Elite Universities Unite: TAU Welcomes Solidarity Visits from Across the Globe

Delegation from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other Prestigious Universities Came to Support and Express Solidarity concerning the Events of October 7th

26 March 2024
Academics from Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Yale, UCLA, ISSA, and more on a delegation to Israel.
Academics from Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Yale, UCLA, ISSA, and more on a delegation to Israel.

Amidst global attention on Israel following the events of October 7th and growing concerns about antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campuses worldwide, students and faculty members from renowned institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Yale, UCLA, MIT, UPENN, and SISSA took proactive measures. They formed delegations to visit Israel, addressing pressing challenges and expressing support. These esteemed members aimed to understand events at TAU's campus, exchange insights and explore opportunities for joint initiatives.



Leaving No One Behind


President Ariel Porat, Rector Prof. Mark Shtaif, and Prof. Neta Ziv, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Community, provided insights into our response strategies to the events of October 7th. They emphasized TAU's commitment to supporting affected student-reservists and faculty members. President Porat highlighted university initiatives aiding student reservists and southern Israeli communities, while Rector Prof. Mark Shtaif empathized with those impacted, stressing TAU's dedication to offering both emotional and academic assistance.


Rector Prof. Mark Shtaif


"The damage cannot be expressed, but we had to function", Prof. Shtaif stated.


He highlighted measures such as postponing the academic year, extending exam periods, the establishment of a special PTSD center, providing guidance for faculty members on supporting students during sensitive times, and refraining from teaching new material until reservist students could catch up and come back to “normal” campus life.



Prof. Neta Ziv, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Community, aligned with Prof. Shtaif's sentiments, emphasizing the challenges ahead, including the potential re-drafting of students. She highlighted the university's commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all students, fostering resilience, and promoting diversity. In discussing the campus atmosphere since October 7th, Prof. Ziv emphasized the university's endurance, affirming TAU's public role in creating a shared space for all students.


"The tensions are understandable, and we are doing our best to leave no one behind", Ziv stated.


Prof. Neta Ziv, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Community


Regarding the university's response to the events of October 7th, she mentioned tailoring initiatives for each discipline, posting signs in Hebrew and Arabic welcoming everyone while emphasizing freedom of speech and zero tolerance for discrimination. Prof. Ziv also highlighted the significant presence of Arab students at TAU and the numerous Jewish-Arab projects fostered by the university, stating that 16% of students are Arab and highlighting the university's commitment to promoting such collaborations. A delegation member, Dr. Tabia Lee, Director of Coalition for Empowered Education and Member of Free Black Thought, expressed her astonishment in learning about Israel's rich history of diversity and inclusion.


"The resilience, the ability to still be open to dialog, compassion and wisdom that is here in the people is something that I admire so much. If we can take it and emulate it where we are, our society will improve." — Dr. Lee.


During the visits, various speakers from Tel Aviv University shared their inspiring stories and discussed the impacts of the Hamas attacks on their lives. They temporarily set aside their academic pursuits to address the immediate challenges brought by the war, while focusing on maintaining their strength and resilience. A session led by Prof. Drorit Neumann, Dean of Student Success, discussed the Student Success Center and its immediate involvement during the war. The center promptly opened a special hotline on October 7th and called 15,000 students to inquire about their well-being. Additionally, it provided guidance to lecturers on how to approach students during these challenging time.


“Our university stepped up in so many ways, I have to say that I’m so proud to be part of this university. We have an amazing leadership of our president, our CEO and all of the faculty teams. I think that everybody really stepped up in every possible way” – Drorit Neuman.



Drorit Neuman during and TAU members sharing their stories



Here to Hear Us Out


Professor Yftach Gepner, a member of the and the alert squad in his Moshav, Ein HaBesor, shared his courageous story of preventing terrorists from entering on October 7th and saving his brother’s life during a firefight with Hamas terrorists, stating: "We created a beautiful place here, and soon, we will be even stronger". He emphasizes the need to fortify their area, saying, "We have no other choice" and adds:


 "We know that we will become stronger once all the hostages return".



Nufar Buchshtab, Yagev Buchshtav's sister



Nufar Buchshtab, a PhD student in , shared her painful story of how her brother, Yagev Buchshtav (34), and his wife, Rimon Kirsht Buchshtav (36), were taken hostage from Kibbutz Nirim on October 7th. While Rimon was released, Nufar’s brother, Yagev, remains captive in Gaza. Nufar emphasized that her brother is more than just a statistic, highlighting that she and her family keep fighting relentlessly for his return.



Gil Leor, a medical student pursuing his Ph.D. in cancer genetics at the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences, recounted his experience of being urgently drafted to Gaza. Despite the challenges, he reflects on the resilience of Israeli spirit and looks forward to serving his country as a physician-scientist. Upon returning from his reserve duty, Gil shared his experience and apprehensions as a Ph.D. student returning to campus, receiving considerable assistance from the university given the circumstances. 



Expert Insights on October 7th


During the visits, TAU also assembled various panels of experts who brought a blend of professional insights and personal reflections to shed light on the consequences of war and the events of October 7th, offering unique and eye-opening perspectives that added depth to our understanding of the situation. Prof. Gil Zalsman, a psychiatry expert from the School of Continuing Medical Education Clinical Departments, shared invaluable insights on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his medical and personal perspective, offering profound perspectives and his own experiences as a physician.


Prof. Gil Zalsman


Prof. Itzhak Fried, a neurosurgeon and brain researcher from the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences moderated a discussion with Prof. Itamar Rabinovitch from the , delving into the conflict's political implications and President Biden's proposed two-state solution. Professor Daphna Hacker, an expert in Law and Gender Studies at Tel Aviv University and an advisor to the UN, examined the gender issues within the ongoing tensions.



Prof. Meir Litvak from the Department of Middle Eastern and African History and Prof. Amiel Sternberg from the School of Physics and Astronomy moderated a plenary discussion on the historical persecution of Jews, addressing the unprecedented challenges currently facing Israel. They emphasized the critical need for support and solidarity during these trying times. Their observations sparked an impactful, open, and heartfelt discussion about the campus atmosphere and global events.



Solidarity Through Academic Engagement


Each visit included roundtable discussions on potential collaborations, led by Ms. Maureen Meyer Adiri, Director of  The Lowy International School. Brainstorming sessions followed, focusing on joint courses, research opportunities, and visiting professor programs, highlighting our commitment to fostering academic excellence. Proposed initiatives encompassed clinical rotations, research opportunities, joint online courses, postdoc fellowships, online conferences, workshops, and hosting visiting scholars, aimed at expanding academic horizons at TAU.



Many professors shared their observations on how their campuses have been since October 7th and offered insights gained from their visit to Israel. Their responses to TAU's members fostered ideas and suggestions on how to deal with the situations and strengthen relationships. Prof. Gabriel Kreiman of Harvard University and the main organizer of one of the dellegations expressed his heartfelt support:


“I think there is a very large community of people in the academic world who want to help, despite the enormous antisemitism and outrageous things that you have been seeing in the news about the US,” he stressed.


Prof. Michael Kahana, from the University of Pennsylvania, who initiated the open letter in support of Israel and the current visit said: ‘In the weeks after October 7, we felt very distant in physical space, but very close in emotional space. I’m gratified that so many colleagues, many of whom I haven’t even met before joined me on this visit".


"Together we’ll come out of this stronger."— Prof. Michael Kahana.


In addition, A Harvard professor was amazed by the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs at Hadassah Hospital and suggested the idea of bringing medical students to witness it. I believe it's crucial for our diverse young residents to experience this too.



In times like these, hope, solidarity, and collaboration are more important than ever. As resilience and unity become paramount, our shared commitment to academic excellence and global solidarity reflects our dedication to overcoming challenges and harnessing our collective strength. The success of these visits lies in the shared experiences exchanged between both groups, reinforcing our connection and commitment to the essence of our campuses. Moving forward, we maintain our determination to continue future collaborations, highlighting the power of unity and the significance of standing together.


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