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I’m the only Israeli student in southern Taiwan, as far as I’m aware, and although it sounds a bit culturally lonely, it does bring up some unique opportunities. During Friday and Saturday I joined the Israeli Technion president, Dr. Yitzhak Apeloig, while he was visiting NCKU with his charming wife – Mrs. Tzippi Apeloig. It was a very interesting experience, for many reasons, and I enjoyed seeing the interchange between the leadership of a top Israeli university and the leadership of a top Taiwanese university.
Senior Executive Vice President of NCKU Da Hsuan Feng, has the brief:
A Heart Warming Visit to NCKU from Yitzhak Apeloig, President of Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
(Left to right – 2 TOUCH presenters, me with the camera, President of the Technion – Dr. Apeloig, Senior Executive VP of NCKU – Da Hsuan Feng)
September 12-13, 2008
Da Hsuan Feng
Senior Executive Vice President
National Cheng Kung University
On September 12 and 13, 2008, the President and his wife, Dr. Yitzhak
Apeloig and Mrs. Apeloig (Tzippi,) of one of Israel’s most renowned
universities, visited NCKU. The host of the Apeloigs was Academician
Michael Lai, President of NCKU. It is interesting that both presidents are
outstanding scientists, Apeloig being a world renowned organic chemist
and Lai a world renowned virologist.
This visit by undoubtedly the highest ranking official from any Israeli
university is of historical importance and came at the perfect time
because in the past several years, there is rapidly growing and strong
interactions between NCKU and its Israeli counterparts at the faculty
level. The personal relations and visibility created by this visit will
unquestionably quicken and deepen these interactions.
The entire logistics, which was enormously complicated by the oncoming
Typhoon Sinlaku (辛樂克,) of the visit was meticulously handled by
NCKU’s Office of International Affairs, It was extremely well organized
from the moment the Apeloigs left their Taipei hotel (where they visited
Academia Sinica and National Taiwan University,) until they were safely
on a plane to Hong Kong. Also, all the relevant Deans, Engineering,
Medicine and Science lend their strong support. So did the Office of the
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Office of the Vice President for
Research and Development.
Immediately after their arrival, the Apeloigs had a very brief tour of the
historical sites of Tainan. This gave our guests a sense of the importance
of the region.
While on campus, President Apeloig had a tour of TOUCH (Technologies
of Ubiquitous Computing and Humanity
This laboratory, directed by Professor Kevin Yang of the Department of
Electrical Engineering (the gentleman in the white shirt in the picture,)
aims to create future living systems with computing, networking, voice
activation of household equipments and home health monitoring. What
was especially nice were that all the demonstrations and explanations
were done by students.
President Apeloig also had an extensive discussion with the Dean of the
School of Medicine, Associate Deans of the College of Engineering and
Science, respectively. In the Technion, these are clearly the strongest
areas. In fact, two of Israel’s only science Nobel laureates are associated
with its School of Medicine. I learned from this discussion that our
Biomedical Engineering and Technion’s are already establishing strong
collaborations. President Apeloig was most pleased to learn about that.
Following the round table discussion, a tour was arranged by the Dean of
the College of Medicine to tour his College. This was followed by a visit
to the recently established Ministry of Health’s Oncological Clinical
Research Center which was transplanted from Taipei. During the visit to
the Center, President Lai, who had to spent most of the day in Taipei on
Ministry of Education business, came to greet President Apeloig.
Finally, to ensure President Apeloig has an overview of the university,
both geographically, historically and intellectually, a brief tour of
NCKU’s newly established University Museum was conducted, where he
was able to gain some detailed understanding of the history of the
university and where it could be going in the 21st century. Quite by
accident, at the Museum, President Apeloig met Professor Shmuel
Gurvitz of the Weizmann Institute Particle Physics Department, who is
visiting NCKU for a month.
It was also exciting for President and Mrs. Apeloig that for most of the
day, NCKU’s “sole” Israeli student (the tall fellow holding a camera in
the photo,) an International MBA student, accompanied the them. We
hope this “soleness” can change in the future as NCKU interacts more
and more with Israeli universities.
The grand finale of the visit was of course a sumptuous dinner of more
than 10 courses at one of Tainan’s best restaurants, where many of the
university leadership participated. I think it is not difficult for the readers
of this report to “hear” the wine glasses clinking and a great deal of
“Mazel Tov” and “Gan Bei!”
Discussions during dinner range from Chinese culture to Jewish history to
ascertaining what specific areas the two universities can establish
Another important discussion we had at dinner was on “University
Governance.” This was sparked by the interest in Taiwan about the
possibility of university “autonomy” (法人化.) From our discussion, it
was obvious that institutions such as Technion have been practicing
“autonomy” well before the establishment of the State of Israel. The
lessons learned from Technion can be very helpful for Taiwan’s
academicians in understanding and perhaps crafting this issue of
fundamental importance. President Apeloig promised us to send us the
“Constitution” of Technion as an example of autonomy.
Developing strong interactions with Israeli universities is high priority for
NCKU’s globalization roadmap. Currently, there are six outstanding
research universities in Israel. Besides the Technion, Israel Institute of
Technology, there is also Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of
Tel Aviv, University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University and Ben Gurion
University. In addition, there is a high powered research institute (without
undergraduates,) the Weizmann Institute and an Open University. It is
probably not an accident that Israel, Singapore and Hong Kong all have
approximately 1 full scale research university per 1 million population!
This may be the optimum “university density per capita.”
In the last several years, National Cheng Kung University has developed
a strong and sustainable interactions with some of Israeli’s best
institutions: Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Bar-Ilan University,
Ben Gurion University, Weizmann Institute and University of Tel Aviv.
Short and long term visitors from these institutions included:
- Aaron Ciechanover, 2004 Nobel laureate of chemistry, Distinguished
Research Professor of Biochemistry in the Rappaport Faculty of
Medicine and Research Institute of the Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology, who is current Visiting Distinguished Chair Professor in
the Institute of Innovations and Advanced Studies as well as 2008
Honorary Doctorate recipient of NCKU;
- Shmuel Gurvitz, Professor of the Department of Particle Physics,
Weizmann Institute (visiting the Southern National Theoretical
Science Center located on campus in NCKU);
- Yosef Steinberger, Professor of Terrestrial Ecology – Soil Ecology,
The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan
University. Steinberger is the guest of the College of Bioscience and
- There are also visitors from the Department of Biomedical
Engineering of the Technion (as well as NCKU faculty visiting the
In the Spring Semester of 2009, there will be three long term visitors.
They will be associated with the (Southern) National Theoretical Science
Center which is on campus in NCKU. They are
- Amnon Aharony, Professor of Physics, Ben Gurion University
(Formerly of University of Tel Aviv.)
- Ora Entin-Wohlman, Professor of Physics, Ben Gurion University
(Formerly of University of Tel Aviv.)
- Ady Mann, Professor of Physics, Technion-Israel Institute of
Again, there could easily be others in a university as large as NCKU.
It was agreed by both Presidents at dinner that during the period of
middle to late March of 2009, President Lai will lead an appropriate
delegation to visit the Technion. Between now and when the trip actually
takes place, the two universities intend to deepen and broaden its already
strong interactions so that the visit will be a culmination of already results
with potential additional collaborations.
Mazel tov indeed!.
Hopefully, more of those Israel-Taiwan visits in the upcoming future.