Monday, December 31, 2012

Ariel: A stronghold under attack

Ariel: A stronghold under attack

Dr. Haim Shine

Years ago, I was asked to teach philosophy at Ariel University. I gladly obliged, and headed to Ariel once a week. To get to Ariel one must travel through a winding road that passes through quite a few Arab villages. There were always very few cars on the road, and military vehicles were always there to secure the way.

The number of students at the college back then was very thin. Most of them hailed from Petach Tikva, Kfar Saba and communities in Samaria. The college offered very few programs, all the classes were held in one building, and the lecturers came solely from the Bar-Ilan University staff.

At the graduation ceremony, I told the graduates that one day the road leading to the school would have traffic lights, the dorms that will be built one day will always have lights on and the State of Israel will take pride in the college's achievements.

More than two decades have passed since then. My words of hope have materialized beyond my wildest expectations. The roads in Samaria are full of cars, traffic lights have been installed at several junctions, and the number of students attending Ariel University has risen to 15,000. There is always something happening in the dorms and the atmosphere is that of a regular campus. New buildings have been added, education centers have been erected, and the sounds of science can be heard throughout Samaria. The university is at the forefront of scientific research in various fields, including energy, robotics, electro-optics, lasers, cancer research, history and the study of Israeli cultures around the world.

Many of the lecturers are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who brought with them impressive technical and research know-how. The students come from all over, mainly areas outside of the central region. Religious and secular students study together in harmony, as do Jews and Arabs.

I was very moved this week to learn of the decision by the defense minister and the GOC Central Command to grant the school official university status. This recognition will allow the university to advance science, add research centers and increase the number of students.

Many of the academic leaders in Israel, who belong to an exclusive leftist elite that is rapidly losing its sway, have been fighting bitterly for years against the school in Ariel. They must have forgotten the ancient Jewish principle that competition makes people learn more and become wiser. They prefer to wage a political campaign under the slogan "as long as there is occupation, there will be no university." They dress their political agenda up with arguments about the academic and research level, but these are baseless arguments that stem from jealousy.

The leftist professors and politicians, for whom Ariel University is a purification of the impure, know the truth. The truth is that a place that houses a thriving university will never be handed over in a peace agreement. The same rules that apply to Hebrew University on Mount Scopus apply to Ariel as well. The Left's battle against Ariel is not about academics, it is about the Jews' right to settle in their historic homeland.

The battle will not be won in the U.N., or even through peace negotiations (which should involve a give and take but so far have included only the "give"). It will be won only through the Jews' resolve to build more institutions of knowledge and culture, synagogues and community centers in Judea and Samaria. The university in Ariel, beyond the science and knowledge it generates, is considered an important stronghold in the battle for the Jews' rights in their historic homeland.