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Tel Aviv University

Prof. Ariel Porat is incoming Tel Aviv University President

The TAU Board of Governors ratified the presidency of Porat, a TAU alumnus, law professor and EMET Prize laureate

Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Ariel Porat served as an officer in the “8200” IDF Intelligence Corps unit for 5 years. He subsequently enrolled in law studies at Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann Faculty of Law, where he earned his LLB and direct JSD before performing post-doctoral studies at Yale Law School. His main research areas are torts, contracts, remedies, and law and economics.

He joined Tel Aviv University as a faculty member in 1990. From 2002 to 2006, he served as Dean of the Buchmann Faculty of Law, where he introduced a number of joint LLM programs and student exchange programs with leading schools abroad, and from 2013 to 2014 he chaired the University Strategic Steering Committee tasked with the academic restructuring of the University.

Driven by a deep sense of social responsibility, Porat conceived and launched a pioneering admittance program at TAU for students from Israel’s geographic and social periphery, and was additionally involved in other initiatives intended to widen the circle of educational opportunity for underrepresented groups in Israel.

Porat is Alain Poher Professor of Law at TAU and Associate Member and Fischel-Neil Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He was also a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, New York University, Stanford University, University of Toronto and the University of Virginia. He is a member of the American Law Institute, a former board member of the American Law and Economics Association and a former president of the Israeli Law and Economics Association. From 1997 to 2002, he was the Director of TAU’s Cegla Center for Interdisciplinary Research of the Law. He is the founder of the journal Theoretical Inquiries in Law and was its editor-in-chief in the years 1999-2003.

Porat is the author of four books and more than 90 articles published by the world’s leading academic presses and scholarly journals.

Photo: Yehonatan Zur

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Tel Aviv University

President’s Farewell Message – 2009 to 2019

Prof. Joseph Klafter sums up a rewarding tenure of championing creativity and entrepreneurship in every field

Like many organizations, Tel Aviv University must reinvent itself every now and then to ensure its continuing relevance and leadership role in an ever-changing, competitive global arena. This requires creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit.

My mission as university president for the last 10 years was to champion creativity and entrepreneurship in every field, sow fertile ground for them to grow, and nurture “academic chutzpah.” All along the way I sought to closely involve faculty, students, staff, alumni and supporters. I kept an open door. I learned to embrace what seemed impossible dreams. I gave people in the TAU community “permission to fail” and resolute backing on their path to success. Mostly, I endeavored to humanize this large university – this City of Big Ideas – sprawled on a Ramat Aviv hillside. When people meet people, sparks ignite.

Among the highlights of my tenure, I would like to share a number of trends that defined the growth and evolution of the University:


Removing Barriers: Interdisciplinary Culture

TAU has always been the Israeli pioneer for novel interdisciplinary research and study programs. Building on this foundation, TAU added some 50 major research centers, institutes and study frameworks, mostly in partnership with visionary donors, in areas ranging from neuroscience to ethics, evolutionary history to cyber security, and sports performance to smart cities – to name a few. Likewise, a vigorous faculty recruitment drive emphasized rising stars who could bring interdisciplinary know-how to TAU and Israel. Since 2010, TAU absorbed 420 talented new faculty members at an overall cost of $88 million.


Taking Flight: Globalization

Just as academic disciplines are borderless, so too are the challenges facing scientists. Developing more effective drugs, ensuring food security, protecting the environment, fighting poverty – these and many more universal challenges require a concerted global effort. Over the last decade, TAU has expanded ties and founded joint innovation centers with leading institutions on 6 continents, with a particularly dramatic push eastward into China and India. A globalized campus also meant attracting more international students, and we increased English-language degree programs from 2 in 2009 to 17 today.


Demonstrating Confidence: Strategic Moves

Along with looking outward to global opportunities, TAU looked inward at its own structure and brand identity and managed to rejuvenate both. We reorganized 125 academic departments into 31 schools to further encourage interdisciplinary excellence. And while already a super-brand in Israel, TAU nonetheless underwent a branding process to reposition itself as a bold, curiosity-inspiring research university that frees researchers, students and alumni to “pursue the unknown.”


Pursuing the Unknown: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Out of fearless questioning on the one hand, and interdisciplinary thinking on the other, emerges wonderful innovation – the new ideas, products or services that transform our lives. Over the last 10 years, TAU has flourished as a world recognized hub for generating discoveries and startups in every sphere. Among the factors contributing to this success are robust industry ties, venture capital backing, and the move to embed both technological and social entrepreneurship into the curriculum.


Serving the Community: Social Responsibility

Along with translating knowledge into practical solutions, TAU significantly widened access to its rich offerings for the benefit of Israeli society. TAU students work with about 100 NGOs on vital civic projects. Scholarship programs target underrepresented groups in higher education such as the Ultra-Orthodox, minorities, and young people with disabilities. At the same time, we’re diversifying and expanding our future student body with a unique program for teaching TAU online courses – for full university credit – in periphery high schools.


Expanding Capabilities: $1 Billion Global Campaign  

TAU’s heightened contribution and impact would not have been possible without the dedication and generosity of the University’s supporters. Donor funding has enabled the construction of 12 buildings for a total of 60,000 sq. m. (645,000 sq. ft.) in new, state-of-the-art facilities. Moreover, through the tireless activities of TAU’s Friends Associations in 26 countries, TAU’s reach is more extensive than ever before. We leveraged this heightened visibility to kick off, in 2013, the largest fundraising campaign of any Israeli university — $1 billion in 10 years – aimed at ensuring TAU’s growth momentum and fostering the Next Big Ideas. This year we reached $600 million in cash and pledges.


Today, after 3,600 intensive days and nights, I look back with satisfaction and forward with confidence. Mine has been a fascinating job at the apex of personal fulfilment and public service, philanthropy and private investment, and national priorities and global concerns. It has reinforced my deep belief in the singular importance of the University to Israeli society and to freedom and progress everywhere.


Most of all, I leave my position as President incredibly grateful for the help and support I received from my TAU family every step of the way.  I extend heartfelt thanks for the noble and inspiring teamwork that has placed TAU firmly on the map of the world’s lead




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Honours & Awards

TAU Honorary Degrees 2019

This year’s Honorary Degrees will be awarded to illustrious individuals in the areas of research, business, banking, social activism and philanthropy


The ceremony will take place on 16 May 2019 at the Miriam and Adolfo Smolarz Auditorium on the Tel Aviv University campus as part of the 2019 international Board of Governors Meeting.


The George S. Wise Medal:


Dr. Axel A. Weber, Germany

Dr. Axel Weber has been Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS, a Swiss bank and the world’s largest global wealth manager, since 2012. Previously, he served as a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank, President of the German Bundesbank, and as a member of the German Council of Economic Experts. He was a professor at the University of Cologne (2001-2004), Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main (1998-2001) and University of Bonn (1994-1998), and a Visiting Professor at the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago (2011-2012). A leading financial expert, Dr. Weber serves in a diverse range of advisory and trustee roles, including as Chairman of the Board of the Institute of International Finance, member of the Group of Thirty, and board member of the Swiss Bankers Association. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Siegen, Germany.


Honorary Doctorates:


Mr. Sylvan Adams, Israel/Canada

Sylvan Adams, a Canadian-born businessman, philanthropist and amateur cycling champion, made Aliyah in 2016. He previously served as CEO of the Montreal-based real estate firm Iberville Developments, and was the sole shareholder of Summit International Bank. Upon immigrating to Israel, Adams quickly integrated and devoted himself to serving his country; his calling card reads: “Self-appointed Ambassador at large for the State of Israel.” Adams supports an array of causes, most notably in education, health sciences, Jewish continuity, and sport, continuing the philanthropic legacy of his parents, Marcel and Annie, and the family tradition to make a positive contribution to society. Adams holds an MBA from the University of Toronto. He is a Governor and Vice-Chair of Tel Aviv University’s Board of Governors, and a member of the cabinet of TAU’s Global Campaign.


Prof. Adrian R. Krainer, USA/Uruguay

Adrian Krainer is the St. Giles Foundation Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Long Island, NY). He grew up in Montevideo, Uruguay, the child and grandchild of Jewish Romanian and Hungarian immigrants. He received his BSc and PhD degrees in biochemistry from Columbia University and Harvard University, respectively. Prof. Krainer focuses his research on RNA splicing, and invented the RNA-targeted antisense therapeutic Spinraza, the first approved drug to treat the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy. Prof. Krainer has published widely and holds 7 US patents and 83 foreign patents that have been licensed or sublicensed to 3 companies. He is the recipient of the 2019 Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize and the 2019 RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award. Prof. Krainer is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors (USA), and the Royal Society of Medicine (UK). 


Dr. Shlomo Markel, Israel  

Dr. Shlomo Markel has been Vice President, Office of the Chief Technical Officer, at Broadcom since 2001. Dr. Markel also oversees both the operations in Israel, where Broadcom has acquired 13 companies in the last decade, and academic collaboration with all the major Israeli universities; and promotes STEM education in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. In 1999, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral from the Israeli Navy as Chief of Material Command, where he headed R&D, logistics, programs and technology. The holder of several US and international patents, Dr. Markel has received numerous accolades, including the Navy CNO Citation for Creative Thinking, Israel’s R&D Ministry of Defense Ingenuity Award and, in 2013, national recognition from the President of Israel for his and Broadcom’s contribution to the Israeli economy. Dr. Markel holds a BSc, MSc and DSc in electrical engineering from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology.


Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria

Economist, international development expert and anti-corruption warrior, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and as Minister of Foreign Affairs (2006). Previously, she served for 25 years at the World Bank, rising to the number two position of Managing Director, where she oversaw an $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, Asia and Europe. Among a host of leadership and advisory roles, she currently chairs the boards of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the Africa Risk Capacity. She co-chairs the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate and is a member of the Standard Chartered Bank PLC and Twitter Boards, among others. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala holds a degree in economics from Harvard (1976) and a PhD in regional economics and development from MIT (1981). She was named by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 greatest world leaders in 2015, and by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women for five consecutive years.


Mr. Dilip Shanghvi, India

Dilip Shanghvi is an Indian entrepreneur who founded Sun Pharmaceutical Industries in 1983. The company is the 5th largest global specialty generic pharma company with revenues of $4 billion. Mr. Shanghvi is currently the Managing Director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, and Chairman and Managing Director of Sun Pharma Advanced Research Company, which is engaged in R&D of drugs and delivery systems. Mr. Shanghvi is the former President of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance. In 2018, he was appointed to the central board committee of the Reserve Bank of India, and in 2017 he was made a trustee of the Rhodes Scholarship Program at Oxford University. He is the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. For his accomplishments, the Indian government awarded Mr. Shanghvi the Padma Shri civilian award in 2016.


The Hon. Laura Wolfson Townsley, UK

The Honorable Laura Wolfson Townsley is Chair of the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust and a Trustee of the Wolfson Foundation, both of which have a long tradition of funding excellence in higher education across the UK and Israel. She is the granddaughter of Sir Isaac Wolfson and the daughter of Lord Wolfson of Marylebone, the charities’ founders. In 2010, the Wolfson family was awarded the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy and, in 2013, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Mrs. Wolfson Townsley has received numerous honors for her charitable endeavors, including an honorary fellowship from Birkbeck, University of London and the Rambam Award for 2011, and she is a Tel Aviv University Governor. The Wolfson family has supported an extensive range of projects at Tel Aviv University over four decades, including buildings, research grants, prizes, scholarships and chairs in fields ranging from engineering to Jewish studies and theoretical physics.


Dr. Janet L. Yellen, USA

Dr. Janet Yellen is an economist who served as Chair of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System from 2014-18, and as Vice-Chair from 2010-2014. She is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Among her prior roles, she was Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton, and President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Dr. Yellen has been a faculty member of the University of California at Berkeley since 1980, where she was the Eugene and Catherine Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she has written on a wide range of macroeconomic issues, with an emphasis on the causes, mechanisms and implications of unemployment. She received her PhD in economics from Yale University in 1971, the only woman in a class of 24.


Honorary Fellowships:


Mr. Richard Sincere, USA

Richard Sincere is founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Sincere & Co., a third-party marketing and distribution firm in the financial investment industry. He previously worked at the Fidelity Investment Advisor Group as a Senior Vice President and in management positions at National Westminster Bank and Citicorp/Citibank. He has been a Director of the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards since 2010 and also serves on the mutual fund board of Roge Partners Fund. Mr. Sincere writes a bimonthly column for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors publication, and serves on the advisory boards of The Journal of Wealth Management and Inside Money. At Tel Aviv University, he is a member of the international Board of Governors and of the board of the Coller School of Management, as well as outgoing National Chairman of the American Friends Board of Directors. His connection with TAU began when he spent a study year abroad in its overseas program in 1974.


Appleseeds Academy, Israel

Appleseeds Academy is an Israeli non-profit founded in 2000 with the aim of bridging between Israel’s startup sector and marginalized communities from Israel’s social and geographic periphery. An initiative of Mr. Leon Recanati, who serves as its Honorary President, Appleseeds promotes digital equality in Israel by developing and implementing programs in the areas of technology, employment and life skills. Through its team of 250 professional instructors, Appleseeds works in dozens of sites across Israel, from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south, reaching some 80,000 beneficiaries annually. Its overarching mission is to level the playing field for underprivileged groups by equipping them with technological and life skills that will help them integrate into Israel’s mainstream employment market, economy and society.




TAU President’s Award:  



SpaceIL is a non-profit organization established in 2011 to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. The $100 million project was founded by three young engineers in response to the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge and made possible by several private donors. SpaceIL’s launch of ‘Beresheet’ took place in February 2019 and while, its moon landing was unsuccessful, it made Israel the seventh country to orbit the Moon and is the first privately funded spacecraft to achieve this milestone.



Yariv Bash: Bash is a TAU electrical & electronic engineering alumnus, and CEO and co-founder of Flytrex Aviation, which provides autonomous drone delivery solutions.

Yonatan Winetraub: A TAU master’s alumnus in electrical engineering and a graduate of the NASA International Space University, Winetraub gained experience in space technologies as a satellite system engineer for Israeli Aerospace Industries.

Kfir Damari: An entrepreneur, engineer, researcher and lecturer, is a communication systems engineering graduate of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and is co-founder of Tabookey, a cyber security startup.



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What will life look like in 2030?

From surgery to household tasks, humanity is about to see its daily life transformed. Prof. Irad Ben-Gal is planning for the biggest unknowns of our future.

Only twenty years ago, connecting to the internet meant sitting next to a desk and sorting through various cables, when downloading a photo could take ten minutes or more. Today, it seems like everything happens online – it’s where we find our friends and where elections and revolutions are won and lost.

But as we spend more and more of our lives in cyberspace, the question is: what’s next? The rate of change and growth is so rapid, even ten years can make a huge difference. Humanity’s biggest “unknown” is the immediate future: what can we do to foresee and cope with the next set of changes and challenges?

To answer these questions, Tel Aviv University partnered with Stanford University to create the Digital Living 2030 program. It will connect engineering students from Israel and the U.S. to lead the development of infrastructures, processes, methods and algorithms, hardware and software components, to create and support this new world. 

When our digital self goes grocery shopping

According to Prof. Irad Ben-Gal, from the Department of Industrial Engineering, a founder of the Digital Living 2030 project, we’ll see many changes over the next ten years. Some for the better, some, potentially, for the worst.

What are the biggest changes waiting around the corner?

“In general,” Prof. Irad Ben-Gal said. “A lot of sectors will see accelerated progress in the coming decade, such as autonomous transportation, personal digital medicine, smart cities, industry (robots and artificial intelligence), virtual environments and applications that affect our personal lives.


“On a personal level, we will witness a more complete integration between our digital world and our physical world. People will live simultaneously in both worlds when their digital self will perform different tasks for them – it will learn, make decisions (in collaboration with other digital agents), perform social interactions, and more.”

What about our lives will be better by 2030?

“In principle, a large section of society will benefit from having a better life: personalized services such as autonomous transportation, personalized medicine, a longer and healthier life, increased leisure time, more efficient handling of information overload, and a variety of new and interesting professions.”

What are the biggest problems we’ll have to deal with?

“First and foremost, there is a danger of widening economic and social gaps between different people – experts and laymen in the digital world, between the rich and the poor, between developed and developing countries, between technologically advanced and non-technological sectors…

But we’ll have to cope with all of this just like previous generations had to cope with their own technological leaps forward. Every innovation introduces new risks, from the discovery of fire and stone tools, to dynamite, to artificial intelligence.”

What about 2130? On the basis of what you know today, what will life look like in a century?

“Nothing is truly certain, of course, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: the integration of the digital world with the physical world will be complete.



“The individual will not only be a physical entity represented in digital worlds (as we are today represented in social networks) but a perfect dual entity. The digital entity will be aware, make independent decisions, learn on its own, work in parallel with the physical entity and be rewarded accordingly, and will contain elements of emotions and awareness that don’t exist today.”

So, what are you most looking forward to in the coming decade, or the coming century? And how will you prepare? Are you looking forward to outsourcing your grocery shopping to your digital avatar or dreading having to be even more involved in cyberspace than you already are?

One thing’s for sure: the engineers taking part in Digital Living 2030 will do their best to make sure we’re as ready as it’s possible to be.

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New evidence points to existence of Biblical figure

A line of the Mesha Stele inscription lends credence to the story of Balaam in the Book of Numbers, Tel Aviv University researchers say

he legendary King Balak from the Book of Numbers may have been a real historical figure, according to a new reading of the Mesha Stele, the longest extra-biblical inscription in existence.
The Mesha Stele, an ancient inscribed stone dating to the ninth century BCE, tells the story of the territorial expansion and construction endeavors of King Mesha of Moab, who is also mentioned in the Second Book of Kings in the Old Testament. The stele was found in the 19th century among the ruins of the ancient town of Dibon in Moab, located in today’s Jordan, east of the Dead Sea. The stele is on display at the Louvre Museum.
According to the study, a word on Line 31 of the stele that has until now been interpreted as “House of David” in fact refers to King “Balak,” who is known as a Moab ruler only from the Book of Numbers.
The new Tel Aviv University-Collège de France study was published on May 2 in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. It was co-authored by Prof. Israel Finkelstein and Prof. Nadav Na’aman of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures in collaboration with Prof. Thomas Römer of Collège de France and the University of Lausanne.

Learning from the “squeeze”

A recent exhibit, Mésha et la Bible, held in October 2018 at the Collège de France in Paris in conjunction with the Louvre Museum, showcased the Meshe Stele “squeeze,” a reverse copy of the inscription on paper. This exhibition afforded researchers the unique opportunity to take high-resolution photographs of the squeeze.
Although the stele had been cracked in the 19th century, the parts that went missing were preserved in the squeeze, which was made before the stone broke into pieces.
The authors of the new research studied new high-resolution photographs of the squeeze and of the stele itself. These new images made it clear that there are three consonants in the name of the monarch mentioned in Line 31, and that the first is the Hebrew letter bet, which corresponds to the English letter “B.”
The most likely candidate for the monarch’s name is “Balak.” The seat of the king referred to in Line 31 was “Horonaim,” which is mentioned four times in the Bible in relation to the Moabite territory south of the Arnon River.

No longer the “House of David”

“We believe Balak was a historical figure like Balaam, who, before the discovery of the famous Deir Alla inscription in Jordan in 1967, was considered an ‘invented’ character,” explains Prof. Finkelstein. “The new photographs of the Mesha Stele and the squeeze indicate that the reading ‘House of David’ — accepted by many scholars for more than two decades — is no longer valid.”
In 1994 the French epigrapher André Lemaire suggested that letters missing in Line 31 of the stele would spell “House of David,” as in the Tel Dan Stele, which features the term in reference to the Kingdom of Judah. Accordingly, Lemaire proposed that in the mid-ninth century Judah ruled in southern Moab, east of the Dead Sea.
“With due caution, we suggest that the line refers to the Moabite King Balak, who, according to the Balaam story in Numbers 22-24, was supposed to bring a divine curse on the people of Israel,” Prof. Na’aman says.
“The biblical story was written down later than the time of the Moabite king referred to in the Mesha Stele,” Prof. Römer adds. “But to proffer a sense of authenticity to his story, its author must have integrated into the plot certain elements borrowed from ancient reality, including the names Balaam and Balak.”

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