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Keeping Apart, Staying Together was the theme of this 72nd Annual General Meeting of the International Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Despite the online format, the events were as impressive as ever, featuring talks by the popular behavioral economist Prof. Dan Ariely, basketball coach David Blatt and the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman; and a tribute to Prof. Haim Harari, eminent physicist and former president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The PhD honoris causa ceremony was held online as well: Recipients were noted Israeli author Meir Shalev, visionary educator Shirin Natour Hafi, British chemist Prof. Dame Carol Robinson, British immunologist Sir. Marc Feldmann and three of the Institute’s closest friends: Dr. Uriel Arnon and Gideon Hamburger of Israel, and Catherine Beck of Canada. During the meeting, Beck was elected to serve as Chair of the International Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science. She replaces Prof. Jehudah Reinharz. A special festive event to honor Reinharz closed this year’s meeting.
Meir Shalev was the keynote speaker at the PhD honoris causa ceremony; he recounted his connection with the Weizmann Institute of Science, starting with his father, who had teachers – students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- come to him when illness forced him to stay home from school (before the days of online classes):
“Well, these two students were also brothers, namely Aharon and Ephraim Katchalsky, who later became known as Professor Aharon Katzir and Professor Ephraim Katzir, founders and heads of departments at the Weizmann Institute, Israel Prize winners, and members of the Israel Academy of the Sciences and Humanities... My father, Yitzhak Shalev, became a poet and a teacher, and was a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. This is why I am speaking here in Hebrew and not in English, which is more common among most of the listeners…
if King David, or Jesus, or Spinoza, were to appear here all of a sudden, many of us would be able to converse with them in Hebrew that they and we would be able to understand – all of it by Zoom, of course…
I started with my father, who was a student of Aharon and Ephraim Katzir, and I will end with Ada Yonath, who was a student of my father’s. After receiving the Nobel Prize, she spoke about the contribution of two teachers to her achievements. One is Toni Halle, the principal of Tichon Hadash, where she studied in Tel Aviv, and the second is Yitzhak Shalev, who was her fourth-grade teacher in Jerusalem. I was very moved to hear this, but I was also surprised. My father taught her literature and the Bible and language and Israeli history, and nothing in biochemistry. I asked her how his classes contributed to her excellence.
She said, “I felt he saw things differently from other people. I felt he saw things that other people do not see at all.”