Science does not belong, in any conceivable sense, to any 'side,' and when two scientists meet, they meet as equals.
Today, investigations of our world extend to the make-up of the Universe, the nature of the smallest particles that comprise all matter, the ecology of our common planet, the workings of the brain and the causes of disease. What do these fields have in common? They are subjects that affect all of humankind, and they all advance best when scientists from many countries participate in the research.
But these areas of research are not just a common cause, they can actually be a bridge for peace between people. One shining example is the contacts between Israeli and German researchers that led, a few years later, to the normalization of relations between the two countries.
This happens because scientists, no matter what mother tongue they were born with, speak a common language. Einstein’s beautiful equation, E-mc2, is the same everywhere, and the GPS systems that employ relativity to identify your location work equally in California, Kathmandu and Beijing.
So sharing knowledge across borders, for example in the SESAME project, can be crucial to building peaceful relations. Scientists in such projects generally find that working side by side in scientific collaboration leads to mutual respect and fellowship. Our goal is to promote this sharing, to create the basis – person by person and research group by research group – for peaceful communication, trade and even friendship between countries.
“Science does not belong, in any conceivable sense, to any ‘side,’ and when two scientists meet, they meet as equals. Because science is universal, it provides an integral basis for open discussion and, by extension, an ideal platform for communication.” Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Dr. Chaim Weizmann was a chemist who founded a world-renowned research institute and a statesman who help establish the State of Israel and became its first president. For him, these two seemingly diverse professions went hand in hand: It was not enough to attain statehood. That state had to have a world-class technological and scientific basis that would attract scientific collaboration from all over the world. This, he saw, would provide a solid basis for building the future economy of the country, as well as securing Israel’s place among the developed nations of the world.
The past six decades have proved him right. From a poor, mostly agricultural country, Israel has become a world leader in high-tech, thanks, in part, to visionary investments in basic research back then. And international scientific collaboration has become more important than ever.
The founding of the Minerva Society, detailed in this section, was an important milestone in creating both scientific ties and diplomatic ones. Just as crucial was the prominent Israeli contribution to the international ATLAS LHC experiment that revealed the existence of the Higgs boson. Or one might add the Israeli development of science teaching methods that have kids in Peru going out to investigate their environment and kids in Korea doing math problems for fun.
At every step of the way, science has been an important means of getting people to work together and talk to one another.
Physics, chemistry, biology – each of these broad fields contains whole world views. Even when scientists do not share the same theories, they can agree to disagree. In this atmosphere, where the freedom to think and follow one’s curiosity are the highest imperative, cultural differences are welcome.
The scientific discoveries described here highlight the various ways in which scientific collaboration – whether it is long-term between two labs on different continents, the exchange of students, or large-scale efforts to map a cancer genome or discover what matter looked like in the first faction of a second after the Big Bang – can lead to interesting and important results.
Every year, people from around the world stream to Israel for scientific conferences, to stay for a few months as visiting scientists, or a few years as students or postdoctoral fellows. Some even end up staying in the country. But for many others, coming to Israel, working with Israeli scientists, will affect them for the rest of their lives.
They speak of taking with them not only the lessons in scientific techniques or approaches that they learn in Israeli labs, but the striving for excellence that comes with the lab work, as well as the warmth and caring that they encounter.