By: Naomi Klass Mauer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A few weeks ago the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition by leftist university professors seeking an injunction to prevent the College of Judea and Samaria from gaining university status. (Many academic leftists object to the school’s location over the Green Line and its forthright Zionism.) The way is now paved for the college to indeed become a full-fledged university.
The College of Judea and Samaria (CJS), located in the city of Ariel, is really quite an incredible phenomenon. Established in 1982 in Kedumim, it began by offering evening classes to area residents. The school steadily grew and in 1991 relocated to its present location in Ariel.
With more than 9,000 students, CJS is now Israel’s largest public college and its fastest growing academic institution. (On a personal note, my granddaughter Avital and her husband Gilad are both studying there.)
During his recent visit to the U.S., Yigal Cohen-Orgad, a former Israeli finance minister of Israel and presently the chairman of the CJS’s executive committee, spoke with The Jewish Press about what he smilingly refers to as his “favorite school.” As one of the founders of CJS, he is justifiably proud of its rapid progress.
The Jewish Press:
What type of student is typically attracted to the College of Judea and Samaria?
Cohen-Orgad: The college is a melting pot of Israeli society â€“ secular and observant, new immigrant and native born. Students come from all over Israel. In fact, only 15 percent come from Judea and Samaria while 85 percent come from all over the rest of the country, even as far away as Eilat.
Economically, the greater percentage comes from blue collar or low-income families, but there are also middle class and even wealthy students. We have the highest number of Ethiopians of any college or university in Israel. Where necessary, students are given a year of preparatory studies before they enter the regular classes.
How do you differ from other colleges in Israel?
The short answer is that we have a greater variety of subjects; an emphasis on science and engineering; and intensive research. That is the short answer, but to elaborate, we have the largest faculty departments of any college in Israel.
We have five departments of the faculty of Engineering; we have the faculty of Natural Sciences, which includes physics, molecular biology mathematics, etc.; we have the faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities; we have the faculty of Architecture; and we have the four departments of the faculty for Health Sciences, which happens to be the most rapidly growing faculty.
Second, whereas most colleges have a higher percentage of students in the social science departments, we have the highest proportion of students specializing in engineering and science.
Finally, we put a high emphasis on research, similar to universities but unlike colleges, even though we do not get the financial support for such research that is given to universities.
What is the makeup of the faculty?
We have scholars from Russia, France, South America and te United States. We accepted a number of Russian scientists on our faculty when they came on aliyah at a time when most universities here were only accepting a handful. The Russians contributed greatly to our research department. And I might add that we have 30 Ph.D. students from other universities who are doing their work at our college under our scholars.
It was only after we were, in fact, functioning as a university that we applied for accreditation.
We constantly hear about the leftist, anti-Zionist atmosphere found on Israeli college campuses. Certainly the College of Judea and Samaria differs in that regard as well.
Yes. We have a department of Jewish Heritage and every semester each student is required to take a course in Jewish history. We have diverse choices â€“ Zionism, Eretz Yisrael, Jews in Russia, etc. We feel it is very important to be knowledgeable about our heritage. Also, in every class we have a Jewish flag. We are very proud of who we are and we try to transmit that feeling to our students.
We also have programs for graduates of army service and sherut leumi that combine yeshiva studies and half of an academic program. For example, there are three days of Torah studies and three days of engineering.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to soon open a pre-med school which will be a prelude to a full medical school. We also hope to enlarge the department of Mass Communications. Our facilities are very sophisticated but we have many more students than we ever expected and therefore need more equipment.
How can people contact you for more information?
I welcome the opportunity to hear from anyone who would like to help make our college the next university in Israel. Our mailing address here is American Friends of the College of Judea and Samaria, 3145 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11235. Our telephone number is 718-891-9102. People can e-mail us at email@example.com. And of course we have a website at www.yosh.ac.il.