At the moment, we are marking the Three Weeks. These are the days between the fast on the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman siege in the 1st century C.E., and the fast on the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples. It is a time when Jews are obligated to conduct a serious self-examination in light of the difficult historic events that befell the Jewish people at this time. We specifically commemorate the breach of the walls of Jerusalem because it was the first step toward the destruction of the Holy Temple.
It looks like history is repeating itself now — but this time in the opposite direction. In those days, the breach in the walls of Jerusalem served as a breaking point for the morale of the people. Today, state institutions have fenced themselves behind walls and fortifications. Breaching the walls has become more and more difficult; many of those people sitting behind the fortifications don't allow others to enter and influence. This picturesque description is actually being realized, for example, through the recent discussions over the Ariel University Center in Samaria and its potential transformation into a research university. The possibility of breaching and penetrating the walls of academia and building another house in it, with a different spirit, is impossible. Academic leaders continue to sit in their ivory towers and secure themselves behind heavy security.
Some of the leaders in academia decided that building another academic institution is impossible for a variety of reasons. But it seems that they forgot they are part of a bigger puzzle, and that their job is not to call the shots nor is to determine whether or not to welcome and additional university.
The academic center in Ariel has existed for more than 30 years and it has built up a world-class research facility in many fields. Collaborations between Ariel and other Israeli universities is blooming. Needless to say, in terms of the academic standard, the institution is considered a university in every way.
It turns out that the main reason for not turning Ariel into a university is the desire of the Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budgeting Committee, and of the heads of the other universities, to retain hegemony in the academic world. They do not want to allow additional factors, appropriate as they may be, to join the university circle.
The State of Israel is not equipped with many natural resources that facilitate its development. The "Jewish brain" is one of the great advantages of the people of Israel and we must nurture this precious resource. We should let it maximize itself and allow it to yield as many high-level research and development specialists as possible. Not establishing another university because of demographic changes in Israel will lead to a market failure because the supply won't meet the demand. This would, in turn, adversely affect the rate of economic growth and research would slow — an unnecessary obstacle for a market that aspires to be one of the leaders in the world.
A university in Ariel is essential to the development of research and for the State of Israel. When the education supply is higher, we can grant our citizens greater access to the academic world, which would lead Israeli society to be more developed and better educated.
The writer is a member of Knesset from the Yisrael Beytenu party and, until recently, was chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee.