Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Ariel Mayor Elyahu Shaviro and a host of dignitaries broke ground for Israel's newest medical school Wednesday, saying the new faculty at Ariel University in the West Bank would become an integral part of Israel's academic and healthcare landscape.
"The doctors who will graduate from the Faculty of Medicine at Ariel will heal the sick for many years, and the medical school itself will heal the open wounds in Israeli society and between us and our neighbors," said Bennett, "This is a place for Israelis of all backgrounds to meet and interact. Secular and religious, Jews and Arabs, rich and poor."
"This is a great day for the future of medicine in Israel and for the city of Ariel. The city is on the map, and it will always be on the map," Bennett told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Bennett, one of the main supporters of the project, and Netanyahu both made reference to the heterogeneous student population at the university, and both said the medical school would help bridge gaps between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as between different sectors of the Israeli populace.
"(This is an) open and pluralistic institution, where Jews and non-Jews cooperate, which reflects the true spirit of the State of Israel," said Netanyahu. "We are building in Ariel, and Ariel will always be part of Israel."
The university, previously known as the Ariel public college, is home to more than 15,000 students and 300 faculty members. In the field of health sciences, the university already offers a pre-med program and 30 research labs studying a variety of communication disorders, physiotherapy, and nutritional sciences.
The new medical faculty, Israel's sixth, will be named after Sheldon Adelson, the American billionaire, owner of the Israel Hayom freesheet and long-time supporter of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his Israeli-born wife, Miriam. According to Israel Hayom, the Adelsons couple donated $5 million to the medical school, nearly a quarter of the estimated $28.4 million price tag.
According to the Israel Medical Association, Israel faces a severe healthcare crisis largely due to a lack of both licensed medical personnel and training vacancies for students. Accordingly, students often move abroad to study medicine or are more likely to choose from more lucrative professions in their studies.
Ariel Mayor Shaviro described the medical school as a "breakthrough" for the residents of the city and the entire region, all of whom will benefit from the institution.
"When I worked in New York, I met Dr. Sackler and I was overwhelmed to meet the man who permitted me to study medicine (at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University)," said Dr. Miriam Adelson at the ceremony. "So for me this is coming full circle, and we are happy and thankful to Ariel University for giving us the opportunity to give back to the community."
Reprinted with permission from TPS