Commemorating a Munificent Scholar and Educator
They were childhood friends who played chess together in the former Romanian city of Chernovitz. When the clouds of the Second World War descended, they became separated and went on different paths – Marc Besen to Australia, where he became a successful businessman and philanthropist – and Zvi Yavetz, to Israel, where he became a leading historian and was instrumental in founding Tel Aviv University’s Graduate School of History.
Despite the distance between them, the two kept close ties through the years, with Prof. Yavetz, who died in 2013, drawing his old friend into the TAU family as a governor and benefactor.
Now, Eva and Marc Besen have perpetuated the memory of their beloved friend by dedicating the School in Yavetz’s name and providing funding for doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships. Mr. Besen flew especially to Israel for the occasion from Australia, together with his two granddaughters, Hannah and Ruby Schwartz.
TAU Vice President Raanan Rein, a graduate and faculty member of the School, said: “The generous support of Eva and Marc Besen will ensure this School’s position as a world-class center of historical study. The Besen’s vision and commitment to the State of Israel and to cultural and academic initiatives will be well served through it.”
Head of the School and incoming Dean of Humanities Prof. Leo Corry said, “Our School of History was established more than 30 years ago by the late Zvi Yavetz. I think it is safe to say that the School embodies his spirit and intellectual legacy in the most remarkable way. Nothing could be more natural than naming it for him,” he said.
With its 130 students, 50 of whom are doctoral students on full scholarships, “the School is a powerhouse of historical research. Its number, quality and astonishing range of research fields and approaches are hard to find even at top-rated academic institutions,” said Prof. Corry. He noted that the School is associated with several departments: general history, Middle Eastern and African studies, East Asian studies, history of science, classical studies, and geography.
The Yavetz sch0larships will support, over four years or more, ten talented doctoral students working in a wide range of subjects as well as two post-doctoral fellows from overseas every year.
Zvi Yavetz’s son, Dr. Ido Yavetz of TAU’s Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, spoke on behalf of his mother, Dvora and family. “I am privileged to have witnessed the friendship between Marc and Zvi up close. We are very excited by this donation. History was Zvi’s life’s work.”
In his response, Marc Besen said, “Despite the difference between us, Zvi and I kept close over the years. Zvi was my guide, philosopher and friend, as he was to many thousands of students. He was a munificent educator and brilliant sharer of knowledge.”
Concluding the ceremony was a presentation by Yavetz scholarship recipient Gefen Quartler, on “Complex Connections: Sino-Indian Relations through the Prism of Their Mutual Historical Perceptions.”
From left: Hannah Schwartz, Dr. Ido Yavetz, Mr. Marc Besen and Ruby Schwartz