June 10, 2024 — In early June, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem held the opening conference of its 87th Board of Trustees session in Ofakim, symbolizing solidarity with Western Negev, particularly in the aftermath of October 7. The event took place in Ofakim’s community culture hall with the participation of approximately 100 board members from both Israel and abroad. Distinguished attendees included Hebrew University (HU) President Prof. Asher Cohen, Rector Prof. Tamir Sheafer, Vice President for External Relations Ambassador (Ret.) Yossi Gal, Board Chairman Mr. Daniel I. Schlessinger, and Ofakim Mayor Itzik Danino. 

After the event, the delegation toured the innovative Regavim Agricultural School, where they explored both the school projects and the city’s Science Center, integral to ongoing collaborations with HU’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. The visit underscored Ofakim’s vision to become Israel’s agro-tech hub, with presentations highlighting this ambition. 

Following the tragic events of October 7 that significantly affected Western Negev and Ofakim, the Hebrew University has reaffirmed its dedication to supporting the recovery and resilience of these communities. As Israel’s leading research institution, the University remains committed to advancing science and making meaningful societal contributions, particularly in the development of the country’s peripheral regions. The decision by the Board of Trustees to convene in Ofakim highlights a significant reinforcement of the ties between the University and the Negev region. 

Prof. Asher Cohen remarked, “The Hebrew University stands as Israel’s leading research university, which, beyond our scientific mission, drives us to nurture scientific curiosity and education in future generations. Our robust engagement with Ofakim, particularly post-October 7, exemplifies our dedication to fostering educational excellence and a passion for science across Southern Israel.” 

Mayor Itzik Danino expressed, “At a time when global anti-Semitism is on the rise and academic circles face challenges, it is crucial to bolster Israel’s academic institutions. Ofakim’s focus on agro-tech, combined with robust educational and academic frameworks, will significantly contribute to the economic and social vitality of the region. The establishment of an HU Faculty of Agriculture branch here in Ofakim will enhance our educational landscape, benefiting residents across the Negev. Hosting the Board of Trustees in Ofakim for the first time is a profound honor and testament to our growing partnership and mutual commitment.” 

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