Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Lauded at TAU
Receiving a standing ovation when he entered Tel Aviv University's Bar-Shira Auditorium, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up a 4-day state visit to Israel as a campus visitor and honoree.
Harper was awarded a TAU honorary doctorate "in recognition of his standing as an exemplary world leader who champions freedom, human rights and the rule of law; his promotion of higher education; his consistent, forthright and principled support for Israel, both personally and in his capacity as Prime Minister of Canada; and his active and courageous role in combating anti-Semitism and other extremist views."
Bestowing the award on Prime Minister Harper were TAU President Joseph Klafter, TAU Rector Aron Shai and TAU Governor and Honorary Doctor David J. Azrieli.
Prof. Klafter said, "Tonight we pay tribute to one of the most remarkable friends of Israel, of scientific cooperation and of democracy."
After reviewing Tel Aviv University's ties with top Canadian universities – among them University of Toronto, Ryerson, McGill, Université de Montréal, Queen's University and UBC – Prof. Klafter stressed that "this robust academic collaboration is a bridge that strengthens cultural understanding and that leads to even closer Israeli-Canadian friendship."
Prof. Shai said that Harper was a role model for exemplary leadership. "Prime Minister Harper has proven himself a true supporter of Israel in its darkest hours, both at the United Nations and in other forums," he said, noting especially Harper's battle against anti-Semitism.
Pictured: CFTAU National President and TAU Honorary Doctor, Judge Barbara Seal, CM, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yaffo Ron Huldai, a TAU honorary doctor himself, said that, precisely when Israeli academia was under renewed attack abroad, Harper chose to receive a Tel Aviv University honorary doctorate, and "demonstrate to all that he is a real friend."
As a newly minted doctor Harper was also now "the dream of every Jewish mother," Huldai joked, after which he amused everyone by pulling out a recorder and peforming Auld Lang Syne.
Prime Minister Harper began his address by quipping back, to the audience's glee, “my mother is not Jewish, but when I tell her that I’m a doctor she will, one, be very happy and, two, still expect more.”
He expressed his gratitude for the effusive welcome and enormous hospitality that he and his wife, Laureen, received in Israel, and said it was wonderful to conclude his visit at TAU, which he noted was the first academic institution in the world to offer him an honorary doctorate after he became prime minister. Harper earned thunderous applause when he said that “I want to accept it on behalf of not just Laureen and myself, but the entire Canadian Jewish community who has … merited this award a million times.”
Turning to the volatile situation in the Middle East, Prime Minister Harper reiterated his support for Israel’s security and legitimacy as a Jewish state in the face of regional and international hostility.
Along with Canadian cabinet ministers, members of parliament, senators and top business executives, the Canadian attendees included a large delegation of the Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University (CFTAU).
Speaking before the audience, CFTAU National President and TAU Honorary Doctor, Judge Barbara Seal, CM, said to Prime Minister Harper: “Your constant, unwavering support of Israel has made all Canadians stand taller.”
Judge Seal announced the establishment by the Canadian Friends of a chair named in Prime Minister Harper's honor that would “make an invaluable contribution to science and scholarship by supporting innovative research on challenges facing both Israeli and Canadian society.”