U.S. university heads in Israel to establish academic ties

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A delegation of U.S. university presidents and chancellors met with their Israeli counterparts and viewed cutting-edge research, including the ReWalk headquarters.

The nine visiting university heads were in Israel to investigate opportunities for bilateral academic partnerships and collaboration through Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee.

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In Tel Aviv, they visited the start-up company PrimeSense, an award-winning Israeli high-tech company that revolutionized the way digital devices, including the Xbox 360, see and understand the world by focusing on vision to provide digital devices that have a three-dimensional perception of reality.

At the ReWalk headquarters in Yokneam, the university heads met Argo Medical Technologies founder Dr. Amit Goffer, a quadriplegic who developed the ReWalk exoskeleton unit, which allows people with spinal cord injuries to walk again.

“I was amazed to watch two paraplegics walk independently using the ReWalk robotic device and moved when they showed how leaving their wheelchairs has transformed their lives,” said Rockefeller University President Marc Tessier-Lavignewhere he is the Carson Family professor and head of the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair.

The group, which will be in Israel through July 6, is  scheduled to meet with senior government, academic and civil society leaders across the Israeli social and political spectrum, and travel to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders.

Previous visits of university heads through Project Interchange have resulted in collaborations including the joint Cornell-Technion technology/science campus and a partnership between the University of Michigan and Ben Gurion University to develop renewable energy technology projects.

The visiting university heads include: Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College; Nicholas B. Dirks, chancellor of  the University of California, Berkeley; Lori Bettison-Varga, president of Scripps College and President Sharon K. Hahs, president of Northeastern Illinois University.

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