign Ministry and ORT [a Jewish education and vocational training non-governmental organization]. The lectures will be delivered by scores of senior scientists from Israel and all over the world on physics, chemistry, life sciences and mathematics. Hebrew University has always emphasized its affinity to the legacy of Albert Einstein; the famous scientist was even chosen to appear on the convention’s logo. Thus the university will display rare copies of work-papers belonging to the father of the relativity theory to the young scientists, and maybe even some of Einstein’s personal assets as well.

The highlight will be a meeting of the young scientists with 5 Nobel Prize laureates. These prize winners will deliver lectures and workshops, and also give the young scientists “tips” on paving their way to the most prestigious prize in the world. It seems that in our Eastern half of the globe, people are amazed that Israel managed to earn nine Nobel prizes and want to get inspiration from us. The following Nobel prize-winners will attend the convention: Professor Yuan T. Lee, Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry from Taiwan; and Professor Makoto Kobayashi, Nobel Prize laureate in physics from Japan. The Nobel prize-winning Israelis and Jewswho will grace the convention with their presence, are: Professor Aaron Ciechanover (chemistry), Professor Israel Aumann (economics), and American Professor Roger Kornberg (biology). In order to give the young people time to air out their overloaded brains, they will be taken onexperiential field-trips that will vary from visits to historic sites in Israel, to a taste of Tel Aviv night life.

But somehow we always need a bit of politics to spice things up: Several representatives to the convention in Jerusalem hail from two countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel [Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates]. The participants’ names are held in secrecy in the meanwhile, so as not to torpedo their participation. Israel also invited scientists from Iran and Pakistan to the convention: the Pakistanis turned down the invitation with the claim that they were not given enough advance warning, while the Iranians did not even answer.

Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak explained on August 13 that the convention is an opportunity to promote relations with the Asian states that are believed to be the rising powers in the world. “The importance of bringing the best scientific minds here, some of whom are destined to become public-opinion leaders, is clear,” he said.

Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of Hebrew University, said that he hopes that the hosting of this convention will lead to closer academic ties between the countries of the region and Israel. “This is an excellent opportunity to deepen our exposure to Asia,” he said.

Found in: young scientists, science, middle east, jerusalem, israel, asia, asc

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