David Ben-Gurion once said "In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles!" In my estimation, Ben-Gurion University is not only the embodiment of the first Prime Minister of Israel's dream of developing the Negev Desert, but is also the realization of a miracle. With scant resources except for an abundance of determination, the University was founded in 1969 practically in the middle of nowhere. Beer-sheva at that point in time was a town in the desert trying to 'make a go of it' by absorbing new immigrants from North Africa and other poor countries. Today, Beer-sheva, as the capital city of the Negev, has a population of over 250,000 and is truly a modern-day oasis. Within this oasis sits the fastest- growing university in Israel, Ben-Gurion University, with a student population of almost 21,000 that is increasing each and every year.
My relationship with Ben-Gurion University goes back many years through my grandparents, who were early founders of this great institution, having become involved in the early 1970's not too long after its founding, and through my late father Ronald z”l who was president of both the Toronto Chapter and the National Board of Directors, and my mother Annette, who is a member of the current National Board of Directors and Board of Governors. I recall asking my Bar Mitzvah guests to celebrate with me by making donations to a BGU child care facility in 1976, and my own children have continued the tradition by asking their B'nei Mitzvah guests to consider supporting the University.
I am so proud to have been elected to serve as the National President of the Canadian Associates of Ben- Gurion University of the Negev. Our organization in Canada was established in 1973 to help raise both money and awareness for what has become Israel's most preferred university, as continually voted by all the students of Israel. I really see our mission here as a very proud one, representing the highest level of research and scientific innovations in the world. With volunteers and benefactors across Canada, we know that we will continue to raise much-needed money for scholarships, cutting-edge research and a commitment to social justice in Beer-sheva and Israel.
The unique Advanced Technology Park (ATP) has helped BGU become the Cyber hub of Israel and one of the most important Cyber research centers in the world. Our ATP, started only 4 years ago, now has over 2,000 people working in its three buildings housing some of the most important technology companies of the world. The close connection between the IDF and BGU will deepen this relationship with the top technology units of the army.
BGU represents David Ben-Gurion's dream to see the Negev bloom. It is an integral part of life throughout the Negev, but probably no more so than in Beer-sheva. I am proud to say that the students not only enjoy the number one student experience in Israel, but that they also give back to the country which has done so much for them and their families. BGU students volunteer in the neighborhoods of Beer-sheva and deal with the most dire and vulnerable socio-economic issues. We like to say that a gift of scholarship funds to BGU is a double mitzvah because not only does it help the student recipient get a first-class education, but that student is also going to pay this opportunity forward by helping a child, a family, and even a neighborhood in Beer-sheva.
Here in Canada we are doing our best to support all of these efforts, by encouraging more Canadian students to study at BGU, by making the Canadian community aware of the great things happening at the University and by raising funds to contribute to the future of Ben-Gurion University.
Please join us either as a financial supporter or as an 'activist' in helping CABGU make the Canadian public aware that we are truly The Jewel in the Crown of Israel's world-class academic institutions.