Bashaar* - Academic Community for Israeli Society
Brief Review of Bashaar Activities
Bashaar was founded by a group of members of the academic staff from various universities and institutions of higher education in Israel, with the aim of increasing academic involvement in the public discourse and social action.
Since its founding, more than seventeen years ago, Bashaar has been recognized as a leading, unofficial representative of Israeli academia. The organization currently has over 1,600 members, all of whom are volunteers, and new members are constantly joining. Bashaar runs a series of community outreach programs and programs to promote quality education in junior and senior high schools and in the universities, and lobbying activities. Bashaar is run by a steering committee consisting of members drawn from all of Israel's higher education institutions. The committee, which meets on a regular basis, is in charge of making all decisions regarding new activities, programs, events, etc. Bashaar is chaired by Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund (former President of the Hebrew University) and Bashaar's first chair person Prof. Zehev Tadmor (former president of the Technion).
* The meaning of the Hebrew word "Bashaar" is "at the gate".
Community Outreach Programs
This is the eighteenth year that Bashaar operates a nation-wide lecture program called The Science Club. Through this program, Bashaar hopes to spark the curiosity of junior and senior high school students in development towns and underprivileged neighborhoods with respect to various fields in the arts and sciences, introduce them to scientific methods of thinking, and contribute to an informed, cultured and rational public dialogue based on understanding and mutual respect.
Specific program objectives:
Attract high school students to study science and to appreciate learning, knowledge and rational thinking;
Break down the barriers of isolation and neglect and give these high school students a feeling that academic studies and science are within their reach;
Convey to these high school students our concern for their future.
Over the past eighteen years, many hundreds of faculty members from every academic discipline (especially the natural sciences, exact sciences and advanced technology), have volunteered to take part in this ongoing activity. They have succeeded in reaching over 330,000 junior and senior high school students to date. The lectures have taken place in about 50 locations throughout Israel, mainly in the periphery, and included Israeli Jewish, Arab, Druze and Bedouin villages.
The program is carried out in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education.
Bashaar is responsible for all coordination, logistical and transportation expenses. The faculty members volunteer their time and expertise.
Brain Awareness Week
Each year, in the last twelve years, leading scientists in the field of Neuroscience set out to locations throughout the country and into the peripheries, to spread a special kind of message. In meetings with high school students and adults, these scientists introduce the latest trends and developments in brain research – covering subjects such as how the brain processes sensations, how drugs work on the brain and new understandings about the physiology of mental illness. The aim of these meetings is to raise public awareness of research done in this field, to interest young people in pursuing a career in science, and to bridge the perceived gaps between lay society and academia, particularly in the peripheries. The project is carried out in cooperation with the Israel Society for Neuroscience and conducted in conjunction with the International Brain Awareness Week.
Astronomy and Space Science Week
From satellites to large telescopes, Israeli researchers are at the cutting edge in the field of Astronomy and Space Science. For one week each year, in the last thirteen years, several of these scientists travel around the country to meet with high school students and introduce them to this fascinating area of research. This personal exposure to the exciting world of space research will hopefully inspire some of the participants to pursue a career in this branch of science.
Tens of Physicians are meeting every year with high school students, already the twelfth year, not in hospitals or clinics but in a cozy environment, telling them about maturity and sexuality, use of drugs, ways to maintain good health, sport, nutrition etc.
Leading scientists present key issues in Ecology and Planet Science to high school students. Topics such as Water cleansing using germs, extreme weather, global warming and more are discussed in order to raise pupils awareness to the environment and to strengthen their sense of responsibility.
Science and Gender (women):
Science promoting to high school girls, especially by women scientists. Women Scientists, in various stages of their career meets with the young high school girls telling them about their possibilities, fear of Science, etc. and being a role model to them, showing them that Science is also for Women.
Those encounters create an opportunity to meet personally with women who took the decision to become scientists and are satisfied about it, pointing the advantages they have and allowing the pupils to ask questions regarding the work-life balance as a scientist.
Scientists Meetings with high school teachers
Bashaar promotes ongoing interaction between science teachers and Bashaar volunteers. In the last fourteen years, Bashaar is supporting continuing education program for highschool teachers by bringing leading scientists to meet with them, and present to them news from Science's front.
More than 40,000 teachers have taken advantage of this project so far.
University Within Reach
The idea of this initiative is to bring thousands of junior and senior high school students (especially ninth-graders) from development towns and low socio-economic neighborhoods to the campuses of the universities for science summer camps - a week of science activities, lectures and fun. The objective of the program is to convey to these students the realization that the university is within their reach, to break barriers, whet their appetite for learning and studies and inspire them to include a university education in their list of dreams for the future.
The program includes either a 5/day residential or 10/day day camp of academic studies and social activities on the campus. In the project they are exposed to a wide variety of scientific disciplines and approaches, including scientific fields new to them. Our experience has shown that exposure to the university and teaching faculty raises the self-image of the students. They see that the university is in fact not a distant ivory tower, but is within their grasp.
In the summer of 2001 a pilot project with 250 students took place at Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities. In the summer of 2002 the project was extended to include about 400 students in 5 universities: Technion, Haifa, Tel-Aviv, Bar-Ilan and Jerusalem, and operated at the same level in 2003 and 2004. The Ben Gurion University joined the project on 2003 and the Weizmann Institute and the Eilat Campus of Ben-Gurion University joined on 2004. In the summer of 2005 the project was extended to include about 500 students. In the summer of 2006, through the war in the north of Israel, Bashaar brought some 750 students from the northern Israel communities, for a science summer camps in the Universities located in the central and south of Israel.
Some 5,700 students from the periphery have taken advantage of this Project so far.
The project is a joint venture with The Rashi Foundation and the Universities
The Science Fair
Bashaar initiated, organized and led the first Israeli Science Fair, which took place in the southern development town of Yeruham on March 12-13, 2002, during the same week as National Science Day.
During the two-day event, there were more than 6,000 visitors to the fair, mainly junior and senior high school students. They enjoyed a festive happening that included:
24 scientific activity centers.
High school projects presented by the students.
Non-stop lectures given by Bashaar volunteers in three lecture halls.
Exhibitions including those of the high-tech industries.
IDF R&D units.
Exhibitions by Science museums (Jerusalem, Haifa and the Weizmann Institute).
Demonstrations of rocket firings and science puzzles.
Live Music (which added to the festive atmosphere).
Prizes, special events and more.
Both the Minister of Education and the Minister of Science and Technology visited the fair. The Ministry of Science has already adopted the project as the major project of National Science Week events. In light of its great success, Bashaar believes there is a strong rationale for holding future Science and Technology Fairs in other peripheral locations in the country.
Promoting Excellence in Education
An Online Resource for High School Science Education
“Bashaar on the Net” – is an online resource for school teachers and high school students, which enables them to submit questions related to science instruction and receive up-to-date information from leading scientists in their fields, via the internet. The experts who provide the answers on Bashaar on the Net are Bashaar volunteers. Their responses are posted on the website and sent to the questioner's email.
The main goal of the project is to expand the connections between Israel’s institutions of higher education and the Israeli school system. The site includes a database of over 3,800 questions and answers, divided by fields of study, categorized by topics and sub-topics, as defined by the school curriculum, which serves as an important resource.
The “Bashaar on the Net” program provides teachers and students with access to up-to-date information from the cutting edge of science, and is a reliable and professional source for the many developments in the different scientific fields. The use of Internet technology makes this project especially valuable for those living far from the center of the country.
Bashaar ha’Mada – a summary of scientific articles that describe the latest discoveries in the science world. These articles are written in Hebrew, enriching teachers’ knowledge, and can be used in classes and laboratories. Teachers can submit questions related to these articles directly to the experts through the site.
Bashaar ha’Ezrahut (civics) – a series of articles regarding important and central topics on Israeli society and existence. This topic provides knowledge and academic analyses to teachers in subjects related to central problems and dilemmas on the Israeli agenda with reference to the school curriculum. These articles are written especially for the site by affiliated experts, and for the use of teachers in classes and as a topic to follow-up questions.
Lobbying and Public Policy
Expert Forums on Higher Education and the Research University System in Israel
The members of Bashaar feel that it is their obligation and right to express an opinion on the issue of the development of the higher education system in Israel in general, and of the research university system in particular; to suggest policy guidelines for the preservation of one of Israel’s pillars of strength, where creation and application of scientific knowledge serve the needs of society, industry and the economy, and to post warning signs for those who wish to initiate processes which may endanger these institutions. To that end, Bashaar has been instrumental in establishing various committees and forums to examine issues related to Israel's higher education system and publishing their recommendations.
Forum for discussions on matters of Higher Education in Israel – The Forum holds discussions on the central issues pertaining to higher education in Israel, as well as an open dialogue between universities and colleges in an attempt to investigate the issues common to these systems in order to reach a broader understanding of common goals. 33 meetings have taken place so far. Click here to view video.
Bashaar & the Knesset Education Committee
Bashaar as an organization and individual Bashaar members have cultivated contacts with Knesset members and Knesset committees to assist in the Knesset legislative process by providing expert advice. Prof. Ithamar Gruenwald initiated and fostered a special relations between the Educational and Cultural Committee of the Knesset and Bashaar. The Chairman of the Committee, initiated a special alliance between this committee and Bashaar. Consequently, periodic formal joint meetings were take place. The objective of these meetings was to break the mounting barriers and alienation between the legislation body and the public and academia and to preserve an ongoing dialogue. Bashaar is gaining recognition as the most influential public non-profit organization in matters relating to higher education in Israel.
Friday Noon Meeting with Decision Makers
At these Friday noon meetings, Bashaar members meet with key national policymakers and public figures. These have included, among others, the state attorney general, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, head of the Supreme Court, Minister of Education, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Finance, Minister of Interior, Minister of Justice, Minister of Industry,Trade,Labor&Communications, Minister of Defense, Chief Military Censor and the IDF Chief of Staff, Inspector General of the Police, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu (as former Prime Minister), former Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Barak and more. These meetings enable Bashaar members to present professional, informed opinions to Israeli decision-makers, thereby helping them to shape their positions on policies of national importance
Seminars and Workshops Program
Bashaar conducts a series of seminars and workshops for policy makers and leaders from academia and the public and private sectors, on issues relevant to its vision. This program provides a platform for discussing novel ideas and thoughts. The following seminars and workshops (and more) have taken place so far:
1. Establishment of "Bashaar" conference
2. Graduate Studies in Colleges and their Implications for the Israeli Higher Education System.
3. The Culture of Knowledge in a Diverse Society.
4. Maale HaHamisha conference
5. Core Curriculum.
6. Relationships between Jews and Israeli Arabs in Israel: Present and Future.
7. University Accessibility and Diversity in Higher Education – How to Climb the Ivory Tower
8. Academic Freedom and Accountability.
9. University-Government Relations – the Universities at a Crossroads
10. University-Government Relations - 1st conference in the Knesset
11. University-Government Relations - 2nd conference in the Knesset
12. Mathematics Teaching in the Israeli School System.
13. Meltz Commitee Report
14. Higher Education and the research University System in Israel – Warning Signs and Policy Guidelines
15. The Positioning of Universities in Israel - 2004
16. International Conference: "The Transition to Mass Education".
17. The University's Central Role In the Knowledge-Based Economy Revolution
18. International Conference: "Privatization in Higher Education".
19. Capitalism of knowledge.
20. Education According to Israel's 2028 Vision - the future of higher education in Israel
21. Higher Education: Institutional Independence and Academic Freedom