My wife, Michal, and I have discovered a wonderful resource just minutes from our home: Tel Aviv University. Several years ago we had heard from a friend about the English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University – ESFTAU, and we decided to try it out. Now, we take advantage of the lectures in English offered at the university, many at no charge, through the 'Friends' association.
During the academic year there are monthly Friday morning lectures which cover a wide range of academic subjects taught and researched on the campus- on literature, politics, science, medicine, law, and even the Jewish mafia. Besides the Friday lectures, we are informed of the many additional cultural events on campus which English speakers will enjoy. They include lectures and seminars as well as other events: films, awards presentations, field trips and more.
At the Friday lectures, we have a chance to chat with new and old friends, enjoying coffee and cookies provided gratis. There is a suggested donation for student scholarships which attendees are glad to contribute. At least once each year there is a fundraiser, usually a film, which adds to the scholarship fund.
There’s also the pleasure of reading the monthly newsletter and events updates, available by post or by email, to help you choose from the rich monthly program of activities. Discounts are offered to members for participation in special conferences and lecture series, which are plentiful - if you can fit them into your busy schedule! Membership in the association includes a free subscription to the TAU magazine and free parking on the campus when attending the Friday lectures. Other plusses are free entrance to the library and a discount on membership in the university sports club.
Here are a few highlights from last year’s program. Professor Uzi Rabi of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History told us that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, developed the strategic principle, the Alliance of the Periphery, which declares that Israel should seek alliances with the non-Arab states of the Middle East periphery in order to counteract the opposition of Israel’s bordering Arab states. In the 1950s Iran and Turkey were two such "peripheral" states with which Israel had good relations. How things have changed.
Former Ambassador, Anna Azari, who served from 2006 until last summer as Israel’s ambassador to Russia, told us that Russia cannot neglect Israel, especially considering Israel’s huge diaspora of more than a million emigrants from the FSU. Israel has the largest Russian speaking population outside of Russia. Russia wants to carry out joint projects with Israel regarding military technology, especially because the immigration of FSU citizens of Jewish origin raised the level of Israel’s scientists and engineers.
Another renowned speaker was Professor Itamar Rabinovitch, eminent author, history professor and former president of TAU. He explained that there has been no definitive military victory accomplished by Israel since Lebanon in 1982, if that. Even in '82, when Israel established a security zone in southern Lebanon, Israel’s goal wasn't accomplished; Israel abandoned its security zone in the summer of 2000. In its two most recent wars against Hizbullah and Hamas, Israel achieved some deterrence, but no clear-cut victory. Rabinovitch emphasized that a huge price was paid for the Cast Lead “victory” in Gaza, 2008: the delegitimization of Israel is now in high gear and Israel is subjected to unprecedented, hateful scrutiny. "Therefore", concluded Rabinovitch, "there is no singular military solution for Israel’s predicament."
That’s just a sample of what’s in store for members of ESFTAU. Annual membership fee is NIS 200 for a single and NIS 300 for a couple. ESRA members joining ESFTAU for the first time will receive a special introductory 50% discount. To join, contact Dana Rechtman, Director of Community Relations, at 03 640 8055, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.