After decades of campaigning to include Israel in the prestigious international Rhodes scholarship program established at Oxford University, the first two Israeli academics have been accepted since the program was established in 1902.
The university had already opened a Tel Aviv office in 2015 but Israel’s eligibility for the Rhodes scholarships was only announced at the end of last year. The Israel scholarships are part of a wider geographic expansion of the Rhodes program, which increased the number of eligible countries and annual scholarships from 83 to 95. New scholarships were also announced in Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Palestine, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and West Africa.
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The university’s decision to establish a presence in Israel and include Israel as a Rhodes candidate country is praised by Israel’s political leaders as a direct rebuttal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which argued that Israel should not be eligible for the Rhodes program because of its settlements in the West Bank.
President Reuven Rivlin, who hosted the Israeli scholars and representatives of the Rhodes Trust and Oxford University at his residence in Jerusalem earlier this month, commented: “People who want to silence debate must understand that the only way toward a better future is through cooperation and sharing knowledge.”
He added, “Oxford is more than just a university it is an idea.”
Gary Pickholz, chairman of Weird Science Lab at Oxford, said the announcement was very encouraging for Israeli research and academia. “We are most gratified by the decision to include Israel as a permanent candidate nation for Rhodes scholars,” commented Mr. Pickholz. “This underscores the very strong academic ties and research ties between Great Britain and Israel, as well as Oxford’s continued leadership at countering the BDS movement.”
Israel’s first Rhodes scholars, Maayan Roichman (Tel Aviv University) and Nadav Lidor (Stanford University), will start at Oxford University in October 2017.