David Dabscheck

      Once the Second Intifada began in late 2000, David Dabscheck decided he wanted to live and study in Israel. “Rather than watch what was happening on TV, I felt I had to be there myself,” he said.

      As a result, in 2001, he started an M.A. program in political science and sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), from which he graduated in 2003. “It was an amazing experience: I studied the region’s history with leading scholars while simultaneously being part of history as it was being written,” David said.

      Studying in Israel during this trying period had a lasting impact on David. On July 31, 2002, there was a bombing at the university’s Frank Sinatra cafeteria on the Mount Scopus campus. “The perpetrators wanted to strike at everything the university symbolized, as they knew it represented many of the best things in Israel—from its diversity to its open spirit of learning,” he said. David spoke at HU’s remembrance ceremony in honor of the victims who were injured and murdered, which included many of his friends and classmates.

      David speaking at the remembrance ceremony for the Frank Sinatra bombing

      In 2014, David founded GIANT Innovation, which helps large organizations scale the toolset, skillset, and mindset of innovation. “We specialize in helping traditional companies transform their employees—whatever their role in the organization—into creative and collaborative problem-solvers.” GIANT has worked with leading global organizations from a wide range of industries, including ExxonMobil, Fidelity Investments, Columbia University, Pfizer, the Merck Group, and The World Bank.

      David’s experiences at HU also strongly influenced his career choices and professional successes. He said, “It was studying at the Hebrew University that sparked my love of curiosity, creativity, and innovation. I don’t think I would be where I am today, doing what I do, without what I learned at HU.”

      David is a well-regarded thought leader in corporate innovation and his work has appeared in publications such as Fast Company, the Boston Globe, the Observer, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review. David also has served as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia Business School, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and an adjunct instructor for the National Science Foundation’s Innovation-Corps program. He is a board member for several Israeli and New York technology companies and the founder of the Innovation Leaders Roundtable, a New York City-based gathering of over 200 executive and senior-level innovation practitioners.

      David is committed to volunteerism and supporting Hebrew University and other nonprofits. He served on the American Friends of the Hebrew University’s NEXUS:ISRAEL Innovation Conference Advisory Board in 2017. He also founded the nonprofit Community Security Service (CSS), which helps Jewish communities throughout the United States with their security and safety.

      David on his graduation day

      Inspired by Albert Einstein, a founder of HU, David seeks to live by one of his famous sayings: “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”


      HU’s Unique Multidisciplinary Approach is Key to its Success

      By Diane Hess

      For over 100 years, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) has been a trailblazer in multidisciplinary education, encouraging student and faculty collaboration in various fields of study.

      Today, more than ever, it is seeing the fruits of its multidisciplinary focus, which has been formalized in course offerings and programs. In 2018, approximately 65% of the innovations recorded to HU’s technology transfer company, Yissum, stemmed from partnerships between academic faculties—such as medicine and engineering, or agriculture and science.

      “I think this is an important validator for the hypothesis that the multidisciplinary approach has impacted successes coming out of the university,” said Dr. Yaron Daniely, CEO and President of Yissum. “I believe that number is very high compared to other institutions globally.”

      In the fall of 2018, the Hebrew University announced that entrepreneurship—a hallmark of the Israeli economy and, more broadly, its culture—will be a required class for all students, even those majoring in linguistics or philosophy.

      Avner Mendelson, President & CEO of Bank Leumi USA and an HU alumnus, believes in this ethos of multidisciplinary entrepreneurship. “From a real-world corporate and banking perspective, we really see that cross-disciplinary collaboration is key for so many of the Israeli innovators taking their next step in the U.S. market. As a financial institution, Bank Leumi is keenly focused on emerging technologies and supporting commercial ventures in all phases of growth—from addressing the unique needs of start-ups and supporting companies through growth phases, to structuring financial models that help our clients sustain success,” he said.  “I strongly believe that the entrepreneurial foundations that HU provides its students equip these future leaders with a practical understanding of how to translate ideas into commercially viable innovations.”

      The Hebrew University offers many curricular opportunities for cross-pollination. One of its initiatives, the BioDesign Center, takes a collective tact to medical innovation. Created by the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, in conjunction with Stanford University, it provides teams of medical fellows, bioengineering, and business graduate students the structure to collaborate and commercialize solutions to medical problems.

      “These students are the best physicists, chemists, and medical students, and many will be interested in forming a company,” said Dr. Zvi Wiener, dean of the Jerusalem School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University. “BioDesign gives them an opportunity to learn how to start a business, raise money from investors, and hire employees.”

      Dr. Wiener highlights commercial successes of the program, including ThoraXS, a one-handed thoracic portal opener that shortens the time required to insert a tube into a patient’s chest from minutes to less than 30 seconds. The technology has been effective in preventing deaths from chest trauma. It was developed by engineering and business students from Hebrew University, along with an internal medicine specialist and pulmonologist from Hadassah Medical Center.

      “One of the goals of the business school is to make students more hirable,” said Dr. Wiener. “If they have been involved in an attempt to develop a new product, they are much more valuable.”

      Last month the business school launched a FinTech Center to help students bring machine learning and data analytics technologies to the marketplace. The center offers a mentoring program for computer scientists with experienced entrepreneurs and academics.

      “From an industry perspective, multidisciplinary innovations are largely more valuable and attractive than single-disciplinary or classical inventions,” said Dr. Daniely. “A technology that combines healthcare with data science, or agriculture with engineering, or machine learning with nanotechnology, is highly sought after in the marketplace.”

      One of Yissum’s companies, Future Meat, received a $2.2 million investment in May from Tyson Foods to develop lab-grown meat. Dr. Yaakov Nahmias, a bioengineering professor and the founder of the company, developed a cost-effective way to grow meat from animal cells in a lab. When he began his research, lab-grown meat cost about $5,000 to produce. He lowered the price to $400 per pound and expects to reduce it further.

      “By looking at a problem in life sciences from an engineering standpoint, Dr. Nahmias essentially created a multidisciplinary innovation,” said Dr. Daniely. “He applied his skills in one area to a completely different domain; it’s a novel approach.”

      Grail, a healthcare company focused on the early detection of cancer, brought together professors from HU’s computer science and engineering department, as well as doctors from Hadassah Medical Center. The company, which has teamed up with Yissum, is creating a method for doctors to screen patients with a simple blood test for abnormal tissue or cell death.

      Dr. Shlomo Magdassi, a chemistry professor at the Hebrew University for over 30 years, has lent his expertise in colloids, a type of chemical mixture, and nanoparticles to a host of innovations. He has worked with physicists, biologists, and mechanical engineers on several technologies. Among them, Dr. Magdassi has created solar panels in California using coatings that contain nanoparticles, printed medication that can be customized for individual patients, glass printing technology—he even developed technology to print logos on coffee and cappuccino.

      Dr. Shlomo Magdassi

      For the past 18 months, Dr. Magdassi has been working with Dr. Oded Shoseyov, a nanotechnology professor at HU who is currently focusing on the molecular biology of plants. With funding from Yissum, their lab results, using waste from wood material, have been successful and they’re now investigating commercial applications.

      “It’s impossible to be masters in everything we do, and we know that we must collaborate,” said Dr. Magdassi. “It’s the spirit of the Hebrew University.”


      HU Alum’s Journey to Reinvent Public Transportation

      By Diane Hess

      Five years ago, Daniel Ramot launched Via, an on-demand ridesharing business, with limited service in New York City. Now the Hebrew University of Jerusalem graduate is pursuing loftier aspirations: He is on a mission to re-engineer public transportation worldwide.

      CEO Ramot and his Via co-founder, Oren Shoval, were inspired by sherut taxis, a flat-rate minivan service that runs along fixed routes in Israel. In 2013, they introduced the Via mobile app, a high-tech version of the sherut rideshare model. Passengers can hail a ride from their phone and, in order to expedite service, pickups and drop-offs take place close to the desired location. A sophisticated software algorithm determines the best route to travel, making adjustments during the trip to pick up or drop off other passengers. To date, Via has provided more than 40 million rides and has raised more than $400 million.

      Some might have stopped after creating a successful, private cab-share service. But Ramot’s ambitions extend beyond commuters ordering cars around town. He’s passionate about his plans to change mass transit and establish partnerships between Via and public transportation agencies.

      “We’re increasingly seeing cities and towns asking themselves how they can provide residents with public transportation that radically improves the customer’s experience, yet maintain the environmental benefits of mass transit,” Ramot said. “Via technology can make that vision a reality.”

      From the beginning, Ramot imagined Via’s app-based platform as the future of public transportation, providing shorter wait and trip times, and better comfort, while reducing congestion caused by single-person trips. Last year in Berlin, Via partnered with the city’s transit authority and Mercedes-Benz to introduce the largest-ever public shuttle service; it has a fleet of 300 vehicles, some of which are electric.

      In Singapore, Via is in the second phase of a trial designed to free the local bus system from fixed routes and set timetables using its technology. After ridership nearly doubled in Arlington, Texas, the city officially replaced its fixed-line bus service in September with Via’s hail-able vans. Early next year, the company will roll out a program in Los Angeles to service three lower-income areas that currently lack affordable access to the city’s metro lines. Most recently, Via won a bid in Helsinki, Finland to implement its service in the major commuter town of Espoo.

      “If cities want to get people out of private cars, they will need to offer public transportation that is flexible, convenient, and provides a competitive alternative to [automobile] ownership,” Ramot said.

      The consumer segment is still the biggest component of Via’s business and continues to grow quickly. While Via operated initially only during rush hour between the Upper East Side and Midtown neighborhoods of Manhattan, it’s now in all five boroughs of New York City, as well as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and several European cities.

      Via maintains a competitive advantage by offering a flat-rate ride. At the same time, the pooled-ride service reportedly pays its drivers better than other app-based companies. Via is also tuned into advancements in autonomous driving capabilities.

      “We’ll need technology like Via’s to power the network and to coordinate, in real-time, the movement of millions of connected autonomous shuttles and their passengers,” said Ramot. “We’re working on a number of projects on this front.”

      Before Via, Ramot built supercomputers designed to discover new pharmaceutical drugs and developed avionic systems for F-15s and F-16s. A graduate of the Talpiot Program at the Hebrew University, he also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University.

      “At Hebrew University, I met and became lifelong friends with some of the brightest and most talented people I know,” said Ramot. “I’d say that the greatest career advantage of my time there was being surrounded by such a fantastic group of people who are my personal and professional support network.”


      Raising the Steaks in 3D-Printed Food

      By Diane Hess

      The phrase “hot off the press” takes on new meaning at Israeli startup Jet Eat, which is developing the first of its kind program for 3D printing of meat substitutes.

      Jet Eat joins other tech companies in the engineered food space, but it leads the pack in the pursuit to print vegan beef. Using plant-based ingredients, it has already succeeded in recreating the texture and taste of meat. The firm’s approach is multi-faceted: Jet Eat developed software that defines the properties of printed meat in a digital file, as well as a special 3D printer that can generate complex structures of food.

      Last month, the Ness Ziona-based company won the 2018 Food Accelerator Network Program competition, hosted by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology. It recognized Jet Eat for its initiatives in food innovation and production, and its ability to impact society.

      “Our challenge is to reduce beef consumption—an issue for public health, the environment, and food supply,” said Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, CEO of Jet Eat and a Hebrew University of Jerusalem graduate.

      Ben-Shitrit expects to market Jet Eat’s printed vegan steak in 2020. Not only is he committed to delivering a great product, he is also working on a way to scale production so large quantities can be made at reasonable costs. Initially, Jet Eat plans to sell to specific butchers around the world and Ben-Shitrit hopes to be in Whole Foods and other premium retail outlets soon after.

      Separately, in October 2017, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Yissum Research Development Company introduced technology for the 3D printing of personalized food based on nanocellulose—a natural, edible fiber.

      Ben-Shitrit credits his kibbutz upbringing and his business and law education at HU as inspiration for his entrepreneurial work: “Studying law gives you the ability to dissect complex problems and solve them,” he said. “Through Jet Eat, I can use technology to help [fix] the supply chain and change the world.”


      AI tool helps radiologists clear dangerous data bottleneck

      It’s not every day that TIME magazine calls you a genius.

      “They’re not calling me a genius,” Elad Walach protests. “They’re referring to the company!”

      Walach is the 30-year-old CEO of Aidoc, a two-year-old Tel Aviv-based startup that is saving lives through medical imaging.

      Aidoc applies proprietary artificial intelligence to the millions of images generated every year by CT scans in order to catch serious issues before a human radiologist even has a chance to review the results.

      Aidoc has already received US and European approval to assess scans of brain hemorrhages and spinal fractures.

      TIME included the startup on its list of “50 Genius Companies of 2018,” a prestigious cohort that includes well-known names such as Amazon, Airbnb and Apple (and that’s just the As).

      Aidoc’s always-on AI software reviews CT results as soon as they come out of the machine. If an abnormality is detected, an alert appears on the radiologist’s screen immediately.

      “The radiologist doesn’t have to click anything for this to happen; that’s why it’s being used on a daily basis,” Walach tells ISRAEL21c.

      The need for a solution like Aidoc is only getting more acute. In its article, TIME refers to a “looming data thrombosis” where medical information is projected to reach a total of 2.3 trillion gigabytes by 2020.

      Aidoc has analyzed 40 terabytes of data a day just in the last six months. That’s too much for human radiologists – but it’s the bread and butter of machine learning and computer analysis.

      Aidoc prioritization widget. Photo: courtesy
      Walach says radiologists using Aidoc can reduce turnaround time by up to 60 percent. The product is now used in 50 medical institutions including large university hospitals in the United States and Europe. Sheba Medical Center in Israel was one of Aidoc’s earliest adopters.

      Walach says that nearly 300,000 patient scans have been analyzed, saving some 50,000 hours of human work. Aidoc software detected 140,000 abnormalities and prioritized 46,000 cases.

      With $13 million raised, Aidoc is growing fast. Although currently the software only works with CT scans, regular X-rays as well as high-tech MRIs will be added in 2019, pending regulatory approval.

      Anonymous data

      Aidoc charges clients an annual fee based on the size of the institution. “It’s not per scan,” Walach points out. “We don’t want our customers to worry about using it more or less because of the price.”

      Along with clear benefits, the growing use of medical data brings concurrent privacy concerns. For Aidoc to work its magic, a patient’s scans must be compared with hundreds of thousands of existing images across dozens of computers running remotely. Walach says that Aidoc makes sure to anonymize all data it analyzes.

      “The data is fully owned by the hospital,” he adds. “It’s uploaded to the cloud just for computational purposes.”

      Israel’s expertise in security helps. “We have a lot of manpower here with this kind of background,” Walach says. “It helps us ensure our infrastructure is highly robust.”

      Aidoc was launched in 2016 by three graduates of the IDF’s elite Talpiot program who “were passionate about using the same set of skills we had from the army to contribute” in civilian life, Walach says. “The healthcare space resonated for all of us.”

      It didn’t hurt that Walach’s father worked for IBM’s Watson division, which is using the power of IBM’s most powerful computing system to advance healthcare. Family dinner-table conversations influenced the younger Walach’s professional direction, he says.

      Aidoc now has 50 people on staff with offices in Israel, New York and Europe. More regulatory approvals are coming, Walach says, including for chest and abdomen imaging.

      Easing a bottleneck

      Are radiologists in danger of being replaced by this new technology? Hardly. As medical imaging becomes more common, the workload for radiologists has soared. In smaller, rural facilities, there may be no staff radiologist at all.

      “The number of radiologists is stagnant, creating a bottleneck,” Walach says.

      While Walach says it takes three hours on average for a scan to be read, in some cases, “a patient could wait up to 24 hours for a radiologist to interpret the images.”

      Aidoc automatically pinpoints areas of concern on the CT scan. Photo: courtesy

      As a result, an entire business of outsourced “tele-radiologists” has cropped up, where a radiologist in Israel or India will read the scan of a patient remotely.

      Products like Aidoc enable radiologists – wherever they may be – to be more effective and for emergency cases to be flagged so the patient can be treated on the spot.

      Walach quotes the chairman of the radiology department at one Aidoc client hospital, who told him, “You gave me the peace of mind that there were no patients with a brain bleed waiting for their scans to be read.”

      Or as Aidoc’s new director of sales and strategy for North America Tom Shearer says, “AI isn’t the future for medical imaging. It’s the present.”

      For more information, click here 

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c


      Avraham Spraragen

      Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Avraham Spraragen spent his childhood summers at Ramah Day Camp in Jerusalem and Kayitz Bakibbutz in the Beit She’an Valley. Learning about Israeli life and culture at a young age inspired him to later join various Israel advocacy groups in the U.S. and to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

      In his senior year of high school, Avraham deferred his acceptance to Cornell University and enrolled in a gap year program at HU’s Rothberg International School (RIS). At RIS, he studied the Arab-Israeli conflict, met students from all backgrounds, and engaged with world-renowned academics.

      Avraham arriving at Ben Gurion Airport for his gap year at RIS

      His favorite classes were with Professors David Mendelsson (The History of the Modern State of Israel) and Nafez Nazzal (The Palestinians: Modern History and Society). The highlight of Avraham’s gap year experience was his internship at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). At JCPA, he conducted research on Middle East politics and history for former ambassadors and human rights lawyers.

      Reflecting upon his time at RIS, Avraham said, “my experience was intellectually stimulating and enriching. It was truly the greatest year of my life.”

      Avraham at the Western Wall

      Avraham’s gap year program prepared him for Israel advocacy work when he began at Cornell. He is currently a sophomore, pursuing a major in Government and a double minor in Near Eastern Studies and History, with a focus on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He serves as Cornellians for Israel’s Vice President of Education, sits on the board of the Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East, and is a member of the United Nations Association’s Middle East Research Team. In addition, Avraham is a political staff writer for the Cornell Daily Sun, a contributor to the Times of Israel, and a fellow of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

      Avraham with his roommate in front of HU’s Student Village on Mount Scopus

      “At Rothberg, I gained a wealth of knowledge in my field of research. Studying there, while interning at the JCPA, opened the door to many opportunities, including my summer internship at the Israeli Policy Forum. As I pursue a career in the field of Middle East conflict resolution, I will always remember my experience at Hebrew U and JCPA,” Avraham said.

      Read more about Avraham’s RIS experience here.


      Jing Song

      Jing Song grew up in a bustling port city along the eastern coast of China. As a child, she imagined traveling abroad and learning about distant cultures. Her aunt studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) for her Master’s in public health and Ph.D., and Jing hoped to follow in her footsteps. Years later, after receiving her M.D. from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, she headed to Jerusalem.

      From 2007-2010, as a post-doctoral fellow, Jing conducted biochemistry research in an HU lab. Alongside Professor Shimon Gatt, she tested the efficacy of potential anticancer drugs and cancer treatment and studied inherited metabolic diseases such as Gaucher disease. At the end of her fellowship, Jing extended her stay in Israel.

      She enrolled in the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School Ph.D. program in immunology. For five years, she investigated LysRS, an enzyme that regulates gene expression, and auto-immune diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS). Her research contributed to the development of a new drug candidate for MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

      Jing enjoyed her research and being part of a team making new medical discoveries just as much as she loved learning about Israel. Jing said, “As an atheist Chinese woman, living in Israel completely changed my perception of the world and religions. Learning Hebrew, making international and local friends, and discovering Jewish culture all played a huge part in my life. Living in Israel helped me become a more open-minded individual.”

      Jing now resides in Seattle, Washington, and is a postdoctoral research associate at Benaroya Research Institute (BRI). At BRI, she discovered potential causes for rheumatoid arthritis and developed new methods and protocols to identify and treat autoimmune diseases. In addition, she has authored numerous medical publications and traveled extensively to present her research at conferences.

      Jing believes studying at HU greatly impacted her life and opened the doors to a successful career as an immunologist. She said, “My professors taught me fundamental research techniques and prepared me for my postdoc position at Benaroya. Today, I am able to contribute to the field of immunology and develop innovative autoimmune disease drugs and treatment – all thanks to the Hebrew University.”





      Erez Podoly

      Erez Podoly ‘08 was introduced to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) as a young man. “I remember a beautiful, black and white photo of my mom, next to the National Library of Israel and her stories about student life on HU’s Givat Ram campus and in Jerusalem.” His mother’s experiences left a big impression on him, and Erez hoped one day he too would attend HU and have his own stories to tell.

      Erez more than fulfilled those plans by receiving his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees at HU. A gifted student, Erez received several awards and scholarships including the Kaye Innovation Prize and the Israeli Ministry of Science Eshkol Ph.D. fellowship. While working on his Ph.D., Erez served as the Assistant Executive Director of BioJerusalem, an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority where he helped bring biotech opportunities to the city.

      After receiving his Ph.D., Erez began a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Nobel Laureate and HU Visiting Professor Roger Kornberg. During his academic career, Erez co-authored many peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.

      He is an experienced entrepreneur who integrates the lessons he learned at HU into everything he works on. He is the founder and former CEO of ArcheroMetric and his current venture is Slive Inc., a start-up impacting healthcare through technologies that monitor signals of diseases and other physiological conditions.

      Erez believes HU played a key role in his entrepreneurial life – it expanded his knowledge base and offered different perspectives. He said, “Today, I am able to turn ideas into start-ups and contribute to shaping our future society.”

      Erez is excited to give back to HU as the chair of the HU Alumni Association’s Pacific Northwest Region. He is thrilled to support the university through volunteerism and to build and strengthen the alumni community in the area.


      Keenan Davis

      By the end of his first year at the University of Virginia (UVA), Keenan Davis ’11 made two decisions that changed his life. He decided to double major in Jewish Studies and Biology (with a focus in neuroscience) and to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

      Shortly thereafter, Keenan was accepted into the Honors Program at HU’s Rothberg International School. At HU he studied the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides and took classes on Orthodox Judaism in modernity and the history of Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity.

      Keenan enjoyed all of his courses. However, his favorite class was Archaeology of Jerusalem. Stories of ancient historical sites came to life as he traveled with his class throughout the city of Jerusalem. Experiencing Israel and Jewish history in such a personal way, alongside the perspectives of academic and traditional study, profoundly shaped Keenan.

      Keenan with his father and grandfather at Masada

      Upon returning to UVA, Keenan became very involved in the campus community and assumed several leadership roles including president of the Hoos for Israel (HFI) student organization. As HFI’s president, he helped organize programs to educate students on Israeli culture and politics and hosted a variety of speakers from across the political spectrum.

      After graduation, Keenan served as a corps member of Teach For America and for three years he taught high school chemistry, physics, biology, and math. He completed his M.A. in bioethics through Emory University’s Center for Ethics with a thesis analyzing the impact of biotechnology with respect to human dignity.

      Today, Keenan has returned to his hometown in Georgia, where he is happily married and a proud father of two children.

      He is currently a candidate for his M.D. at Emory’s School of Medicine, and Ph.D. in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, as a fellow of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies.

      Keenan on a HU trip exploring Roman-era caves

      Years have passed since Keenan first stepped foot on HU’s campus, but the memories he gained there and the lessons he learned remain with him. He said, “My time in Israel was essential to my developing identity and goals. I am who I am in large part because of my experience at Hebrew University.”




      Howard Kaplan

      The story of how Howard Kaplan came to Hebrew University (HU) is far from usual. In the summer of 1970 at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, he attended a lecture featuring the prominent Jewish-American scholar Arthur Hertzberg. After the lecture, Hertzberg approached him.

      “He was told I was a troublemaker, which wasn’t entirely untrue. He asked me what I did and then offered to walk with me,” Howard said. To Howard’s surprise, Hertzberg asked him to return with him to HU, where he would teach in the fall. Howard excitedly agreed, prepared his luggage, and 10 days later, arrived in Jerusalem.

      While studying at HU, Howard participated in numerous university-arranged tours to historical sites. Hiking the Sinai Desert was his favorite excursion. One morning he sat at the Santa Katerina Monastery to admire the cascading sunrise above the beautiful mountains.

      Studying in Israel during the height of the Cold War added a layer of adventure for Howard. He befriended students on campus who were eager to help Jews escape the Soviet Union and gain Israeli citizenship. He met with students weekly to learn basic information about USSR politics and the Refusenik community–Soviet citizens, especially Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate.

      Howard at Wadi Qelt on an HU trip

      At the end of his year abroad, the leaders of the community sent Howard on a mission to the Soviet Union to smuggle a dissident’s manuscript on microfilm to London. “I went to London because I was connected with people there who were helping Soviet Jews, and from London, I went into Moscow to meet with the Hebrew teachers and some of the underground leaders,” Howard added.

      After a successful first trip, on his second trip, he transferred a manuscript to the Dutch Ambassador inside his embassy in Moscow. A week later, he was arrested in Khartiv in Ukraine and interrogated for two days there followed by another two days in Moscow, before being expelled from the USSR.

      Living in the Middle East and becoming a spy were two things Howard never imagined he’d one day do. For years, he ruminated over his unique experiences abroad in Israel, London, and the USSR. Finally, while studying for his M.A. in philosophy at the University of California in Los Angeles, he grabbed a pen and began to write.

      “I thought I’d pursue a Ph.D. next, and perhaps work in the community, but after I graduated with my M.A., I sold my first novel Damascus Cover to a major U.S. publisher, so off I went into another direction.” Now an award-winning author, Howard has written four additional novels: The Chopin Express, Bullets of Palestine, The Spy’s Gamble, and his most recent publication To Destroy Jerusalem. His novel Damascus Cover is a major motion picture starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sir John Hurt, and Olivia Thirlby. Selling his book to Hollywood, going to Casablanca to watch it being filmed, and seeing his novel come to life on the big screen are all highlights of his career.

      Howard in the Negev desert on an HU outing.

      While his extensive travel throughout the Middle East informs much of his writing, his first trip to Israel is the major source of his inspiration. Howard said, “If it weren’t for my study abroad experience at Hebrew University, I might not have become a writer. Most of my writing is about the Middle East. I wouldn’t have been in that region, and I have an insufficient imagination to grasp what I might have done instead.”



      Robert Duke

      In 2000, Robert (Bobby) R. Duke received a Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship to attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU). The opportunity to work with top Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and being part of Rotary in Jerusalem was an experience he couldn’t find elsewhere. Studying in Israel was the stepping stone for him to attend UCLA for his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Culture, followed by a fellowship at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in 2005.


      Today, Bobby is Dean of the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University and is an authority on ancient Jewish texts including Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Second Temple Judaism. From 2009-2012, Bobby chaired the Service-Learning and Biblical Studies workshop at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting.

      Bobby is also a prolific researcher of pedagogy and experiential learning in biblical studies. He enjoys investigating how service-learning and community-engaged teaching can improve student retention of religious studies course material. His university has also partnered with HU at the archaeological site at Abel Beth Maacah.

      In addition to his scholarly work, Bobby is a champion for foster children and has been a foster parent since 2011. He’s served on the Director’s Council for the Department of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles County, which aids the largest community of foster children in the nation. In 2014, he received grant funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to organize an interfaith foster care summit for clergy in Los Angeles County.

      An accomplished academic, Bobby knows that his year at Hebrew University was integral to his future. He said, “The professors I was able to work with at Hebrew University are the most recognized experts in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls. Having been shaped by their expertise still bears fruit today. I am also a Rotarian, so the year impacted not just my scholarly career, but also my desire to use it for the good of the community.”

      To view Bobby’s Tedx Talk on foster care, click here.


      Robert Mullins

      Robert (Bob) Mullins caught the “archaeology bug” in 1972 while working on his first field dig at Tel Qasile in northern Tel Aviv. Amihai Mazar, a young Ph.D. student from Hebrew University (HU), directed the dig and years later, Professor Mazar became Bob’s dissertation supervisor at HU.

      That summer, Bob was among the first to find evidence for the now famous Stratum X Philistine temple at Tel Qasile. Gazing upon the temple’s twin pillars, Bob was reminded of the story of Samson in a similar Philistine temple.

      It was at this moment he realized that the Bible stories were more than what he learned on Sunday mornings, but a cohesive history of people who lived thousands of years ago. This led to his decision to return to the United States to study archaeology in college and obtain his Ph.D. in Israel.

      Bob’s studies at Hebrew University began the summer of 1985 and finished in 2003 when he received his Ph.D. in Archaeology. While at HU, Bob participated in several digs, served as a research assistant to Professor Mazar, and taught courses in archaeology, history, and geography at Jerusalem University College. He even taught a course on the archaeology of Israel for HU’s Rothberg International School. 

      In addition to his numerous publications and books, Bob is a member of the editorial board of the Antigue Oriente (Ancient Near East) Journal and has served as an expert for several TV series including Modern Marvels, Bible Secrets Revealed, Ancient Aliens, and The Universe.

      Bob’s experiences at HU were transformative. He said, “It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I could have studied archaeology only in the U.S., but I wanted to experience the land of Israel as my classroom, to walk its length and breadth, to know the ancient artifacts firsthand, and to achieve a measure of fluency in the Hebrew language. Moreover, growing up as a Christian, studying at the Hebrew University gave me access to the best in Jewish scholarship. To this day, in my role as professor and chair in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University (APU), I continue to pass on the Hebrew University tradition of “close reading” of the biblical text to my students.” 

      In addition to his role as professor and chair of the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at APU, Bob has served as the co-director of the archeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah since 2012. The dig is a joint project between HU and APU.

      Bob’s love for archaeology and HU is so infectious that several of his students have completed summer programs and M.A. degrees through the Rothberg International School.

      In the summer of 2018, a ninth-century B.C. faience head that may represent an important figure in the Iron Age—a dignitary, elite person, or even a king—was discovered at Tel Abel Beth Maccah. The head, which is now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was uncovered by one of Professor Mullins’s APU students. After this discovery, Bob was filled with pride. He said, “my students have caught the ‘archaeology bug’ just as I did four decades ago.”


      Avi Loeb

      Born in 1962, Abraham (Avi) Loeb was raised on his family farm in Beit Hanan, located in central Israel. A precocious young man, Avi was fascinated by philosophy and the world surrounding him. On weekends he would drive a tractor into the hills and spend hours reading books by existential philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus and dreamed of becoming like them.

      Avi was accepted into the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) elite Talpiot program when he was 18. The prestigious program only accepts two dozen recruits annually to complete intellectual work in defense-related research.

      While in Talpiot, Avi studied physics and mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) for three years while simultaneously undergoing military training. After completing his IDF service, he entered HU’s joint M.S. and Ph.D. degree program in plasma physics and conducted research at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.

      Equipped with a solid foundation in scientific methodology and advanced knowledge of physics, Avi pursued a career as a scientist. Today, he is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University. He has published four books and over 700 papers on a wide range of topics including black holes, the first stars, the future of the universe, and the search for extraterrestrial life.

      No stranger to the media, major news outlets including Forbes, NPR, The Times, and The Guardian have featured Avi’s predictions of Earth’s future and research on alien civilizations. Avi and his team are researching ways to potentially employ the help of extraterrestrial beings to locate another earth-like planet or conduct an archaeological dig on an alien planet in outer space.

      As the chair of the Advisory Committee for Breakthrough Starshot Initiative – the first significantly funded project to visit another planetary system – he has worked with world renown scientists and public figures including the late Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO/Founder Mark Zuckerberg, to help develop nanotechnology to locate other habitable planets in our nearest star system.

      Additionally, Avi serves as Chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy, is a Founding Director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative, and is the Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is the Science Theory Director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and the Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. In 2012, Time Magazine named him as one of the 25 most influential people in space.

      Grateful for the education that he received at Hebrew University, Avi said, “Without the knowledge I gained at HU, none of these accomplishments would have been possible. I grew up on a farm and would have probably worked there until today.” The Hebrew University is what motivated him to shoot for the stars.

      You can learn more about Avi and his work in this video.


      Jennifer Weintraub

      A true California girl, Jen Weintraub ’17 decided to take a break from the Golden State for the land of milk and honey to study at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University (HU) in the spring of 2016. As an International Studies major with a passion for Israel and Judaism, Jen was attracted to HU’s Thrive program – an immersive, elective course for students studying at Rothberg.

      The Thrive program added an extra challenge to Jen’s experience in Israel. In addition to her standard courses, Jen learned an incredible amount about the Middle East. She said, “My professors had been diplomats all around the world and had first-hand experience about creating peace. It was fascinating to learn from their experiences. Studying at Hebrew University gave me a better understanding of Israeli culture. After the school semester was over, I didn’t want to leave.” Her love for Israel was so strong that Jen ended up staying an extra three months to work in the Knesset for MK Michael Oren. She described those three months as an unforgettable experience.

      After returning to the U.S. and graduating from Manhattanville College in New York City, Jen’s passion for Judaism and Israel translated into a career as an Israel educator, first at StandWithUs, and now as the Engagement Associate at the University of North Texas Hillel in Denton. At Hillel, Jen can share her love for Israel and will even get to take her students to Israel on Birthright.


      Beth Kissileff

      When Beth Kissileff was a sophomore in college, she took a ‘Bible in Literature’ class. Due to her limited knowledge of Hebrew, she assumed she was likely the least knowledgeable person in the room. She realized that to know more about Judaism and Jewish texts, she needed a better grasp on Hebrew and the best way to learn a language is through immersion where the language is spoken. After she graduated with her B.A. in 1990, she and her husband enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

      Beth loved her classes and teachers at HU and enjoyed studying abroad with a diverse group of students who were equally engaged and highly educated. As she traveled and studied in Israel, she realized that being in the place where biblical stories occurred adds such a richness and dimension that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. The highlight of Beth’s year abroad was the university’s Bible department tiyul (trips) to sites that were described in various sacred texts.

      When she returned to the U.S., she earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Today, Beth is an accomplished writer and journalist who seeks to capture the liveliness and excitement of Bible study through her writing. She edited the anthology Reading Genesis: Beginning (2016) and is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Reading Exodus (2019). The origins of her books Questioning Return (2016) and I’m Not Here for Myself (coming in spring 2019) date to the time she spent traveling in Israel and studying at HU. She shared, “In my book Questioning Return, the main character enrolls into HU’s ulpan program. There are a few scenes where she meets with her advisor, studies in the library, and eats in the meat cafeteria with the incredible view of Mount Scopus. The book is an armchair travel to HU and Jerusalem!” Beth is also working on a volume of linked short stories, They Truly Loved Us and a second novel, The Life I was Supposed to Have. She has been particularly thrilled to write for the English version of the 929 website, where her work can be found along with her former Hebrew University professors Yair Zakovitch and Avigdor Shinan.

      Beth’s writing has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Religion News Service,,, the New York Times, The Tower, the Jewish Review of Books, Tablet, the Forward, the Jerusalem Report, the Jerusalem Post, and the New York Jewish Week among others. She has taught Hebrew Bible, Jewish studies, English literature and writing at the University of Pittsburgh, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Shaw University. She has received fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

      Beth currently lives in Pittsburgh with her family, but her heart is set on Israel and her experiences at Hebrew University. Beth exclaimed, “My husband and I decided that when we retire we want to come back to Jerusalem and again, sit in on classes at the Hebrew University, as well as the many other places to learn around town!”

      Visit her online at


      Shay Bialik

      As the former chairwoman of Israel’s National Student and Youth Council as a high school student, Shay Bialik ’14 was used to fighting for what she felt was right. During the eventful 2011 summer, Shay met some of the people who would later provide her with a warm welcome when she started studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

      “Attending Hebrew University (HU) wasn’t my top choice”, she said. “It was my only choice.” For Shay, HU is the top university in Israel, one of the best schools globally for international relations and history, and is in her favorite city in the world.

      After learning of her arrival, leaders of the Labor Party’s university organization (who had heard about the fiery young woman from other Hebrew University students) immediately recruited her to their cause – where she became the spokeswoman for the organization, as well as the coordinator for the Knesset internship program. Along with her work in the Labor Party and her studies, Shay also worked for public figures including Jerusalem City Councilwoman Merav Cohen and Mayor Nir Barkat, as well as in the Knesset.

      In addition to getting a university education, Shay’s international career began at Hebrew University. She founded the university’s Hasbara Operations room during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, where she fought against false news stories.

      Shay later went to study in Paris as an exchange student at the prestigious Sciences Po University. Upon completing her studies, she began working as an advisor to the Israeli ambassador at the Israeli Mission to the Council of Europe, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and UNESCO in Paris – a role she held for almost three years.

      In 2017 Shay relocated to New York, where she works for the Israeli Mission to the United Nations as a policy advisor. She is also currently studying for a master’s degree in International Relations at the New School.

      Currently living with her husband in New York, Shay still dreams of returning to Jerusalem. Shay notes “My time at the Hebrew University and in Jerusalem provided me with everything I could have ever wanted and wished. It was life, it was liberty, and it was happiness at the palm of my hands. And even if I barely had time to eat, I still keep in close contact with faculty and friends whom I now consider my Jerusalem family.”


      Dr. Efrat Daskal

      Efrat Daskal earned her Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2015 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Crown Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University.

      Since 2010, she has dedicated her professional and academic training to the research and study of traditional and digital media policy while focusing on three main questions: (a) How social actors who are in charge of constructing media policy can be held accountable for their conduct; (b) how citizens (aim to) influence media policy as constructed by the powerful social actors; and (c) the outcome of the dialogue constructed between the sides.

      Efrat explored these questions, in her dissertation which focused on the case study of public complaints sent by Israeli viewers to media organizations in Israel. She completed her Ph.D. in 2015 in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, under the supervision of Professor Tamar Liebes and Professor Zohar Kampf.

      She began specializing in the field of internet policy as a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and continued to work in this area as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Open University in Israel (2015-2016), at the Hebrew University (2016-2017), and currently at Northwestern University.

      In her post-doc projects, Efrat explores the following issues: digital rights advocacy, youth involvement in the Internet Governance Forum, and the work of computer security incident response teams (CERT/CSIRT). Her work so far has been published in several journals such as: Information, Communication and Society, International Journal of Communication and Media, Culture and Society.


      Making the right call: HU technology KEY to Thai soccer team rescue

      By Diane Hess

      Mobile communications technology developed by a former student of the Hebrew University played a crucial role in the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in July.

      Uzi Hanuni, the chief executive of Yavne-based Maxtech Networks, is the man behind the radio technology that allowed the responders to communicate with one another during the rescue operation in Thailand. He was a student at the Hebrew University from 1990 to 1992, while in the Elite Technology Unit of the Israel Defense Forces.


      Uzi Hanuni

      On June 25th Mr. Hanuni got a call from Thai authorities, two days after the 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the Tham Luang Non cave in Chiang Rai following a soccer game.


      Immediately, Mr. Hanuni put one of his employees on a plane with a suitcase filled with 19 Maxtech Network radios, the number of devices necessary to complete a link to the boys. The handheld radios, which resemble walkie-talkies, do not require a direct line of sight and can be used in complex environments without infrastructure.

      “I thought about nothing other than saving the boys’ lives,” said Mr. Hanuni, who donated the devices, which cost a total of $100,000.

      After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Mr. Hanuni was determined to build a communications network that did not lean on infrastructure. He and his team spent four years creating a software algorithm for Maxtech Networks, founded in 2004.

      “My experience at the Hebrew University gave me the confidence to develop the algorithm for Maxtech Networks,” said Mr. Hanuni. “The university is a place where you can grow ideas.”


      Dori Weinstein

      When asked why she loves the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, award-winning author Dori Weinstein says it’s because of three things. “The university emboldened my connection to Judaism, deepened my love for Israel, and opened the door to life-long friendships, including, (albeit through a roundabout way), meeting my husband.” She and her husband, Gary, were both students in the Rothberg School for Overseas Students on the same program at the same time, but they never met. Her husband saw her in an HU play, but didn’t notice her in the show, which she says is likely because she was dressed as a ghost under a sheet!  They met a year and a half after college graduation through mutual HU friends.

      Dori with her husband visiting HU in 2017.


      However, Dori’s HU journey began several years before her theater debut. In 1984, Dori received a Zionist Organization of America high school student scholarship to travel to Israel, which included a visit to Hebrew University. Filled with excitement once there, she and her friend, Emily, made a pact to study abroad at the university during their junior year of college. Four years later, their pact became a realization and they both attended Hebrew University.

      Dori with friends at HU

      At HU, Dori’s passion for Judaism became evident as she was exposed to Israeli culture. For Dori, “Jewish holidays came to life on the streets of Jerusalem.” Throughout her time in Israel, whether touring the country or on campus, Israel left a strong impression on her. These experiences motivated her to become a Jewish educator, and further encouraged her to become a Jewish children’s book author.


      As the author of the YaYa & YoYo book series, Dori has written three books and is currently working on the fourth. With fond memories of her time at HU, she has included numerous references to the university in her stories. “I even named two of my characters after the HU dorms, Resnick and Idelson!”

      When Dori isn’t writing, she travels throughout the U.S. for book signings, readings, and school visits. “I feel so lucky that I get to do what I love! I write stories and then have the opportunity to share my books and my passion with YaYa & YoYo fans!”

      Dori and her husband have traveled to Israel with their three children. They are both highly involved in the Minneapolis Jewish community, and are major HU supporters. Their enthusiasm for HU continues with their family. “Our son attended the Hebrew University during his junior year of college so you can imagine how proud and excited we were to share that experience with him!”

      To learn more about the YaYa & YoYo series visit Dori’s website:





      Joan West Johnson

      After winning a 1962 New York City Hebrew competition prize, Joan West left the familiarity of her childhood home in Queens, New York, where she had many family and friends, to study thousands of miles away at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon her enrollment, she became the first African American co-ed to attend the university.

      Joan came to Israel when it was an emerging nation. She shared with amusement, “I was in Israel before Coca-Cola had even arrived. I had to ask a diplomat to ‘smuggle’ drinks for my party. Of course, it wasn’t really illegal; just not available in Israel, yet.”

      Joan’s passion for people and life blossomed and thrived at the Hebrew University. The campus was full of staff and students from diverse cultures and was educated on tolerance, acceptance, and self-development. Joan said, “It was just like New York, but then again not, because I felt like an integral part of the community, and yet, I was in an entirely different country.”

      One of her favorite memories as a student is of her encounter with Hebrew University President Pinchas Rosen. Joan says, “He wanted to speak with me, and I couldn’t figure out why. Why me? I felt like a middle school student in the principal’s office-absolutely afraid!” Her fear quickly faded, however, upon learning the reason for her meeting. Joan would be featured in the Jerusalem Post, Ebony Magazine, the New York Times, and other major newspapers as the university’s first African American student. “I was floored,” says Joan. 

      Fifty-five years have passed, and Joan recently retired from the New York City public school system. She now splits her time between Queens and Boca Raton, Florida. During her last visit to Israel, she returned to HU. While there, she recalled that Israel was where she taught her first students and developed a love for education. Nostalgia bubbled over into deep gratitude, and as Joan said, “I couldn’t believe I was there. The place where I had become a woman, an individual. It was dream-like, and yet so real.” 

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