The ‘multiversity’ as a blueprint for Israel’s next 70 years

What should the State of Israel’s future look like? It’s a question that many stakeholders, both domestic and international, are asking as we celebrate the nation’s 70th birthday on Yom Haatzmaut — Israeli Independence Day. The answer begins with education, which is always the basis for steering the next generation in the right direction.

Any major outcome for Israel’s next 70 years will be substantively shaped its universities, where future leaders are trained and inspired. Understanding the immense power of higher education, University of Haifa takes this responsibility to heart by designing an academic setting that represents a microcosm of what a flourishing Israel should look like, both today and in the decades to come.

Our university is shaping Israel’s future based on a unique “multiversity” model: a multi-campus institution with locations around Haifa and throughout northern Israel, easing access for students and adding vitality to the city and region, while allowing a wide range of ideas and activities to flourish in a diverse community.

Various attributes of University of Haifa’s multiversity are standards that a future Israeli society should aspire to attain and uphold. These qualities include, but are not limited to, the following:

The future of Israel depends on peace and coexistence

The Arab-Israeli conflict consistently dominates international headlines and public perceptions about Israel, while presenting an ever-present security threat at home. Can Israeli society achieve greater peace during the next 70 years? The path towards coexistence can start at the university level. University of Haifa’s thriving group of minority students — 35 percent of the total student body — enables Jews and Arabs to develop positive relationships in the relatively safe space of a university campus, before they enter the “real world.” At University of Haifa, achievement is the price of entry for success, not religion. The most recent and high profile example — the selection of University of Haifa alumna Lian Najami, a political science scholar and public speaker whose work counters misconceptions about Israel, as the first-ever Arab-Israeli recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

The future of Israel depends on a well-rounded workforce

To succeed in today’s complex economic environment, professionals in any field need high-level critical thinking capabilities and a diverse foundation of practical skills. A nation’s economy, in turn, benefits from a workforce of analytical, creative, well-rounded thinkers who collectively achieve innovation and breakthroughs — much like Israel’s “start-up nation” has already accomplished in seven decades, a short amount of time in “country years.” University of Haifa maintains and amplifies the Israeli population’s world-changing ingenuity by exposing its students to a wide spectrum of ideas through a broad-based curriculum focused on multi-disciplinary learning, preparing students to be versatile contributors to Israel’s workforce. In addition to their classes, students can participate in informal studies and student-led activities that encourage interaction and open dialogue. Through the free exchange of ideas both inside and outside the classroom, University of Haifa graduates are highly prepared to become not only high-achieving professionals, but also upstanding citizens who care about something bigger than themselves: the vitality of their homeland.

The future of Israel depends on international collaboration

In its first 70 years, Israel has learned that it cannot afford to be isolated. Given the heated nature of international discourse on policy towards the Palestinians, bias against Israel at the United Nations, and the rise of the BDS movement, the Jewish State needs as many friends as it can get. Israel has already cultivated new allies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, and that momentum must continue. University of Haifa contributes significantly to Israel’s spirit of global collaboration by fostering overseas partnerships with leading institutions abroad. This includes partnerships with leading universities and research institutes in China, Canada, Europe, Singapore and the United States.

The future of Israel depends on thriving populations in “peripheral” regions

Israel’s economy and society cannot depend solely on thriving commerce and populations in the central cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Jewish state, which is approximately the size of New Jersey, must cultivate the vibrancy of every square inch of its land, including in “peripheral” regions such as the north and south. In northern Israel, University of Haifa’s multi-campus model facilitates interplay among industries, communities, and the school itself. Our institution’s growth is bringing more students and faculty — as well as the services that support them — to underpopulated areas of Israel, enabling the University to serve as an engine for regional development. The result for Israel’s north will be more jobs, stability, and security.

The future of Israel depends on training strong leaders who are global citizens

Israeli citizens must understand that they do not live in a vacuum — in one way or another, they will serve as de facto brand ambassadors for Israel’s image and reputation in the international arena. Any ambassador cannot have an insular worldview, but rather, needs a globalized outlook and a keen appreciation of the international community. University of Haifa is training strong leaders and global citizens by exposing the younger generation to a highly diverse international student body, including students from 40 different countries.

Through these attributes and others, University of Haifa’s multiversity embodies what a flourishing Israeli society should look like in the year 2088. But let’s not wait 70 years. Let’s commit to implementing the multiversity model throughout Israel today, as we celebrate this country’s momentous milestone birthday.

Karen L. Berman is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa. The opinions expressed in this article are her own.

About the Author
Karen L. Berman is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa.
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