FUN AND AN INTELLECTUAL FEAST
May 14-22, 2008
Most of the 30 American Friends who embarked on AFTAU's Journey of Discovery are experienced international travelers. Most had been to Israel before. Many had visited Tel Aviv University before.
But not like this.
"There was a wonderful spirit on this trip," explains Billy Cohen, AFTAU's national chairman. "We saw Tel Aviv and TAU with new eyes. We really caught the excitement of a school that is having a profound impact on the way we live every day, thousands of miles away."
An Insider's Tour
From one-on-one meetings with faculty superstars to a tasting tour of boutique Elah Valley wineries to an emotional trip to rocket-ravaged Sderot, the Journey experience was anything but pedestrian.
Consider the Journey's campus tour -- with no "same-old" in evidence. Participants had a private, docent-led viewing of a just-opened Rembrandt exhibit; enjoyed an exclusive musical interlude by members of TAU's acclaimed Buchmann-Mehta Orchestra; and explored the Garden of Zoological Research with the Director of the National Collections of Natural History. All this and more was set against the bustling outdoor excitement of Student Day, with enthusiastic young people, colorful booths, and music everywhere.
Journey members found the opportunities for meaningful dialogue with university and government leaders equally impressive. One private dinner featured Israeli's Minister of Education Yuli Tamir. Another included a lively discussion about Middle Eastern geopolitics with recognized Iranian expert Prof. David Menashri. And at an exclusive breakfast, the charismatic military expert and television commentator Alon Ben-David shared an analysis of the state of Israel's security.
A seamless segue to "the BOG"
Journey of Discovery activities were the prelude to TAU's Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors (affectionately known as "the BOG") -- a thoroughly international week for Governors and their guests from around the world. As invited guests of AFTAU, Journey participants were able to attend numerous BOG activities and events, ranging from educational and ceremonial to social and celebratory.
Journey participants heard Vice President Al Gore's keynote speech at the university's prestigious international energy conference. They were invited to the homes of Israeli Governors for intimate Shabbat dinners with Governors from around the world. And they applauded some of their American Friends at meaningful events throughout the BOG:
· Martin Whitman received an honorary doctorate [news story]
· Arturo Constantiner awarded his family's annual Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education [news story]
· The Moise Safra family broke ground on the first dormitory of TAU's new Student City [news story]
· Shalom Yoran awarded scholarships of the Yoran-Sznycer Research Fund in Jewish History [news story]
· Lois and Martin Whitman inaugurated a scholarship program for Arab students [news story]
The journey from "peers" to "friends"
With primary residences in locations including New York, California, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Washington, D.C., a number of Journey travelers had never met before the trip.
"I was surprised by the level of cameraderie and friendship in this group," says Alan Schwartz, chair of AFTAU's Marketing Committee. "It's corny, I know, but we had the kind of family intimacy that comes from sharing the same interests and having a real curiosity about the world. We're looking forward to seeing each other again."
Roni Krinsky, president of the American Friends, added, "It's always an exciting moment when I see someone 'get it' -- when I see our very sophisticated Friends realize the amazing scope of the university, the impact it has on just about every intellectual discipline, and the influence it is already having on the future of the planet. I had a lot of those moments on this amazing journey!"
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