Tim Boxer: Weizmann Head Doesn’t Fear Nuclear Power

There is nothing to fear from nuclear energy. That’s the assessment of the president of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Comparing the disasters in Japan, Prof. Daniel Zajfman said we’re focusing on the wrong tragedy. Some 20,000 people perished in the tsunami. A train was swept away and hundreds died. But at the nuclear power plant meltdown, not one person died.

Zajfman spoke at the recent American Committee for Weizmann gala at Chelsea Pier 60 in New York. Chairman Lawrence S. Blumberg introduced former CBS News president Andrew Heyward to moderate a discussion with Zajfman.

Zajfman, Weizmann’s youngest president, said he got interested in science while growing up in Brussels. At eight years old, he and a friend would get together to study science on their own.

"We would mix chemicals at home. Of course our parents weren’t there."

Zajfman made aliya at age 20 in 1979, and now heads the science institute in Rehovot. And his friend? "My friend grew up to become a businessman. He’s making more money than I am."

Zajfman envisioned a bright future for science in Israel. In fact, he said, Israel is enjoying a brain gain. In years past students would go abroad for advanced study and stay there.

"Now," he said, "the scientists are coming back to Weizmann. They want to live in Israel. We provide them with the means to go ahead with their dreams."

As time goes on, we live longer. A hundred years ago people lived 45 years. Today we live an average of 80 years. That’s double the life expectancy every century. "Half the babies born today will live for 100 years," he said.

We live in amazing times, he said. We have changed our environment to make life easier. "We are changing the world with the power of the gods. Question is, will we have the wisdom of Solomon?"

About the Author
Tim Boxer is a former New York Post columnist, and is longtime columnist for the New York Jewish Week. He is also editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com, is the author of Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame, interviews of Hollywood stars about their Jewish roots.